Norbert Lammert during his speech ©Nils Thies

Norbert Lammert visits the Bundesbank

Addressing the New Year’s reception hosted by the Alumni Association of the Bundesbank’s University of Applied Sciences this year was Norbert Lammert, the former speaker of the Bundestag (the lower house of Germany’s parliament). The Association Board had invited Mr Lammert, a native of Bochum, to Frankfurt am Main to a dialogue on “Ten years after the start of the financial crisis”.

Mr Lammert introduced the topic with a personal anecdote. He explained how, one Saturday evening around ten years ago, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel called him as he was on his way to dinner to inform him that an extraordinary meeting of EU heads of state and government would take place the next day. According to the Chancellor, the aim of the meeting was to agree on a joint bailout fund to prevent the looming collapse of the financial markets. In the space of just a few days, the way was to be cleared for a bailout fund for which Germany’s share could have run up to €480 billion. Mr Lammert remarked that this amount was around double the then federal budget: “We would normally have spent six months discussing and haggling over every minuscule item of spending.”

Bailout fund was the right move

Mr Lammert noted that, given the desired pace and course of proceedings, he stressed to the Chancellor the need for a consensus in the Bundestag. As he put it, there had never been, nor would there ever again be, a situation like it. In his eyes, the decision made at that time to set up a bailout fund was the right one: “Without the bailout fund, the crisis would have escalated even further,” explained the former Bundestag speaker.

Mr Lammert then turned his attention to the present and emphasised the importance of transnational – ideally global – rules for the financial markets. He noted that national rules could ultimately be circumvented by any participant. The subsequent Q&A session focused, amongst other things, on Mr Lammert’s views on current developments relating to Brexit and federalism in Germany.

Bundesbank Executive Board member Joachim Wuermeling held a welcome speech at the event. “As a young MEP, I held your speeches in high regard,” said Mr Wuermeling, adding that Mr Lammert was a role model whose example he set out to follow. “You put something into practice that is very difficult to achieve,” said Mr Wuermeling, “and that’s combining loyalty to principles with everyday politics.”