The battle for Europe will be won or lost in Germany. On some days recently, it has looked like it might be lost. But that is to underestimate the deep German commitment to the success of European integration based on the rule of law. If the European Union falls apart, it will likely be due to a return of nationalism and a refusal by the French, British and Dutch to share more sovereignty, rather than to German insistence on fiscal discipline and respect for the rules.
“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly warned parliament. The aftermath of the euro zone’s ugly all-night summit on the Greek debt crisis that ended on July 13 with a deal on stringent, intrusive terms for negotiating a third bailout has sent shockwaves across Europe, especially in Germany.
It was the second time in weeks that EU leaders had clashed over fundamental problems they seem unable to solve, after an acrimonious June summit on how to cope with a wave of migrants – many of them refugees from conflict – desperate to enter Europe. And it has prompted intensive head-scratching in Berlin about how to strengthen European institutions and underpin the euro more durably – an intellectual ferment unmatched in most other EU capitals.