That is a favourite expression of some commentators re the stance of EUropean policy makers in the Euro crisis.
According to the Irish Times (September 3, 2011), Wolfgang Schäuble "reportedly told a parliamentary party meeting of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) that solving the euro zone crisis was not possible without a successor to the Lisbon Treaty, “even though we know how difficult a treaty change will be”".
It is envisaged that a new European treaty who have to handle far-reaching finance and fiscal powers to Brussels institutions.
Only a few days earlier, Helmut Kohl had this time publicly criticised his former right-hand-person and current German PM, Angela Merkel for her policies re Europe. So had Helmut Schmidt, Kohl social democrat predecessor in the Chancellory of Germany (ie former prime minister). Especiallu about a Germany others could not "depend on"!
In the Irish Times article mentioned above it is also reported that a new poll showed on September 2 that almost two-thirds of Germans say they want more common decision-making in Europe. 53% reject a “United States of Europe”. "Richard Hilmer of the Infratest/dimap polling agency said the results showed a clear aversion to looming euro zone rescue and reform measures. ...“But Germans remain at heart positively disposed to Europe and have nothing against further integration”"
A few hours ago (September 3), Gerhard Schröder, the social democrat German Chancellor (Prime Minister) from 1997 to 2005 (who succeeded Kohl), in an interview with Der Spiegel was kinder to Angela Merkel and spoke in favour of a United States of Europe.
What does this all mean?
In my opinion, it means that we are slowly picking up pace in reversing the current malaise in Europe and in taking the only road that is available, the road to political union in Europe. A US of Europe (or federal republic) that will stand tall next to China, the US, etc. (read Schröder's interview, in German).
Now, as I have written before (and tweeted many time more) the Maatricht European Summit (now European Council) which met in the form of an Inter-Governmental Conference to amend the EEC Treaty in Maastricht in December 1991 made a crucial error by deciding Economic and Monetary Union (the latter meant the Euro creation, the former is yet to materialise) without the foundation of a political union. In other words it decided to create a new currency but one without a country. I have also argued that political union and the single federal laws it comes with, see eg Fed Republic of Germany, a federal head of government (Germany) or state (USA), a federak income tax administered by a federal authority (in the US: the famous IRS), is a necessary foundation not only for a single currency but a single market as well (see the incomplete state of the EU Single Market 19 years after its launch on 1/1/1993).
Those public comments by no less than three (!) former heads of German government, two of which, Schmidt and Kohl, along with Mitterand, Giscard d'Estaing and others, are considered political giants of recent European history have come at a time when it is popular to accuse the current political leaders such as Merkel, Sarkozy, et al as lacking in leadership.
And, indeed, I must admit, reading the comments of Kohl reminded me of an era, not so long ago where one felt that political leaders were leaders and did not govern by looking at the opinion polls all the time or phobic of political cost.
Then I realised that it is some of those giants of European politics that did not manage to decide political union in 1991, when the EEC (then EC/EU) had only 12 members (thus in theory decision making was easier than then with 15, then 25 and now with 27). Who are the 12 heads or state or government that met in Maastricht in December 1991?
For The Netherlands: Prime-Minister, Mr. Rudolphus Lubbers.
For Belgium: Prime-Minister, Mr. Wilfried Martens.
For Danmark: Prime-Minister, Mr. Poul Schlueter.
For Germany: Chancellor, Mr. Helmut Kohl
For Greece: Prime-Minister, Mr. Constantin Mitsotakis
For Spain: President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Felipe González
For France: President, Mr. François Mitterrand
For Ireland: Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey
For Italy: President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Giulio Andreotti.
For Luxembourg: Prime-Minister Jacques Santer.
For Portugal: Prime-Minister Aníbal Cavaco Silva.
For the United Kingdom: Prime-Minister John Major.
(source: General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union)
Chapter 8 of europedia.moussis.eu that contains an online version of Nicholas Moussis' well known book: Access to European Union law, economics, policies, shows that (IMO monstrosity) was devised at Maatricht as a compromise. Moussis explains: "... The compromise solution that was found there and then was the partition of European integration into two Treaties (one on the European Union and one on the European Community) and into three construction pillars: the European Community - the first and main pillar; common foreign and security policy (CFSP); and justice and home affairs (JHA)...". Oh my. A legal/institutional monstrosity, something which was/is alas not a new thing for the EEC/EC/EU in the effort to reach compromises, ie in "kicking the can down the road". Read more of Nicholas Moussis' analysis of how this mess of tied up via the next 3 EU Treaties!
So, who is kicking/kicked the can down the road? Merkel, Sarkozy et al or their predecessors?
The least those who are still able to, can do, is speak up now, explain to the public opinion, and thus help their successors lead Europe where it is destined to go.