An Imperial System


BERLIN (Own report) - German government advisors and commentators are warning Berlin against manifesting too triumphantly the openly erupting German domination over the EU that has become apparent through the Euro crisis. "Misconstrued" statements such as, from now on "Europe will speak German," could provoke hostility abroad. Germany must appear "conscious of its power," while exercising in its comportment "modesty and discretion," to avoid provoking resistance. After all, according to a commentary in a major daily, in countries such as France or Great Britain, who lost to Germany in the power struggles, "national pride was hurt." The remarks, euphemized as "hurt pride," were criticisms of the German austerity dictate that not only causes serious social upheavals but is even characterized as economically disastrous. Other EU countries see only slight possibilities of influencing Berlin's actions, seen as a crash course. According to government circles in Paris, "Germany dominates everything."

The Euro Junta

German government advisors' current warnings are in response to criticism of Berlin's financial policy dictate that is growing louder in numerous EU countries. Major protests are growing, particularly in Greece, against the EU "Troika," that is supposed to supervise the implementation of the Greek national budget. "We are witnessing a pan-European putsch," wrote a business journal "O Kosmos tou Ependiti." The "Euro Junta" is putting into question the nucleus of the country's very existence, its sovereignty, its democracy, and the conditions for its citizens to survive." Enraged Greeks are repeatedly recalling the period when their country was under Berlin's control - under Nazi occupation. Powerful forces in Italy are also voicing their anger, where German refusal to buy large quantities of state bonds from indebted countries or to allow the implementation of Eurobonds is mainly being criticized. "The way Germany is running the EU, is becoming increasingly alarming," according to "La Repubblica." The "Corriere della Sera" writes, "Berlin's attitude risks becoming a dilemma that will burden the monetary unity and threaten to destroy it."[1]

The End of National Democracies

Countries - particularly Greece - which are already deeply suffering under the German austerity dictate, are by far not the only ones publicly criticizing Berlin. This is evident from an article appearing last week in the Paris daily "Le Monde," quoting several incumbent and former French ministers. "The Germans are dominating everything," according to a heavyweight in government circles, "one has to wait for their decisions without having any influence on what will happen."[2] Quai d'Orsay [the foreign ministry] is warning against Germany seeking hegemonic rule, by wanting to apportion EU votes, not only on the basis of population size, but even - in the bodies of the European Central Bank - based on economic power - under the motto: whoever falls behind economically, will have much less say in future decisions. According to former French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine, it cannot be permitted that soon everything will be decided "Germanic-Deutsch." The budget dictates imposed by Berlin and Brussels on indebted countries signal "the end of national democracies," complained a conservative French parliamentarian.

Crash Course in being a Leading Power

Berlin's erupting triumphant feeling that Europe has finally become malleable, is not only obvious in its politicians' expressions ("Now Europe will speak German" [3]), but also in commentaries of influential dailys. For example, criticism in France and many other EU countries concerning Berlin's adamant persistence in imposing its controversial finance policy agenda, is responded to by alleging that there is "a contagion of Germanophobia," because "the dumb Germans insist on maintaining a couple of principles of monetary stability." "If the situation were not so earnest," one could "chuckle." Germany is "in the process" of becoming a "leading power" - "that, (...) which the USA represents for the world." "Our new enormous power" is provoking "rejection and resentment." The reason, for example in France and Great Britain, is "a cocktail of hurt national pride" and "uneasiness over the fact that there is an elephant in the midst of Europe that the crisis is forcing to develop its full power potential." The German daily, "Die Welt" formulates a résumé of the EU's crisis policy: "the Germans are taking a crash course in being a leading power."[4]

Power Conscious

But government advisors and commentators are counseling Berlin to avoid triumphantly flaunting its erupting power. For this current situation, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) has republished a text for debate on its web page that had first appeared back in 2002. The author wrote, nearly ten years ago, that the EU is going through a transformation process. To a growing extent, it resembles "a modern imperial system (...) comprised of a relatively strong hub (...) and concentric incorporated or more loosely attached circular zones depending on their amount of say or dependency." EU institutions in Brussels and "the leading EU core countries" determine the hub.[5] Germany - without a doubt an EU core country - must be conscious of its power, without alienating the dependent countries on Europe's periphery. "Modest discretion on the one hand and power conscious determination on the other" delineate the path between "two precipices along which German foreign policy must demonstrate stability, if it wants both long-term success and credibility."

"We've had that Before"

Currently, commentators in the media are picking up on this advice. "Leading not ruling" was the title of yesterday's editorial [6] in the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "As the largest and economically most powerful country," according to the editorial, "Germany has a particular responsibility, to hold this thing together." Therefore, Berlin's interests must be asserted and the rest of the EU countries, integrated. Berlin was particularly appreciative, when the Polish foreign minister appeared in the DGAP on Tuesday and declared, "I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity."[7] This reference should be taken up, to establish a somewhat soft, but uncontested hegemony. Triumph should not be too openly expressed, because it would only provoke resistance. Berlin should resist the "temptation of unilateralism and a superior attitude, because this could quickly lead to the formation of opposing camps." Conscious of history, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warns: "We've had that before."[8]

[2] La crainte de l'"Europe allemande" resurgit chez les dirigeants français; 24.11.2011
[3] see also Now German will be Spoken
[4] Ungeliebte Deutsche; 29.11.2011
[5] Gunther Hellmann: Der "deutsche Weg". Eine außenpolitische Gratwanderung, Internationale Politik 9/2002
[6] Führen, nicht herrschen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 30.11.2011
[7] Sikorski: "Deutschland ist Europas unverzichtbare Nation"; 30.11.2011
[8] Führen, nicht herrschen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 30.11.2011