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Interview with The Local
‘The euro is still a brilliant notion’
US Ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy. Photo: DPA

‘The euro is still a brilliant notion’

Published: 30 Jul 2012 09:25 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Jul 2012 09:25 GMT+02:00

In the first instalment of The Local’s exclusive interview with US Ambassador Philip Murphy, America’s top diplomat in Germany stresses the need for a European growth agenda to help stem the euro crisis.

In a wide-ranging talk at the US Embassy in Berlin, the ambassador warned that Europe’s sovereign debt woes would likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

“It’s going to take longer than any of us would like. It’s going to continue to be challenging for an extended period of time,” Murphy told The Local in his office overlooking the Brandenburg Gate.

“But at the end of the day, Europe will get through this. And I would even venture to say that Europe will be stronger in many respects.”

Reiterating Washington’s call for the European Union not to focus solely on austerity measures favoured by Germany, Murphy called for efforts to boost growth in floundering eurozone nations like Greece and Spain.

“If you don’t have a growth agenda that’s alongside getting the pipes more deeply connected, you’ll have too many [out of work] young people – particularly in places like Spain where you’ve got extraordinarily high youth unemployment. Something has to be done about that,” he said.

The ambassador said the crisis had exposed the need for greater political and economic integration to ensure the euro’s survival: “It’s hard to believe you could have a currency with 17 countries that aren’t more tightly and deeply knit.”

A former investment banker who ran Goldman Sachs’ German operations in Frankfurt from 1993 to 1997, Murphy also stressed the need to take immediate steps to restore the capital markets’ confidence in the eurozone.

“So that countries that need to finance or refinance can do so at rates that are reasonable and reflect the realities of their credit. That has to be a ‘here-and-now’ agenda,” he said.

Bucking up Berlin

Saying the euro remained “a brilliant notion” to bind Europe together, Murphy rejected the suggestion that Washington expected Berlin to take specific action to stem the ongoing crisis.

“I wouldn’t use that verb choice. It’s not expecting what Germany should do. We talk to Berlin all the time as we do with the big capitals and Brussels all the time,” he said. “We buck each other up. We share best practices. It’s an open channel at the highest levels, and very constructive.”

But with American officials fearing an implosion of Europe’s single currency could halt the sluggish US recovery, Murphy was also clear on how much Washington was counting on Berlin to resolve the festering crisis.

“This is of enormous importance to us,” he said. “The depth of the economic relationship between Europe and the United States – and particularly Germany and the United States – cannot be underestimated.”

Since his appointment by President Barack Obama in 2009, Murphy has worked to deepen America’s economic ties with Germany - but also foster the cultural bonds between the two countries.

Unpretentious diplomacy

A political appointee holding a top fund-raising position for the Democratic Party before becoming ambassador, Murphy has taken to the diplomatic life with gusto, bringing his own unpretentious style to the role of being America’s top envoy to Berlin.

“It’s a humbling opportunity to be intimately involved in one of the closest relationships our country has in the world – it’s a big deal for me every day,” he said.

At home in New Jersey, the ambassador, his wife Tammy and their four children also clearly enjoy living in Germany. The Murphys have chosen to spend part of their summer vacation in Baden-Württemberg and Brandenburg. And as a family of devoted soccer fans, they have even adopted the beleaguered Berlin football club Hertha BSC.

In his office in heart of the German capital, Murphy could at times hardly contain his enthusiasm when talking about the past three years.

“We love it here. We’ve had an extraordinary experience. Professionally certainly, but the family experience has been exceptional, he said. “It’s been a game-changing experience for all of us. We get out and about.”

An affable envoy

It’s quite a departure from the past two US ambassadors to Berlin – while former businessman William Timken was a drab diplomatic functionary, US Senator Dan Coats spent most of his time barely containing his outrage over the Germans’ temerity to oppose the invasion of Iraq.

By contrast, the affable the 55-year-old Murphy has proven an effective advocate of US interests – frequently disarming his hosts by speaking American-accented German.

His suave people skills have helped bridge disagreements on global economic policies between Berlin and Washington, as well as smooth over WikiLeaks’ embarrassing release of diplomatic cables revealing the US Embassy’s deeply unflattering assessment of members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in 2010.

