Adenauer: Don't make Germany pay Irish debts
Court bid backed by ex-chancellor's grandson to stop bailouts could lead to collapse of euro
Published 05/12/2010 | 05:00
HIS grandfather was Konrad Adenauer, Germany's first post-war chancellor and one of the original signatories of the Treaty of Rome -- the first big step towards what is now the European Union.
With his family's name so firmly linked to the dream of European integration, when business leader Patrick Adenauer backed a court action to try to stop German taxpayers' billions being poured into EU bailouts, Germany took notice.
"We don't want to pay the debts of Greece, Portugal, Ireland and then Spain, and then others," Mr Adenauer said when interviewed at his office in Cologne.
"If we have to pay everybody's bill we will have to pay a huge amount in five or 10 years' time. We say we want to have a stable euro. German companies are worried about financial stability, they fear in the long term they may pay the bills with higher taxes."
As the euro faces the worst crisis in its history, Mr Adenauer has stepped forward as a formidable opponent of bailouts, backing a legal challenge before Germany's constitutional court. If the case succeeds, and Europe's most powerful economy stops paying to stave off the debts of weaker member states such as Greece and Ireland, the single currency's survival will be threatened as never before.
Then the businessman from Cologne, along with 50 plaintiffs drawn from a spectrum of political, artistic and cultural life, would be heroes to the many ordinary Germans who want their beloved Deutschmark back, 11 years after it was dumped.
Mr Adenauer's stance reflects a growing belief in Germany that the euro may soon fail, and that German taxpayers should not waste billions trying to forestall a collapse that may be inevitable. "It would not be a huge crisis -- it would be facing reality," he said. "It would be shocking for a lot of people, but Germany can't bear the risks."
His opinion puts him at odds with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and the country's political establishment who are wedded to the idea of a united Europe, and have indicated that they are ready to shore up the euro with taxpayers' money, no matter the cost.
The legal case, brought by Dr Markus Kerber, a Berlin constitutional lawyer, is the latest of several challenges that have argued that a 'no bailout' clause was part of the agreement when the euro was introduced. The plaintiffs say that Germany was in breach of this with the bailout of Greece earlier this year, and now with Ireland as well. They are seeking an injunction that would block payment of Germany's share of the euros €85bn Irish bail-out.
An opinion poll last week found that while 48 per cent of Germans were in favour of bailouts for Greece and Ireland, 47 per cent were against.
"The name Adenauer is tremendously important to our cause," Dr Kerber said. "Knowing that leading businesspeople like him are behind us is a great motivator as well."
Mr Adenauer, 50, is managing director of the construction company Bauwens and heads the Association of Independent Entrepreneurs -- the organisation representing the family-owned companies which are still the backbone of the German economy.
The crisis has created a huge political problem inside Germany for Mrs Merkel. Welfare spending has been slashed, infuriating voters who believe that what should be their cash is instead funding Greek pensioners.