vineri, august 19, 2022

Germany wants to make the EU work

In the memory of everyone reading this column Germany has a grotesque past and a guilt-ridden present. Since the Federal Republic’s founding in 1949, Germans of all generations have worked assiduously to purge the crimes of the Nazi era.

It was never quite enough. However much money and effort Germany put into trying to be a good European, it could not scrub away history—not least as far as Germans themselves were concerned. Germany might be the biggest and richest country on the continent, but it was chained by the past. German leadership was inherently about paying the bill, not taking decisions. For allies and neighbours, putting pressure on Germany was easy: murmuring “historical responsibility” was usually enough to open wallets and silence objections.

Not any more. Europe is now facing a new Germany, self-confident to the point of self-righteousness. It dominates Europe, and is happy to do so. It enforces rules because it believes them to be right—and in Europe’s best interest.

The biggest example of this is migration. Germans feel they have done the right thing by taking a million asylum-seekers this year, a bold humanitarian gesture made on principle, at a time when almost all other European countries flinched and quibbled. Having taken the lead, Germany is now firmly asking (some would say telling) the rest of Europe to help share the short-term costs of housing, feeding and integrating migrants in their societies too.

Recalcitrant countries can expect to pay a penalty—for example in losing access to European Union payments for infrastructure and regional development. Germany is also promoting what is in effect an EU army—a border guard for the Schengen zone which can be deployed over the heads of a failing national government (read: Greece).

It is a similar story with the euro zone. Germany has bailed out the indigent south Europeans. It praises progress in Ireland, Spain and Portugal. But it expects laggards (read: Greece) to become competitive, by introducing the budgetary discipline and efficient public administration which they lack.

Germany runs European foreign policy too: it dragged reluctant eastern and southern European governments into supporting sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In an even more startling diplomatic somersault, it is pushing for a rapprochement with Turkey—a country which it once shunned.

The personification of this is “Mutti” [mother] as Germans dub Angela Merkel. Her popularity at home is barely dented by worries about the costs and difficulties of integrating migrants. She effortlessly brushed off critics at her party conference this month, gaining a nine-minute standing ovation which would have lasted still longer had she not calmed the delegates down, telling them, “we still have work to do”.  It is little wonder that Time magazine made her  “Person of the Year” for 2015, dubbing her “Chancellor of the Free World”. Another title would have been “the Good German”—guilty no longer, but grittily determined to do the right thing.

All this is a huge problem for us Britons—not because it is a threat to our interests, but because we do not understand it. We are conditioned to see Germany as a potential menace:  Winston ChurchilI told the American congress in 1943, “The Hun is always at your throat or at your feet”. We have twice fought world wars, at colossal cost, to prevent a German-dominated Europe. It is hardly surprising that our historical hackles rise when we see the phantom menace taking shape once more.

Yet modern Germany is something quite different. It is not burdened by Kaiser Wilhelm’s grievances about lack of colonies, far less is it licking the wounds of Versailles. It is not militaristic (indeed NATO’s beleaguered frontline states are furious about Germany’s obstinate quasi-pacifism towards Russia’s military threat). It is not revanchist (it has not the slightest desire to regain Alsace-Lorraine, Silesia or the Sudetenland). It wants a rules-based economic and political order in Europe, not the arbitrary exercise of national willpower. Mrs Merkel herself is the epitome of the cautious, conscientious modern German. Her main shortcoming (at least in the past) has been prevarication, not excessive bossiness.

It is easy to point at lapses in Germany’s high-horsemanship. The euro crisis has its roots in reckless lending by German savers, as well as profligacy and corruption elsewhere. The Volkswagen emissions scandal has highlighted a culture of ruthless greed and deceit in parts of German business. A planned new gas pipeline direct to Russia across the Baltic Sea will benefit German business but damage the interests of east European transit countries such as Ukraine. The migration policy irks others: Germany may be able to afford to absorb a million migrants; European countries such as Poland can’t, and forcing them to do so risks stoking a social explosion.

But the big point is that Germany wants to make the EU work. This is hard for Britons to grasp, at a time when we are obsessing about leaving it. We see the EU as shackles to stop us doing the right thing. Germany sees it as an enforcer, to make sure other countries behave kindly, thriftily and responsibly. We simply cannot grasp the unstinting money and effort Germany is willing to devote to this. Instead we fantasise about a fourth Reich, in sinister disguise.

