Rudderless Europe: Will Real Germany Please Stand Up?
As the events since the recent European elections have shown credibility is slowly earned, but very quickly ebbs away. Just ask Angela Merkel.
Securing a female German-elect president of the European Commission should have been a major political victory for Berlin. Wrong.
The collateral damage has been huge, both for those who believe in the Spitzenkandidat process and for those hoping for a coherent German vision for Europe….
The EU might be relieved to have cobbled together a deal but make no mistake, Europe is increasingly rudderless. And Europe is floundering because Germany refuses to lead….
On defence and security spending – let’s just all admit what is obvious – president Donald Trump is right. There is no rational reason why the Germans should not spend more on security and defence.
All the superfluous talk in Berlin of how much they participate in actual NATO operations and their humanitarian budget are half-hearted attempts to cover their tracks. Again, perceived national politics prevails over wider strategic imperatives.
In effect, the EU has become a prisoner to Germany’s combined historical psychoses.
The real German legacy since reunification – beyond the soothing (but largely meaningless) rhetoric of solidarity and friendship – has been to drag Europe along into this Freudian maze. Berlin lies trapped in the death grip of a ‘Schwarze Null’ [no debt] cult and it’s the rest of the EU that’s paying the price.
But all is not yet lost.
A new chancellor, an able German Commission president and Brexit presents a new opportunity to reset Berlin’s vision for the future of Europe.
By placing itself confidently at the heart of Europe, Germany needs to set out its vision for the future of the EU.
What does Germany want from Europe? What can Berlin do to help develop a sustainable and growing European economy? Germany must acknowledge fundamental realities such as how the Eurozone, as currently constructed, is simply unsustainable for many other member states.
Honesty and pragmatism are required as is an understanding that being the largest member state brings real responsibilities and (just as importantly) real compromises.
But to do this, to really lead and shape Europe, Berlin must realise that you can’t live in fear of the future by trying to remedy the past. Germany deserves more, so does Europe.
Eoin Drea is senior research officer at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies.
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