Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Worries about Germany's new 'Euroscepticism'

As you may know the label Eurosceptic is used, mainly in Britain, for those who are refractory to the European Union and/or greater European integration. It seems that Germany, in the past a pillar of European integration, is dramatically evolving in that direction but with a twist: they love the euro and the EU as it is, reaping the benefits of a tailor-made European design and assuming no responsibilities.

This is essentially what Ulrike Gérot, head of the Berlin office of the European Council of Foreign Relations (the EU's "foreign affairs ministry"), describes in her article at Open Democracy, dramatically titled: Germany goes global, farewell Europe.

She outlines some of the points to be concerned about:
  • Germany's economy is apparently doing well, even too well if that is possible. However the stress tests for German banks revealed (or rather tried to hide, as they were unconvincing) some weaknesses.
  • German national ambitions as a distinct power have become for the first time important, at least apparent. These ambitions are now described not in EU leadership terms at all but in German own interests. There is even a comparison with Switzerland: wealthy but irresponsible for the whole of Europe.
But, unlike Switzerland, Germany is big, the largest European power by the size of its economy and one of the largest globally. Most importantly Germany is founding member of the Union (Switzerland is only associated) and of the Eurozone, with the euro common currency being designed after the old Deutsche Mark, with all the problems such a strong currency has caused in most of Europe (hidden inflation, impossibility of regulating state-level economy via the central bank...). Definitively the euro was not designed for Greece, Spain or Poland but for Germany above all. And Germany has benefited from this design parasitizing other weaker European economies from their strong position (and then even daring to issue unwarranted insults to Greek workers and in general all around as your usual schoolyard bully would).

This irresponsibility and parasitism from the chief European power and one of the key architects of the EU as it is now is very much worrisome for the present and future of EU. It is hard to think a EU without Germany but, whatever the case, if the other countries are suffering from an ill-designed Union, which is not reformed nor assumes its responsibility for the good of all, then the only logical future that lays ahead is the disintegration of the Union and the return to local currencies and fiscal policies, which is not good in principle for anyone but is not good for Germany in particular, who is the no. 1 beneficiary from the EU.

I have drifted from Gérot's exposition somewhat to present my own view. I do not think that both are too different but in my bluntness in denouncing Germany's irrational and short-sighted sabotage of the European project. Whatever the case she concludes with the following remark:

... the European idea may be squeezed under Germany’s new weight. Once all that is fully registered, the consequences will be momentous.

I cannot but totally agree with this conclusion.

I sometimes tell this story on why was Yugoslavia torn to pieces in the 1990s, I heard it from a liberal (center-right) Macedonian politician: he had a conversation with a US embassy employee, who was a CIA agent, who told him that Yugoslavia had become much less relevant geopolitically, he expressed happiness about that, to what the spy replied: I would not be so happy if my country would become irrelevant.

Nowadays, as the geopolitical center is quickly drifting towards the former Capitalist periphery, specially towards Asia, it does look like Europe is less and less relevant too. Of course large powers the size of Germany, Russia, France or Britain, some of them with a nuclear arsenal - even Italy, Spain and Turkey - are still important but mostly in the economic sense and for whatever European stability is worth for the USA, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Russia. Nothing else.

If Europeans do not take care of Europe, and that includes Germans, Britons and other freelances, Europe will collapse. From the viewpoint of oppressed nations such as Basques that is not necessarily bad but for the average European it is, including Germans, Britons and all those selfish Eurosceptics.

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