“I fear German power less than German inaction.” This striking appeal to the German government was delivered by Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski during his speech in Berlin. He is well aware that he is the first foreign minister in Poland’s history to make such remarks. But as the economic power of Europe and the euro’s largest beneficiary, the Federal Republic has a duty to take a leading role in instituting necessary reforms in Europe and to make a significant contribution to preserving the eurozone.
The Indispensable Nation
Sikorski asserted that it is high time to act by looking back at Polish history, where delayed reforms led to crisis and collapse. As an “indispensable nation,” Germany plays a key role in the Union – despite international criticism of Berlin’s policies and any fears of German dominance. In addition to the previous emergency measures, what is currently needed are new substantial steps toward integration within the EU, perhaps to the point of a further revision of European treaties: a “New European Deal.” The collapse of the eurozone would jeopardize the entire Union.
At the moment, common institutions and instruments need to be strengthened, above all the European Central Bank – not only to save stricken euro countries, but also to ensure financial discipline. The ECB needs to develop into a “real central bank.” Sikorski countered German concerns against an expansion of the Bank’s responsibilities: “The danger of the eurozone collapsing is currently greater than the danger of inflation.” It is by no means certain that the EU common market would survive without the euro. Even the EU Commission will need to possess sanctionary instruments to deal with national budgetary transgressions. The minister responded to an audience question by saying that a reformed and considerably smaller Commission could also include a European finance minister.
Poland as a Problem Solver
While introducing Sikorski, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle asked whether Poland – despite not yet being a member of the eurozone – could actively help with overcoming the debt crisis and stabilizing the euro. Not to worry, replied Sikorski, as “the collapse of the eurozone would be the biggest threat to Poland.” His country will soon fulfill the euro criteria and is focused on joining the eurozone, even if the current crisis does not improve the country’s mood regarding the common currency. Poland’s economic situation is good thanks to consistent reform policies, which have also resulted in steady growth rates. In short, the country “is not a source of problems, but a problem solver,” and it will be there to support Germany as it realizes its leadership responsibilities in Europe.
Listen to the full speech here: