"Angela Merkel needs the Franco-German motor -- or at least the appearance of this fabled engine of European integration. A weak France leaves Germany exposed as the overmighty villain. (...) Europe has been in the grip of Germanophobia. (...) German power does not flow from the euro. German weight and geography vexed the continent even before the principalities of the Holy Roman Empire were soldered together by Otto von Bismarck. Unification, and then reunification, turned the German question -- how to balance a nation too big for its neighbourhood -- into the abiding dilemma of European geopolitics. The irony is that a single currency was supposed to restore the balance of power. The euro was not a German project. Quite the reverse. (...) For all this, criticism of Berlin is shot through with ambivalence. In the earlier stages of the euro crisis, the gripe was about an absence of leadership. (...) Power carries responsibilities. The criticism of Germany that sticks is about the self-righteous assumption that all will be well only when feckless Greeks, Spanish, Italians and the rest behave like Germans. Ms Merkel must accept, if only after this year’s election, that adjustment has to be symmetrical. For others to cut their deficits, Germany must shed some of its surplus. Beyond this, if Berlin is not to be accused of building a German Europe, it has to develop a narrative about its willingness to carry the responsibilities of a European Germany. The return of the German question and the balance of power to Europe cannot be banished as facts of geopolitics. They can be managed -- but only if Germany shows itself willing to address them."
Philip Stephens, "Berlin must be willing to carry the responsibilities of power" (Financial Times, 18.4.2013).