German-bashing is not the answer to Europe's woes

Παρασκευή, 24 Δεκεμβρίου 2010 15:57
It is a truism that the European Union is facing an existential crisis. What is relatively novel, and at the same time unjust, is putting the blame for this sorry state of affairs primarily, if not exclusively, on Germany – a country until recently lauded as the EU star pupil.
Ever since the European project was launched, the Federal Republic has been its most enthusiastic and reliable supporter – and its principal paymaster. It was not the Germans’ fault that a truly United Europe has not to come to pass. From the very start, a sizeable portion of the free part of the continent, led by the United Kingdom, opted out of the European institutions; and most of the countries that subsequently joined them sought, more often than not, to prevent rather than promote “a closer union”. While even France, one of the first to espouse the European idea, has over the years hindered efforts towards a real political integration; the lack of which is, by most accounts, the root of the EU’s present financial and economic predicament.
It is not, therefore, surprising that, reunified and no longer under immediate threat, the Germans are following the lead of their EU partners in the vigorous promotion of national interests. Nor is it necessary to agree with their handling of the present crisis in order to recognize their right to choose their policies. (Although – to bring for a moment to mind Aesop and his Fables – one can’t really blame them, if they, the industrious “ants”, disapprove of the profligacy of their fellow-European “grasshoppers”.) But be that as it may: talk of a revival of German imperialism and the like is both completely unfounded and extremely dangerous.
To begin with, the problem is not that Germany is overambitious, but that she is not ambitious enough. Her population is still under the trauma of the Second World War; and the resultant abhorrence of armed conflict and aversion to geopolitical ventures have confined the country to the status of a third rate military power with limited geopolitical goals.
Yet, by virtue of her size, her geographic position, and, above all, her human potential, Germany is the main pillar of the EU. If there is to be a valid European order – not to speak of a Europe-world power – she will necessarily be at its core. In other words, Germany is called upon to play a leading role. And it is, therefore, unfortunate that she seems to shirk the burdens of leadership, and to limit herself to the stewardship of her narrow economic interests; reluctantly contributing the bare minimum necessary to keep the euro, and hence the European Union as a whole, afloat. In so doing, however, Berlin is simply displaying the lack of a bold European vision that is characteristic of all the other major EU capitals as well.
It should then be obvious that, especially in the present dire circumstances, all that German-bashing does is to harden Germany’s defensive, risk-averse reflexes to the detriment of the European cause.

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