Europe's Decline


BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Own report) - The controversy over the future of the Euro is being accompanied by debates over Europe's global decline and the shift of global power. "Europe's decline" can be detected on a global scale, according to Werner Weidenfeld, one of the most influential political experts in Germany, who, for years, has been pleading for the EU to strive to become a global power. It can be "predicted" that the United States will lose its hegemonic position, declares the former German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, pointing to China's continued rise. But "America's weakness" will also affect Europe, according to the British publicist Timothy Garton Ash. In an interview with a German newspaper, Garton Ash considers that future military conflicts in Asia - proxy wars between China and the USA - "cannot be ruled out". To prevent its own decline, Germany is also closely cooperating with Washington's main allies - Japan and India - in the struggle against China.

Withdrawal Scenarios

The discussion about terminating the Euro is intensifying in Germany. Only half a year ago, the common currency's abolition would have been unthinkable in the eyes of the public, but today at least three scenarios for terminating the Euro in its present form, are being discussed: Besides Germany's withdrawal from the common currency and a reintroduction of the D-Mark, experts are contemplating the advantages of excluding countries from the Euro zone or dividing the monetary union into a northern and southern Euro, oriented on a so-called fiscal stability.[1] All three scenarios could eventually endanger the existence of the European Union - the central element of Germany's global power policy.

New Lines of Conflict

The controversy over the future of the Euro is being accompanied by discussions about Europe's global decline. Werner Weidenfeld, one of the most influential political experts in Germany has recently underlined that "Europe is declining". Weidenfeld pointed out that the present escalation between North and South Korea is an indication of the future lines of conflict [2]: "Both world powers, China and America" are standing "respectively behind North or South Korea in this conflict," noting the crucial "lines of conflict in Asia and the Pacific region." After pleading for years that the EU should strive to become a world power ( reported [3]), Weidenfeld declared just a few weeks ago, that from now on, Europe could "write a new chapter in its success story", if it dares to take the necessary "giant steps into the future".[4] But they have to be taken on a European level: Only the continent as a whole, "on which 500 Million people are politically organizing their cohabitation", would have the "appropriate weight" to engage in a global power policy.

Take the Last Opportunity

Similar admonitions by various politicians from several European countries are making their rounds in the German debate. With China in view, it "can be predicted," says Hans- Dietrich Genscher, former German Foreign Minister, that the United States will not continue to be "the strongest nation." Genscher approvingly quoted the former US President, Bill Clinton, who demanded a few years ago that the current position be used "to create a world order, in which we, as Americans, could still feel comfortable" even if another power - China - should rise to the number one position.[5] Last week the former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, wrote in an article in the German business press, that at the moment, "a historical shift of power, influence and prosperity from West to East and from North to South" is taking place. "Asia and the rest of the world are already producing more than Europe and the USA combined," wrote Brown; in 2020 Asia will probably also "be consuming 40 percent of the goods produced throughout the world, as opposed to only four percent consumed in Germany." Enormous common efforts in EU financing and economic policy is necessary to prevent this decline.[6]

An Alternative Modernity

Central aspects of the global shift in power were elucidated last weekend in a major German daily's discussion with the British publicist Timothy Garton Ash. According to Garton Ash, "Asia's renaissance" is the most decisive development of the past few years: "For 200 years, we, here in the West, have enjoyed wealth and power, now it looks as if there is an alternative modernity elsewhere." This past decade will "go down in history as the squandered decade for the United States": "In the Iraq War, with credit capitalism and debts," Washington has uselessly "dissipated" its outstanding power.[7] "America's weakness will also effect us" says Garton Ash: The "rise of the non-Western world" is happening at Europe's expense.

Proxy Wars

Garton Ash foresees serious conflicts in this process. "Throughout history, there have always been armed conflicts, when a declining hegemonic power encounters a rising hegemonic power" explained the publicist. The only peaceful exception to this rule was "the hegemonic transition from Great Britain to the USA in the 20th Century."[8] To be sure, the USA and China are, to a large extent, economically dependent upon one another, but "on the other hand, the European nations, prior to 1914, were also economically very tightly enmeshed." Garton Ash is "not implicitly" expecting a "major Chinese-American war," but considers "smaller conflicts in Asia" as "not to be ruled out," in which case Washington "probably will ally itself with Japan and India, to confine China. It is already doing this, to a certain extent."

Conflict Preparation

As a matter of fact, Germany has long since been involved in building the anti-Chinese alliance, both with Japan and India.[9] Whereas Berlin continues to try to enhance its position in relation to Washington - for example by collusion with Moscow - it is working in close collaboration with Washington to limit Beijing's rise in power. The most recent campaigns against China - in the run-up to the Olympics in 2008, during the uprisings in Xinjiang 2009 and with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 - are suited for preparing public opinion to accept serious conflicts with the People's Republic - should Berlin find it necessary, to prevent or halt its own decline.[10]

[1] see also Die deutsche Transferunion
[2] Werner Weidenfeld: Startschüsse zum Korea-Krieg; Focus 48/2010. See also Disastrous for China
[3] see also The Will to World Power and Potenzial zur Weltmacht
[4] Werner Weidenfeld: Die ratlose Dame Europa; Financial Times Deutschland 10.11.2010
[5] Hans-Dietrich Genscher im OÖN-Interview: "Politik verlangt Überzeugungskraft"; 07.12.2010
[6] Die neue Weltkarte; Handelsblatt 07.12.2010
[7], [8] "Ich frage mich: Sind die USA reformierbar?" 12.12.2010
[9] see also Alte Freunde and China's Rival
[10] s. dazu The Olympic Torch Relay Campaign, The Future of "East-Turkestan" and Federal Republic of China