- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2008

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not invited to last week’s pre-summit talks on the economy. However, she did participate in the European Union summit in Brussels, where she and her colleagues agreed on a $266 billion stimulus package. Mrs. Merkel said “no” to incurring a mountain of debt as a solution to the global financial crisis. Good for her.

Mrs. Merkel’s perspective was little appreciated among European leaders. On Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso met in London to discuss the economy ahead of the Brussels summit - but did not invite the German chancellor. The three leaders said there is no emerging rift in the EU and that they did not deliberately exclude her. All three leaders could learn a few things from the leader of Europe’s foremost economy.

In a recent speech, Mrs. Merkel lambasted the bailout mentality gripping Western leaders and lauded financial discipline, balanced budgets and the ethic of thrift that is especially prevalent in Swabia - the German region where she spoke. She said that every Swabian housewife knows the root of this crisis: “You can’t keep on living beyond your means … We are not going to participate in this senseless race for billions. We have to have the courage to swim against the tide.” That is not mere rhetoric.

Germany recently passed a $31 billion economic package, yet its budget remains balanced. Germany is seemingly in good shape to weather the downturn. The government is considering implementing tax cuts to further stimulate the economy. Germany is thus in a better position than other nations such as the U.K., Spain, Italy and France, for example, which have strained their budgets in attempting to stimulate the economy.

At the European summit, where such issues as climate change were also discussed, leaders agreed on the Eastern Partnership, an initative that would strengthen policy regarding eastern nations such as Georgia and Ukraine. The partnership would focus on free trade and enhanced security, among other things.

In the headlong rush to find an economic panacea, Mrs. Merkel is among few Western leaders keeping a cool head. As the EU moves forward on the Eastern Partnership and other platforms, she must continue to stand firm against the pressure to leverage Germany’s - and Europe’s - future with government bailout schemes.

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