Europe's Chancellor

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - The Berlin establishment's leading foreign policy magazine has proclaimed Angela Merkel "Chancellor of the EU". According to the specialized periodical, "Internationale Politik", published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), one has to admit that in effect in 2010 "a German EU chancellorship was created", in the course of which, Berlin's office holder successfully established a sort of "authority to set guidelines" for this "circle of 27 national and government leaders". If one would consider EU leadership to be that of a "government", it would be possible to "attribute roles." France's president, in this case, "doubtlessly has the role of vice-chancellor, (...) who can take initiatives," but "in cases of conflict, can always be reined in by the chancellor." These pronouncements appearing in Berlin's leading foreign policy periodical are a written affirmation for the entire world of German ambitions to EU leadership, which up to now have usually been politely denied in public. These are being flanked by considerations for replacing democratic procedures with dictatorial practices.

Germany's Pivotal Role

According to a recent online article of the periodical "International Politik", the German chancellor can look back on 2010 as an extremely successful year at the EU level. She had been able to impose "whatever she wanted and even much of what, in early 2010, had been considered impossible": a Euro crisis mechanism with the inclusion of private investors, a "more stringent Growth and Stability Pact" and even a "change of the EU Treaty". Independently of how one sees these measures, one has to admit that Germany has, "as the largest national economy, slipped permanently into the pivotal role of the [European] union." Thereby, the article continues, Merkel is "long since no longer only the German but also the 'EU Chancellor'," insists the author. Naturally, no one is talking yet about the "creation of a German EU chancellorship". The "often insidious structural transformations" usually will only be fully recognized and propagandistically elaborated later.[1]

Authority for Setting Guidelines

One of these "structural transformations" is that the EU must be seen "more in the category of a government," which "would correspond much more to the German model" than "for example, to the French presidential model." The Chancellor would be granted the "authority to set guidelines". She is the leader - everyone somehow knows that no country can be rescued from the crisis, if Germany "does not give its OK" - but, as in the case of government cabinets, coalitions would have to be forged. For example, during the dispute over EU financial support for Greece, Merkel at first refused, because she needed time "to forge coalitions with other EU partners and compensate for the minority Euro zone countries strictly applying austerity programs." The results are similar to the outcome of coalition negotiations: the "needy Euro countries" could count on financial support from the more prosperous nations, "but only at the conditions they dictated." In general "the thesis could be supported" that in effect Merkel is not only "EU Chancellor", but even "her style of governing" has been transfused "from the national to the European level".[2]

Vice-Chancellor Sarkozy

If in the EU, one sees government structures, according to the periodical, then it is somewhat "provocative" and yet "appealing" to "assign roles" to the various players. The EU national and government leaders could then be compared to "a cabinet of ministers." France's president, in this case, "doubtlessly has the role of vice-chancellor, (...) who can take initiatives," but "in cases of conflict, can always be reined in by the chancellor." The meeting in Deauville, where Merkel and Sarkozy reached an accord on a crisis dictate for the rest of the 25 EU countries, should be seen as a "mini-coalition committee" at EU level, according to the journal, in reference to the total disempowerment of all other EU countries. On the other hand, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has sort of the role of a "Head of the Federal Chancellery", who must "seek a balance between the various camps", and "thereby always runs the risk - as in Deauville - of being abruptly corrected by the head of government or her vice." The author finds it difficult to assign "a role to" José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. The power struggles concerning his function within the EU are still inconclusive.[3]

Openly Hegemonic

Up to now, even though German claims to EU leadership have been imposed, they were usually politely denied publicly - so as not to expose the governments of the other EU countries and to avoid open resistance. As can be seen from pronouncements in the "Internationale Politik" article, the Berlin establishment is now publicly beginning to express its claim to EU leadership - and thereby gradually embed, at least in the consciousness of Europe's elites, the idea of German hegemony over the EU. The strongest European power is flaunting its might - and insisting upon recognition.

A New Era of Imperialism

In this light, certain considerations being expressed in Berlin's establishment, which have been published in "Internationale Politik" last year, take on new significance. For example, a prominent CDU foreign policy expert prophesied "a new era of energy imperialism".[4] The "struggle for energy, raw materials and water" would dominate global policy of the 21st Century. "19th Century nationalism, colonialism and imperialism" would return in global power struggles. "Energy crises and conflicts" and even "energy wars" would become "inevitable." This scenario suggests why some in Berlin may have found it advisable to clear up European power relations, once and for all.

A Bit of Dictatorship

Attention should also be drawn to an article by the Berlin-based professor of political sciences, Herfried Münkler, which had also been published last spring in the same foreign affairs periodical. Münkler, who is one of the most renowned experts in the German capital and on the advisory board of the Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS), wrote at the time that "there is various talk of dictatorial powers and measures today."[5] At times one hears the wish for "a bit of dictatorship". Münkler was evidently alluding to sectors of Berlin's establishment, when he reported that, in the discussion, reference was being made to the Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt: "If there is various talk of dictatorial powers and measures today, it is usually (!) in the sense of what Schmitt referred to as a provisional dictatorship". According to Schmitt, a provisional dictatorship is one that is limited in content or is temporary. "But no constitutional institution" explained Münkler last year, "is prepared to take the risk of installing a provisional dictator." In the debate in Berlin, members of Berlin's elites are publicly preparing to take over direct EU leadership without provoking a scandal in the rest of Europe.

[1], [2], [3] Andreas Rinke: Die EU-Kanzlerin. Angela Merkel überträgt ihren Regierungsstil auf die europäische Ebene; www.internationalepolitik.de 21.01.2011
[4] Friedbert Pflüger: Eine neue Ära des Energieimperialismus; Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2010. See also A New Era of Imperialism
[5] Herfried Münkler: Lahme Dame Demokratie; Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2010. See also A Bit of Dictatorship