Maybe you have not noticed yet, but Germany is close to financial ruin. At least that’s the impression that arises when these days the debate about the so-called target balances of the European Central Bank tracked. Roughly speaking, the argument goes something like this: The central banks of the crisis countries of southern Europe would become the Germans Bundesbank owe about € 1,000 billion. The money will sooner or later be lost because these states are as good as insolvent. If one were to calculate the expected losses correctly, then Germany would not have a budget surplus, but a huge deficit. But the established parties kept the “truth” secret so that the citizens would not go to the barricades. And that’s why nobody in Berlin would undertake anything.
Almost everything is wrong about this argument. First, the Bundesbank has not lent money to the central banks of the South. The amounts in question come from the payment system Target 2. It ensures that everywhere in the currency union can be paid with euros. Normally the balances of this system are roughly balanced. The savers bring their money to the bank, which gives out loans. If many savers now entrust their money to a bank abroad, then the European Central Bank closes this gap. The country then has balance sheet liabilities with the European Central Bank. The country to which the money was brought – and therefore not dependent on central bank money – has a claim against the ECB. But: The claims and the liabilities are fictional quantities. They exist virtually, in the balance sheets of central banks, not in the real world. The fact that money is currently flowing from the south to the north (and that this is compensated by corresponding counter bookings from the ECB) is a sign that the currency crisis has still not been finally overcome. But that’s it.
There is only one situation in which the balances become relevant: when a eurozone leaves the monetary union. That can of course happen, but then there is a threat of huge chaos on the financial markets and in European politics. The target demands should then be the smallest of all problems. It is not even clear whether the Bundesbank will actually face insolvency, as is often the case. After all, a central bank is not a commercial bank. She prints the money herself and can simply ignore the hole in the balance sheet. If the AfD says that Finance Minister Olaf Scholz should make provision for possible losses in his household, then the question arises: For what exactly? And at what altitude?
Second, the German target requirement is not kept secret by anyone. The corresponding data will be published by the Bundesbank on the Internet There are whole books on the subject. If politics does nothing, then “doing business” in this case means: restricting the free movement of monetary union. And that would almost certainly be the end of it. Even in the US, the regional central banks help each other out , Why the matter is such a big topic then? Because it is no longer about economics, but about politics. A large number, a complex matter that almost no one sees through – these are ideal ingredients to deal with horror stories about the Germans as supposed milking cows Europe and to make the impending national bankruptcy mood. In other words, the target balances are a tool in attacking the European policy orientation of the Federal Republic of Germany. From this misappropriation of a scientific discourse goes out the real danger, not from the trillion, which stands in any balance sheets.