In France, a third of the electorate recently voted for a far-right or a far-left candidate for the presidency. In the Netherlands – like Germany, a creditor nation that is sick of bailing out southern Europe – the far right and the far left are running first and second in the opinion polls. In Austria, the far right are at nearly 30 per cent in the polls.
Germany has all the conditions for a similar backlash. The country’s voters have every reason to feel misled about the euro. They were once promised that the single currency involved a no-bailout clause that would prevent German taxpayers from having to support other eurozone countries. But Germany has already had to accept potential liabilities of €280bn to fund Europe’s various bailouts – and there will be further demands to come. Simply funding Germany’s capital contribution to the European Stability Mechanism will increase the country’s budget deficit this year from €26bn to €35bn.
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And yet despite the burdens and risks that Germany has already taken on, the country’s government finds itself abused for not doing even more. Isolating and berating Berlin, while trying to force the country to underwrite the finances of the whole of the eurozone, is a politically dangerous course. The rise of far-right nationalists in Greece or the Netherlands is deeply regrettable. The rise of the far right in Germany would be a disaster.