Europe’s economic engine is breaking down
Germany has been Europe’s economic engine for decades, pulling the region through one crisis after another. But that resilience is breaking down, and it spells danger for the whole continent.
Decades of flawed energy policy, the demise of combustion-engine cars and a sluggish transition to new technologies are converging to pose the most fundamental threat to the nation’s prosperity since reunification. But unlike in 1990, the political class lacks the leadership to tackle structural issues gnawing at the heart of the country’s competitiveness.
“We’ve been naïve as a society because everything seems fine,” BASF SE Chief Executive Officer Martin Brudermüller told Bloomberg. “These problems we have in Germany are accumulating. We have a period of change ahead of us; I don’t know if everyone realizes this.”
While Berlin has shown a knack for overcoming crises in the past, the question now is whether it can pursue a sustained strategy. The prospect looks remote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s make-shift coalition has reverted to petty infighting over everything from debt and spending to heat pumps and speed limits as soon as the risks of energy shortfalls eased. But the warning signals are getting hard to ignore. Despite Scholz telling Bloomberg in January that Germany would ride out Russia’s energy squeeze without a recession this year, data published Thursday show that the economy has in fact been contracting since October and has only expanded twice in the past five quarters. Economists see German growth lagging behind the rest of the region for years to come, and the International Monetary Fund estimates Germany will be the worst-performing G-7 economy this year. Nonetheless, Scholz again sounded upbeat. – Bloomberg