Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Here it is again, The German Question

The German Question is back, ponders John Vinocur.
In fact, it’s German Questions, plural, and fateful enough for Europe and the euro’s future to merit the capital letters.

…The German Question these days has other, considerably more biting formulations. Ulrich Beck, a sociologist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and the London School of Economics, offered two.

“Does Germany consider that the time has come to defend itself against Europe’s excessive clutches — the German model of success against its jealous European neighbors?” he asked. And: “Has the united Europe referred to in the German Constitution’s preamble stopped being the lodestar of the Germans’ vision of themselves and German politics?”

John Vinocur goes on to discuss the subject with four Germans "who represent deep political engagement in an integrated Europe" — former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt; Joschka Fischer, former foreign minister, Greens party chief and urban street fighter; Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a Christian Democrat and former chief of staff to Chancellor Helmut Kohl; and Hans-Ulrich Klose, the Foreign Ministry’s coordinator for German-American cooperation and a former Social Democratic leader of the Bundestag’s Foreign Relations Committee.

For them, doubts among its friends about Germany’s solidarity, accelerated since the beginning of the recession by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s perceived Germany First reflexes, can’t be a comfortable notion.

…A darker view came from Mr. Beck in an essay titled “German euro-nationalism.”

He sees a new kind of German economic unilateralism replacing its old multilateral creed. He believes an “intellectual nationalism” now exists in Germany that bridges right-left party definitions.

He wrote, “Chancellor Merkel has employed the European currency crisis to set the euro-zone’s financial policy switches in the direction of a German Europe.”

This, Mr. Beck argues, is a “Germany that no longer personifies the most European of Europeans. Rather, it is one that downplays its European duties and ties. It’s a Germany that has dredged up Europe’s German Question.”

John Vinocur concludes:

Clearly, Germany has changed from the country that, in exchange for German reunification, bartered away the Deutsche mark and the Bundesbank’s roles as de facto European reserve currency and Europe’s monetary arbiter.

The new, most pertinent German Question flows from this reality: How can the rest of the Europeans manage an unabashedly self-interested Germany — normal is what it’s called here — that they hardly imagined would emerge from the deal they signed in 1992 as the Maastricht Treaty.

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