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Germany to Europe: Don't criticize us on eurocrisis leadership

Germany has been heavily criticized for its 'German doctrine' of austerity, but Germans are confident that it will work for the rest of Europe and are tired of apologizing for their success.

By Staff writer / March 14, 2012

A Mercedes- Benz worker installs the ‘star’ hood emblem on an S-Class sedan at the automaker’s plant near Stuttgart, Germany.

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

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Berlin

The euro crisis: It sounds like an arcane finance story. But as Germany sets the tone and the rules, the crisis has great meaning for Europe's future. Germany's foreign minister calls it a "defining moment for the image of the European Union." Critics say German is a bully, twisting Europe's arm with an austerity regime that will bring subservience. Is it a new era of the strong versus the weak? Below is an effort to voice the German consensus that supports a "German doctrine." To read a case made against it – reported from Berlin, Paris, and London – read here.

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Amid Europe's most serious economic crisis since World War II, Germany has taken the lead. Berlin insists on austerity as a way to reform debtor nations and as a price tag for bailouts worth billions. European nations en masse are signing up to live within their means.

On March 2, German Chancellor Angela Merkel got 25 of the 27 European Union nations to agree to hard-wire fiscal discipline and debt limits into their national laws – a quiet shift with historic implications.

German officials realize the subject is touchy. Across Europe, there's a new antipathy toward Berlin. But Germans are confident that their model of austerity will work for the rest of Europe, just as it has for them. Here is a composite picture of what they say:

The world criticizes Germany for being strong, but not leading, in the euro crisis. Now, as we start to lead, we are criticized, if not demonized. We are called selfish or Nazis. But if we are to lead, we want to use our experience, our rules, and our models. That means an austerity policy favoring price stability and cutting debt. And we don't want to be rushed; we have domestic political hurdles to surmount. German voters don't want to pay for others' excesses. They were told when Germany joined the eurozone that they would not have to bail anyone out. This is basic.

Our approach stresses responsibility and competitiveness. We keep wages low, build quality products, and export them for cash. We do not take a Keynesian view of stimulus; we rely on the neoliberal school of Hayek. Our distinctive German model emerged after the war from something called ordoliberalism, which stresses clear rules and fiscal rectitude. ("Ordo" comes from the Latin word for "order.")

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