As Germany’s new Europe takes shape, we are not part of it. We Britons could be making decisions on the bridge—where our size and diplomatic heft would naturally position us. Instead we are sitting sulkily and uncomprehendingly in a lifeboat, arguing about whether we want to be lowered overboard.

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  1. ” We simply cannot grasp the unstinting money and effort Germany is willing to devote to this. Instead we fantasise about a fourth Reich, in sinister disguise.”

    Perfect adevarat. Problema este ca germanii au fost intotdeauna identici cu sine si in rau, si in bine ( „demonismul” german este redat excelent in celebra carte Doktor Faustus -Thomas Mann) , dar spre deosebire de altii , nu au ascuns niciodata acest lucru.
    Muzeul Partidului National -Socialist de la Nurnberg este probabil cel mai bine organizat si documentat din intrega Europa . Este suficient ca cineva sa vada obiectele pastrate aproape cu sadism ( e.g. siringi uriase pentru …cai , dar folosite pentru injectia letala la oameni ) sau „cartile de vizita” nominale si asezate in mese de sticla pentru cele cateva mii / zeci / sute de mii/ milioane ,etc. arsi in crematoriile care au ramas si au fost pastrate cu cuptoarele intacte de la ultima lor folosire ( e.g. Flossenburg ).
    Dupa acest trecut infernal , in conditii normale si indiferent de temerile europenilor, germanii vor respinge cel mai probabil si fascismul si comunismul ( intim legate ) deci singura solutie logica va ramane democratia de tip occidental. Dar , este adevarat, nimeni nu cunoaste viitorul…

    • Of course Germany is not bickering about lack of colonies, markets or Alsace, or whatever region and financial help they have to offer for the EU survival – everything can be easily explained by understanding that, when you want to rule a continent, something you tried to accomplish in the past by ways of atrocious wars and obnoxious occupations, you cannot stop to bicker senselessly around every corner. I’m not sure about ‘Mutti’, but the German people shows the same enthusiasm they showed 70 years ago, so I’m pretty sure we cannot rely on them having much respect towards the rest of us. When a people is too disciplined and pulls enthusiastically towards a ‘greater good’ it is actually demented in some other way. A commonwealth-like evolution makes more sense and is historically a successful enterprise, so I would trade anytime the Teutonic Europe for the more common-sense British-friendlier one.

  2. am cunoscut o persoana de origine germana; mi a spus la un moment dat ca ea se simte responsabila ptr atrocitatile facute de inaintasi sai in aflat ca in scoala primara sint educati in spiritul acestei responsabilitati.trecutul lor nu este idealizat precum al rominilor.
    azi Germania nu o vad liderind ca in incercarea din timpul lui Hitler.Germania are mare viitor in opinia mea.spre deosebire de democrata UK ,cam bate pasul pe loc in aceasta lume care totusi alearga.
    am citit mai sus o parere majoritar romineasca; mare diferenta intre mentalitati. poate Transilvania sa fi avut sansa sa ramina in rindul celor civilizati daca n o uneau

  3. But the real question is:Do the other nations want or need to see the „German-EU” at work??
    The rigidity up to the point of downright ordering to the „hoipoloi” greeks what to do and what to sell and to whom is not less unsettling than a Prusian goose step march or a Nazi salute!
    Effectively blackmailing the „supposedly sovereign” nations of the EU into taking the unwanted refugees after suicidally „inviting” them by the millions, how is this far from a gauleiter-ish „Diktat”?
    At first sight there is in fact not really a big difference, except maybe in the nature of means of pressure, yeah, is true, no gas chambers in sight, only the economy gets to be „gased” these days, ask the greeks how is this better, but the outcome is the same…
    All Hail to the Fourth German Reich!

  4. I do believe that EU will come out stronger and ever more powerful from this turmoil. The „immigrants issue” acted like a marker showing us what we already knew: the need of reform within EU is mandatory. Thus, we are stepping in the next stage of EU evolution. Most likely, we will end up with a stratified EU having rogue countries like Greece at the bottom and commanding leaders like Germany, UK and France on the top. … Actually the way EU worked within the last ten years or so. EU ought to ditch political corectness and should allow countries not behaving at par with EU standards to leave EU in a controlled manner.
    However, will be interesting to watch the UK in preparation of the in/out refferendum to be held in 2016 the earliest. We are in for quite a show !
    I’ve just returned to Canada from UK after several years and as a romanian, I will greatly miss mr. Farage’s cheap antiques :)))).

