The eurozone’s religious faultline
2012 07 19
By Chris Bowlby | BBC.co.uk
Discussion among eurozone leaders about the future of their single currency has become an increasingly divisive affair. On the surface, religion has nothing to do with it - but could Protestant and Catholic leaders have deep-seated instincts that lead them to pull the eurozone in different directions, until it breaks?
Following the last European summit in Brussels there was much talk of defeat for Chancellor Merkel by what was described as a "new Latin Alliance" of Italy and Spain backed by France.
Many Germans protested that too much had been conceded by their government - and it might not be too far-fetched to see this as just the latest Protestant criticism of the Latin approach to matters monetary, which has deep roots in German culture, shaped by religious belief.
Churchgoing has been in decline in Germany as elsewhere as secularisation has spread, but religious ideas still shape the way Germans talk and think about money. The German word for debt - schuld - is the same as the word for "guilt" or "sin".
Talk of thrift and responsible budgeting comes instinctively to Angela Merkel, daughter of a Protestant pastor.
Merkel’s frequent assertion that "there is no alternative" to austerity policies (while reminiscent to Britons of Margaret Thatcher) has been likened to the famous stubborn statement by German Reformation leader Martin Luther: "Here I stand. I can do no other".
The new German president, Joachim Gauck, who might play an important role in constitutional arguments about the single currency, is also from the Protestant fold - he is a former Lutheran pastor.
The country’s population is fairly evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics - as well as those of other faiths, or none - and Merkel’s and Gauck’s ascent symbolises changes in Germany since reunification in 1990.
Both lived in East Germany, a historically Protestant territory, while West Germany had several influential Catholic political leaders, who, in earlier post-war decades, had joined in broad Catholic enthusiasm for European integration.
Former West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, a Rhineland Catholic highly distrustful of Protestant Prussian traditions to the German east, led West Germany into the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
This created the European Economic Community, forerunner of today’s EU. And there was a clear geographical fit between the six countries which signed and the territory of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire.
Read the full article at: bbc.co.uk
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