Angela Merkel cannot be blamed for everything that goes wrong in Spain; nor, for that matter, in Greece, despite the uncertainty she has contributed to. But the German chancellor has a duty to act speedily to stabilize the euro zone, in which Germany remains the country which benefits the most. She has to take short-term action so that the European institutions can save the Spanish and Italian financial systems, while at the same time coming up with a long-term vision of a genuine fiscal, banking, economic and political union, something even British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for.
Merkel must lead the salvation of the euro. So far she has succeeded in imposing her demands on her European colleagues but her medicine, impregnated with an inflexible orthodoxy, has not yielded a satisfactory result. On the contrary, the situation has worsened day by day and two of the Union's biggest economies, Spain and Italy, are staring into the abyss. The chancellor needs to reconsider her positions and provide European political leadership, as Helmut Kohl did during the German Reunification. It is true that she won't be able to do it on her own, but without decisive action from Berlin, Europe will come apart at the seams.
The monetary union has grave design flaws which Europe is now feeling the effects of. This is not just because of the lack of convergence between north and south, but also because the national central banks had to renounce their power to print money, without an ECB which has taken on its full role in a period of crisis. There are missing mechanisms, and it is time to listen to the voices calling for a mutualization of the debt. It is not a question of solidarity, but rather a defense of common European interests, which therefore includes Germany.
Starting with Merkel, the German people need to understand that they need the euro - and the EU - to really count in a world that has new economic and political poles. Even though German exports toward emerging economies have grown more than those that head to the rest of Europe, the latter is still their main market.
Germans are wary about the stability of their savings, and quite rightly so. They also believe that they have been tightening their belt for almost a decade and this is why they are more competitive today. German citizens are among the most reticent in the Union when it comes to the decision on whether to continue to help Greece. Berlin does appear to be willing to raise taxes and allow for a little inflation, something which would help pull along the other European economies, which are choked by unadulterated austerity policies. If you add this to the fact that the chancellor gave her support for flexibility on Spain's deficit-reduction deadlines, there are signs that a change is underway in Germany's leadership. But even so, Europe needs something much bigger to resolve the crisis at such an important moment in history.