US base closures and American expat issues – click here for the second half of The Local’s interview with Ambassador Murphy.

Marc Young

marc.young@thelocal.de

twitter.com/marcyoung

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:55 July 30, 2012 by wenddiver
Yes th EURO and open borders with all these poor nations are a brillant idea like putting a flamable gas in the Zepplin Hindenburg. Briiliant!!!
12:32 July 30, 2012 by mos101392
Europe needs the euro more than Germany. If it were not for Germany, the euro would be even more undervalued. However, if all of Europe went back to their own currencies, they would all reflect their individual values and the DM would increase. Germans would then vacation in style once they converted their DMs to the local curencies.

But since everyone wants to be one big happy euro family, the haves will have to take care of the have nots....Just like the German haves take care of the German have nots!

It will come down to the average German taxpayer to pay for the weaker economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal, ect...Not the rich Bankers or politicians!
12:57 July 30, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Mos101392. You are another BILD reader then? Simple economics for the masses via BILD. The Euro benefits big German corporations as the alternative strong DM would seriously damage their exports. The other EU countries are paying for this with a strong Euro instead of their own weaker currency meaning hurt exports from their countries. Sure you are right, your holidays are affected by this but in fairness the EU economy is about much more than your holidays :-)
13:36 July 30, 2012 by cheeba
I don't know how he came up with the idea it's brilliant. It's been tried so many times before, knitting together different linguistic and cultural groups in one bigger entity. Soviet Union, Austria Hungary, Yugoslavia, in the end the populace just ends up not wanting it. and yes, BILD readers do represent the masses, in the way Die Zeit readers represent a small brittle elite at the top. the masses generally win iin the end, Just ask Bashar al Assad or Gorbachev.
13:49 July 30, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Bad scaremongering journalism that is out of touch with reality is what BILD represents. Luckily it is only the poorly educated who take notice of it. The same people who think Majorca is in Germany.
19:02 July 30, 2012 by IchBinKönig
If it wasn't a 'Brilliant Notion', it wouldn't have been thought of first by umm lets see...

The Romans, Greeks, Joseph II, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and everyones favorite, Adolf Hitler. wonderful.
19:39 July 30, 2012 by friedenstempel
Austerity is misleading, it is all about fiscal discipline and reliability of these nations. When rating agencies rate you junk, that is what you are, and then you need to be firm on virtues, not spent even more ("growth") to deepen the crisis.

Friedrich Wilhelm I managed to save the Prussian state by financial prudence. The Sourthern Europeans could do it, too. We have to be firm on principles.

Probably Murphy is not the right person to guide us on principled grounds as he refused to resign when his embassy spied on the German foreign office.
02:18 July 31, 2012 by neunElf
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
00:07 August 1, 2012 by mayitoh
Germany was Germany, before the Euro, before the European Union, before Merkel or any other busybody Chancellor, with a long and rich history of success, in the farming, in the industry, in the technology, in the arts, in the military. In each of them, when talking about human history you have to make a stop in Germany and then make a reflection. Only that government today are trying to become zombies the German's people and make them feel guilty and scare them.... Germany will be better off with the Mark and his own INDENTITY and no trying to fix what have never been fixable in this complex and turbulent Europe....... the call from the US ambassador, it is a desperate call and a high and clear message of how deep is sunk this Euro-titanic!!!
14:00 August 3, 2012 by JohnnesKönig
Berlin fuer alles are you devoid of basic reading skills?

Isn't your argument exactly the point that mos101392 made?!

And I would argue that in order for you to know what type of publishing Bild does, you're very likely one of their readers... Or are you just upset that he made the comment before you did?
16:36 August 20, 2012 by nightbiker
At home in New Jersey, the ambassador, his wife Tammy and their four children also clearly enjoy living in Germany.

He tells you to merge your currency with others but you do not see the U.S. trying to merge it's money with say Mexico.

What would he think of a joint bank account for his family and me. If he would do I promise one grand party with lots of free stuff for all.

Can't blame him for not wanting to come back to New Jersey.
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