'Everything You Say Is S***' Merkel Ally Under Fire for Profanity-Ridden Tirade
The euro crisis is nothing if not stressful for European politicians. Now, though, Angela Merkel's chief of staff, who is also a member of the chancellor's cabinet, is under fire for a profanity-laced tirade he directed at a fellow conservative in the run-up to a crucial vote on the euro backstop fund. Many are calling for him to be replaced.
Signs of strain have become impossible to ignore in Athens. Indeed, according to a story in Tuesday's Financial Times Deutschland newspaper, Greek Prime Minister Giorgios Papandreou is considering resigning. The story claims that he has twice spoken with confidants in recent weeks about throwing in the towel.
On Tuesday, a government spokesman declared that the story was "nonsense." But it isn't difficult to imagine that the challenges of steering his country through the debt crisis might be getting to the prime minister.
Indeed, even in faraway Germany, the euro crisis is fraying nerves. To the point that many in Berlin are now calling for Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla -- who stands accused of having launched into a profanity-filled tirade against a conservative colleague -- to be sacked.
Pofalla's verbal assault came on the eve of last week's vote on the expansion of the euro backstop fund, the European Financial Stability Facility. Several within Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), had threatened to reject the expansion -- and Merkel's own governing coalition was considered to be in danger.
According to a report in the Sunday weekly Bild am Sonntag, Pofalla, who is a member of Merkel's cabinet, lost his temper following a straw poll prior to the formal vote. When prominent CDU parliamentarian Wolfgang Bosbach once again indicated his opposition to EFSF expansion, Pofalla approached him and said, "I can't look at your fat face anymore. Everything you say is shit."
'A Question of Conscience'
According to the report, Bosbach, who chairs the influential Domestic Affairs Committee in parliament, followed him outside in an attempt to talk. He told Pofalla to "have a look at the Constitution. For me, this is a question of conscience." Pofalla responded: "Spare me that shit!" He then got into a car and drove away.
The incident highlights the difficulties faced by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government as it attempts to prevent a complete dissolution of the euro zone while at the same time answering to German voters at home who have grown tired of bailing out heavily indebted southern European countries. Many within Merkel's CDU, and within the Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, said after last week's EFSF expansion that there will be no further expansions -- even as it has already become clear that the fund's planned lending capacity of 440 billion ($580 billion) likely won't be sufficient.
Furthermore, members of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Merkel's junior coalition partner, have recently become more outspoken in their view that a Greek insolvency is far from out of the question. According to a report in Tuesday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German Economics Minister Philipp Rösler, who is head of the FDP, has developed a proposal for rules governing a state insolvency. The rules, Rösler reportedly hopes, are to be included in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the permanent bailout fund that is to take over from the EFSF in 2013.
Support for Pofalla within the coalition, meanwhile, appears to be evaporating quickly. The Berlin-based daily Berliner Zeitung quotes a person it describes as a leading member of Merkel's coalition as saying that Pofalla "is the worst chief of staff of all time." Meanwhile, Norbert Lammert, president of the federal parliament, the Bundestag, told the daily WAZ that Bosbach is "entitled to respect."
Others from both the CDU and the FDP have said that Merkel must now think about whether Pofalla is the right man for the job. "Mr. Pofalla hasn't been doing a good job for some time now," FDP politician Lasse Becker told Die Welt. Prominent CDU parliamentarian Erika Steinbach said that "it cannot be tolerated that we ... insult colleagues when they hold a different opinion and defend that position."
Pofalla, for his part, is said to have apologized to Bosbach soon after the incident and the two plan to meet this week to put it behind them. Whether that will be enough for Pofalla to save his job remains to be seen.
cgh -- with wire reports
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