Der Spiegel has a fascinating, and at times provocative, interview with Wolfgang Reitzle , one of Germany's most prominent and respected business leaders. Reitzle argues that, while he does not expect the euro zone to fall apart, he believes that the EU's leading economies, Germany in particular, need to draw some clear lines to prevent policy makers from doing too much to protect the currency. And he, like so many Germans worth a fraction of his wealth, is tired of feeling like his country has to keep propping up Greece and Italy. Here is an excerpt from the interview: SPIEGEL: Are you saying that withdrawing from the monetary union would be advantageous for Germany? Reitzle: No, but I believe that the German economy would have weathered such a shock within a few years, and would even become more competitive in the long run. To put it clearly: I don't think this scenario is desirable, but it also shouldn't be declared a taboo. And from a personal standpoint, I don't agree with a large share of my taxes ending up in countries that don't manage their economies responsibly. SPIEGEL: At the moment, the German economy is actually benefiting from the crisis. The weak currency and low interest rates act like an economic stimulus program. Reitzle: And we need this prosperity, because it's inevitable that we will be presented with the bill for the euro in the end. But this imbalance in the euro system must be corrected in the long term. The debt-ridden countries don't just have to reduce their debts. They also have to revamp their economies… SPIEGEL: …which is difficult, if not impossible, because they lack their own currency to devalue. Reitzle: And that's why the lack of competitiveness in the euro zone has become practically set in stone. If Italy still had the lira, it would have been devalued long ago to make the country competitive again, because wages there, as in Spain and France, have risen far too quickly -- in sharp contrast to Germany, by the way. SPIEGEL: But all of this shows that the euro brought together things that don't belong together: highly developed, industrialized nations and agricultural countries… Reitzle: …as well as different mentalities. And, most of all, countries that are dissimilar in terms of efficiency. It is evident that the euro was introduced far too soon. In retrospect, anyone can come up with the perfect explanation for why all of this couldn't possibly work. But that doesn't do us any good. Now we have to see where we stand and what steps to take so that everything doesn't fall apart. There's more to it than just muddling through. Germany is being given the leading role here, whether we like it or not. Not everyone ticks the way the Germans do, but sloppy economic management will no longer be tolerated. There will still be substantial differences, just as there are in the United States of America. SPIEGEL: Do you see the United States of Europe as a goal? Reitzle: Yes, in the long term. In 2050, the United States will still be a global power and China will probably be the dominant economic power. Europe will only be able to keep up if it manages to achieve a political unification process in addition to the monetary union, and if it includes Russia. However, if we even mess up the monetary union, Germany will be an attractive island, just as Switzerland is. But will we be relevant in the world anymore? Probably not. That's why it's worth doing everything we can. Read the full interview here .
Filed under: global business, debt, Germany, euro, Greece, EU bailout, Italy, PIIGS, euro area, der spiegel, wolfgang reitzle, euro crisis