Thursday, 16 June 2011

"Timothy Garton Ash is the most overrated political writer of our time".

 "Timothy Garton Ash is the best and most perceptive political writer of our time"
  John Simpson

When you visit the home page of Oxford grandee Timoth Garton Ash, you will find John Simpson´s characterisation quite prominently displayed.

It seems that John Simpson is somewhat out out touch these days. I would like to suggest an improved and shorter version: "Timothy Garton Ash is the most overrated political writer of our time".

His latest article in the Guardian is proof of this.

Garton Ash first gives a very realistic and true description of the reality of the "European project" today:

Like an overladen container lorry labouring up a steep hill, the European project is close to stalling. If it stalls, even the emergency brake may not stop it running back down the hill, out of control, until it jackknifes off the road. Two of the lads are wrestling over the steering wheel; others lie comatose in the sleeping area at the back of the cab.
And it's not just the eurozone. Every major project of the European Union is faltering.
Why? Because all the great underlying motivators of the European project back in the days of Helmut Kohl, François Mitterrand and Jacques Delors, and even more so in the time of the founding fathers, have faded or disappeared.

Then it begins to go wrong:

The key to so much of this, especially on the economic side, is Germany. For much of its history, what has become the European Union pursued political ends by economic means. For Kohl and Mitterrand, the euro was mainly a political project, not an economic one. Now the boot is on the other foot. In order to save a poorly designed and over-extended monetary union, we need an exceptional political commitment. The political must ride to the rescue of the economic.

This is where Angela Merkel comes in. There is no particular reason to expect Germany to take the lead in creating a European foreign and security policy. For a response to the Arab spring, we should look first to the Mediterranean countries, such as Spain, France and Italy. If the issue is the integration of people of migrant background, every country must do its own homework. But if we are talking about the European economy and currency, Germany is the indispensable power. Only the combination of Germany and the European Central Bank, working in unison, has a chance of calming the mighty markets.
For more than a year now Merkel has attempted to find the narrow – perhaps nonexistent – line where the minimum that can be done to save the embattled eurozone periphery meets the maximum she thinks German public opinion will bear. She has then tried to win her eurozone partners to that course. So far it has not worked.
Now she needs to start from the other end: work out, with the ECB and other eurozone governments, what is the best, most credible deal available, and then put all her authority on the line to persuade a reluctant German public that this will be in the long-term, enlightened national self-interest of Germany. Which it will be. For no one has more to lose from the disintegration of the eurozone than the continent's central economic power. It may soon be too late.

The professor is appealing to Angela Merkel to save "a poorly designed and over-extended monetary union"!  But why on earth should it be in German, or anybody else´s interest to save such a union? The professor does not provide an answer.

No, if you want good political analysis, you must turn to another leading British professor and writer. The link is here.

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