December 7, 2011
How long will Germans be made guilty in a Platonian cave haunted by shadows of the past?
In the last couple of weeks all over Europe a sentiment of Germanophopia appeared and this even amongst political friends. Comments like “If the Euro fails, the EU will disintegrate. And you, our German friends, will miss the golden goose that paid for reunification and ensures your prosperity. (European Voice 1_12_2011). Others in France spoke of the return of Bismarck.
As a German working for more than 30 years on European affairs I am shocked. The European story started to bring freedom and prosperity to our burnt out continent in the spirit of solidarity amongst our nations. I understand even more now the former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt when he stated at the SPD Congress this week in his “century speech” that in the near future Germany will not become a normal state. Against that is first and foremost the German enormous historical burden.
Europe’s crisis is not about Germany against all the others; it is not a crisis of German economic power. It is the crisis of a system which seems not to have the proper responses to the challenges of Europe within the globalised world. Europe is facing a massive lash back after not having seriously implemented macroeconomic regulation and policy when the Euro was created and not responded properly (i.e. with a sound European answer) when the first signs of weaknesses appeared even before the start of the financial crisis in 2008. Now we need a new renaissance of Europe, a strong and credible leadership.
Europe is facing one of the most difficult periods in its recent history. The current sovereign debt crisis is – so it seems – the most crucial test of the solidity of the future of Europe and the on-going journey of European integration since World War II.
The crisis has shown two major problems of the political, economic and fiscal architecture of the European Union. The crisis should teach us that we have the responsibility to develop solid and effective responses in order to provide alternatives to the current austerity policies of the conservative governments in Europe.
Strengthening the current framework such as, for example, the Growth and Stability pact will not bring better results. So it is also a question of a Political Europe and a question of a proper assessment of the crisis for developing alternative policies. So it is a question of our common European future. Let us quote the Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz in a recent comment on Europe:
“Public-sector cutbacks today do not solve the problem of yesterday’s profligacy; they simply push economies into deeper recessions. Europe’s leaders know this. They know that growth is needed. But, rather than deal with today’s problems and find a formula for growth, they prefer to deliver homilies about what some previous government should have done. This may be satisfying for the sermonizer, but it won’t solve Europe’s problems – and it won’t save the euro.”
On the political level we face “a post-democratic threat of an executive federalism” as Jürgen Habermas analyses in his new book.
Therefore, do not blame the German people. Yes you can criticise the policies of Angela Merkel or the strategies of German industry. But Europe is unfortunately not yet a zone of common economic and fiscal governance, herein lies the problem. Therefore the responsibility of the current sovereign debt crisis is a proper European responsibility.
Accusing Germans, awakening old devils and bottomless hatred is to repeat mistakes we should have learnt to avoid from our history: It leads to nowhere but a dead-end!Ernst Stetter