  5. Ridiculous!
    Germany was always full of self-confident to the point of self-righteousness…

    Pls. take a trip to Germany and pls. speak with native Germans about WW2 and its consequences for Germany. Be aware – you may discover unpleasant opinions regarding Western Europe and USA. It may be possible that they never refer to Marshall Plan – they worked hard, they did everything by themselves, they are a strong nation and simply passed a difficult moment…self-confident…

    I remembered that in Potsdam it was a church that was destroyed and the local community kept the ruins until after 1990. Can you guess why? But not by accident, the church was rebuilt with foreign support – I hope that there are no pains, now …

    The German pride is underestimated in the above article.
    They were always the best, they could not succedded in WW2,but they kept on fighting because they had a real cause and still jews are…( pls. put here what you may hire from the ordinary people from the street.) Good Luck!

    An artistic perspective regarding Germany after WW2 in a movie Europe – 1991

    INdeed the planned new gas pipeline direct to Russia across the Baltic Sea will benefit German business, any other solution will have higher costs.

    And of course this plan will damage the interests of Eastern European transit countries such as Ukraine. The reduced traffic will reduced the incomes generated by the pipeline – not very difficult to guess the economic consequences….

    But Germans do not want to absorb a million migrants pls. have the courage to ask natives. Even the Americans are still thinking about this issue and their opinions are splited .

    What you really know about the way Germany wants to make the EU work???
    Do you know how the Germans from the east part were put to work? Do you know the associated costs??? The two parts of Germany were separated for less than 50 years and they have the same origins, the same history, the same culture, almost the same religion…

  6. Germanii au platit multi bani pt WW2 si atat. Unii se simt jenati in public, pentru ca e rusinos ce au facut, nu pentru ca le pare rau. Un examen de constiinta nu si-au facut niciodata. Nici nu le pasa de ce au facut. Daca veti vb cu nemti intre 4 ochi, 98% din ei cred ca au platit destui bani incat sa nu mai vorbim de WW2 şi ca Hitler a venit cu solutii concrete, doar ca nu trebuia sa „exagereze”. (La fel va vor spune si multi secui din Romania.)
    Germania acum vorbeste de fascismul si antisemitismul esticilor, si cateodata de excesele SSului. Uita ca armata regulata germana (nu doar SSul) a facut atrocitati. Uita ca toata gandirea lor era pagana in momentul cand a ajuns Hitler la putere. Toti credeau in vointa si putere, in darwinismul social si rasial, in superioritatea rasei lor.
    E cat se poate de clar ca Germania si acum mizeaza pe forta, aroganta si negocieri cu pumnul in masa. O fi vrand sa mearga UE, dar in folosul ei, nu in spiritul lui Robert Schumann.
    Stie cineva cine detine presedintia Consiliului UE? Luxemburg (urmeaza Olanda). Cf regulilor UE, ministrul de externe al Luxemburgului ar trebui sa vb pentru UE. Schteinmeier, amicul lui Schroeder si al rusilor, e un ministru ca oricare altul. Ori ce face el? Nu doar ca, impotriva tuturor regulilor, vorbeste in numele UE, ba chiar ameninta. Si pe cine? Iranul sau Rusia? NU! Pe tarile estice care nu vor sa primeasca refugiatii chemati in UE de madam Merkel (care la ultima conferinta a CDU amintea ca e in firea nemtilor sa intreprinda lucruri marete).

    • imi cer scuze,dar nu ma pot rabda; uite asa arata rominul majoritar.construit din moldo-vlahi si tarani ardeleni
      domnul stefan ii o tzira mai liber in esprimare,alti is mai sofisticati si mai greu de dovedit;ce sa caute astia in UE ?


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Edward Lucashttp://contributors
Edward Lucas scrie pentru the Economist. Este de asemenea senior vice-president al Center for European Policy Analysis, un think-tank cu sedii in Varsovia si Washington, DC.

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