Europe needs a German engineJun 29th, 2011 | By Daniel Boomsma | Tags: Angela Merkel, Arab Spring, Eurozone, Germany, leadership, Schengen Agreement, Timothy Garton Ash, United States
The current euro-zone crisis gives most EU member states little hope. There doesn’t seem to be much reason for optimism. Europe can’t even formulate a unified policy to tackle the current problems. At the same time the European citizens no longer seem to accept ‘’the continued disunity of decision-makers in Brussels’’. When looking at the situation in Spain and Greece (where ‘angry people’ are respectively called the indignados and the aganaktismenoi), one can only conclude that things aren’t getting better.
According to Garton Ash the crisis in the eurozone is not the only cause of Europe’s current problems. There is much more. First, the Schengen Agreement (1985, marked the end of internal border controls) became subject of debate when France and Italy said that the treaty no longer worked ‘’just because a few thousand people from convulsed North Africa had taken refuge on the Italian island of Lampedusa’’. The Schengen debate made it painfully obvious that Europe lacks unity and that no one seems to take responsibility to end the deadlock.
Garton Ash also stated that Europe failed in anticipating on the new situation in the Middle-East. The Arab spring and the developments afterwards asked for decisive action. Now we are near an Arab fall, as the Americans called it. The military intervention in Libya is still going on and there is no sign that it’s going to be over any time soon. US defence secretary Robert Gates even accused Europe of ‘’complacency over international security’’. Although Garton Ash calls the Arab spring one of the most ‘’hopeful set of events in the 21st century so far’’, he again concludes that “[Europe’s] collective and institutional response to this historic opening has been feeble beyond belief’’.
In another example of the stalling of the European Union, Garton Ash analyses the speech of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. In this speech, held after the recent Turkish elections, Erdogan didn’t mention the EU at all. The ‘’magnetic attraction of EU-membership’’ seems to have less and less effect on Turkey. Even enlargement, Europe’s success story until now, is stalling.
But what is the cause of all this? Is it a lack of leadership? Garton Ash says a lack of leadership is not the whole, but surely half of the story. Leadership is poorer than two decades ago when the great ‘’motivators of the European project’’ like Helmut Kohl, François Mitterrand and Jacques Delors did more than just the minimum. In those days, West Germany played a substantial role in European and foreign policy. Germany wanted to rehabilitate itself and was on its way to unification (1989). France and other European member states were willing to help to achieve that goal. Europe doesn’t have a similar goal nowadays, although Garton Ash mentions the rise of giants such as China and, to a lesser extent, India, as challenges ahead.
The key to solving the problems I mentioned is Germany. ‘’We need an exceptional political commitment’’, says Garton Ash. This is when Angela Merkel enters the stage. Germany is an indispensable power when it comes to fighting economic problems with political means. Until now Merkel has done the minimum and she knows that. Former foreign minister Joschka Fischer on Merkel: ‘Ms Europe seems to have become Frau Germania’’. Although Germany has problems of its own, Merkel must realize that to tackle the euro-zone problems, to end debates on the Schengen agreement and immigration in general (though Spain, Italy and France should play a bigger role in that discussion), to meet the Arab Spring challenges and to strengthen our relation with the United States, Germany is needed more than ever.
Timothy Garton Ash, In Europe’s Name: Germany and the Divided Continent, Random House, 1993
Timothy Garton Ash, Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West, Random House, 2004
Timothy Garton Ash, The Uses of Adversity: Essays on the Fate of Central Europe, Random House, 1989
- Of German Spies, Russian Mafiosis, and a Debt Crisis
January 28th, 2013
- Franco-German competitiveness pact: hot fuzz or big deal?
February 22nd, 2011
- The future of Europe from an Italian perspective
February 19th, 2013
- Messianic Europe is back
March 22nd, 2011
- Martin Schulz: “Whatever is good for Europe is good for Germany”
November 21st, 2012