But especially in recent weeks, Merkel and her top ministers have been spelling out a far grander, German alternative to convince markets the euro is here to stay. What they envision would mark a radical step forward in European integration through a “political union” in which countries in the region would act more like American states, sharing an elected president and even a pan-European army.
Such visions are hardly new, but the Germans are nevertheless building a fresh case that integration is the only way to shore up the foundations of the euro, albeit one that could take years, if not generations, to see through. Part of the summit here will be dedicated to debating the first steps of such a path, including the creation of a regional banking supervisor that, in about a year, would have the power to do something long considered taboo in the fiercely independent nations of the euro zone: override the authority of national governments.
Plans also being discussed call for the establishment of a sort of European Treasury down the line, vesting central authorities with broad powers over national budgets. Yet for many in Europe, the holdout by Germany for a grander plan is being seen as suspicious and highly damaging.
In a more deeply integrated Europe, Berlin could emerge as the most powerful single voice, particularly sending chills down the spines of the French. At the same time, critics charge that Merkel’s call for a bigger — and slower — solution is simply a cover for German unwillingness to take costly and critical stopgap measures. They warn that there could be no euro zone left to integrate if the region acts on Berlin’s timetable.
The German leader’s tough talk has not helped her case. Merkel told the German Parliament on Wednesday that collective debt for Europe — seen by many economists as a vital weapon against the crisis — is “economically wrong and counterproductive.”
“There are no quick or easy solutions,” she said. “There is no magic formula, no coup, by which the debt crisis can be overcome once and for all.”
Ratcheting up the pressure on Merkel to give in and back emergency measures to bring down the soaring borrowing costs for troubled euro-zone countries, the leaders of Spain and Italy have issued thinly veiled messages to the Germans suggesting that time is running out.