Paul Volcker once remarked that in order to stand up to the Germans, you have to be subservient to them, in monetary matters at least. Accordingly, Mario Draghi travels to Berlin tomorrow to face the German Bundestag and tell them why saving the euro means writing a blank check.
The general supposition is that the Germans don’t like Draghi’s unlimited bond-buying plan, known as OMT. They were never that convinced about him running the European Central Bank either. According to the alarmists, the wealth of every German family has been put at risk by ECB policy, and the plan announced on Sept. 6 itself is akin to the devilish act of printing money.
Draghi has in fact tried the subservient route before, intoning his deep respect for the Bundesbank model of monetary probity while doing the opposite of what they wanted. It didn’t wash. Attempts at irony — proclaiming the Germans couldn’t just always say nein zu allem (no to everything) — went down like a lead balloon, too. So this time it seems there’s a gulf to be bridged.
Except that the Bundestag is more malleable than might be assumed, and it has proven itself more than willing to sign the check for European bailouts when the Chancellor came asking. While there are plenty — like Free Democrat lawmaker Frank Schaeffler — who think Draghi has changed the rules of currency union while Germany wasn’t looking, there are still more — like the Christian Democrats’ Europe spokesman Michael Stuebgen — who say the ECB’s plan is just what Europe needs to breathe a little easier while governments get the job done.
It could well be that apart from a few monetary fundamentalists, Germany’s crisis-weary politicians will welcome Draghi with open arms. A press conference has been planned to take place on the parliament’s roof terrace, and not because the irate parliamentarians plan to throw him off it: After pledging billions for the Greek, Irish and Portuguese bailouts, the Germans are merely relieved someone else is flashing the cash for a change.