The Normalisation of Germany (II)

, by Morgan Griffith-David

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

The Normalisation of Germany (II)
German flag Credit © European Union, 2011

Economy and law

Two of the more interesting debates from the anthology centre on the Economy and Law.

While Michael Wohlgemuth, head of the research department at the Walter Eucken Institut, takes the view of many Germans as he defends the position that “innocent bystanders must not be forced to accept responsibility for the mistakes of strangers” and that Germany was right to insist on its successful austerity model being applied abroad, Henrik Enderlein, Deputy Dean and Professor for Political Economics at the Berlin Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, argues instead that the crisis was caused, not by irresponsibility, but by the architecture of the single currency, in which two blocs developed – one low-inflation bloc with high real interest rates, which leaned towards lower growth and unemployment rates (e.g. Germany) and one high-inflation, very low or negative real interest rates, and high growth and employment (e.g. Spain, Ireland and Portugal). While the bailout of 2010 solved the short-term crisis, it did not solve this disparity.

While some propose a return to national currencies, Enderlein claims this would be “economic suicide” as national debts would not disappear with the re-introduction of the drachma. The only option is to “take the bull by the horns” and confront the issue, at a European level... “The European Commission must be strengthened to become a genuine governance arm of national economic policies”

In the legal debate, three authors present the legal debate following the Constitutional Court’s controversial verdict on the Lisbon Treaty in June 2009, which limited further integration and criticised the EU’s “democratic deficit”. Klaus Ferdinand Gärditz and Christian Hillgrube argue that the court had little choice – claiming that the Basic Law guarantees the permanence of sovereign German statehood, and says that “The Basic Law does not grant powers to bodies acting on behalf of Germany to abandon the right to self-determination of the German people [...] by joining a federal state”. The decisison “preserves the primary place of democratic self-determination of German citizens and simultaneously ensures the actions of the EU have the necessary democratic checks and balances to establish sufficient legitimacy. ”

On the other hand, Christian Calliess, is more critical of the verdict. He claims it is a near tragedy that the Constitutional Court focus on international law, which leads more in favour of democratic principles than European integration. He focused more on the flipside interpretation of the court – that the Lisbon Treaty and law approving it were judged constitutional, it was merely proposed simplified amendments to Article 48 of the EU Treaty that required active approval of the German legislative wing, which, is entirely fair – while the EU started as an economic project “the more political the EU becomes, the more it needs broad democratic legitimacy.”

Conclusions

Thus, we can draw some conclusions from these esteemed voices about the current German ’crisis’. Germany is still “feeling the impact of reunification on its political system, its economy and its sociology”, as Guérot and Leonard have shown. However, no new national narrative has coalesced – this is why their debate is necessary.

“Germany needs help to become European again”, but it cannot fulfill the same role. We need to reassure the German public that Europe is not ripping them off. The best way to show Germany that its aspirations are best fulfilled within a European context is by being more European themselves.

Germany’s public is at risk of turning decively eurosceptic. However, as Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, foreign editor at the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, points out

“Denying or ignoring the consequences of growing public scepticism will inevitably lead to a repeat of what happened in France and the Netherlands in 2005, when politicians simply did not know what had hit them. Ordinary citizens often have a keen sense of when the EU is overextending itself and want their “own” democratic regimes to retain some freedom of action in the future...

“Anyone wanting “more Europe” these days must acknowledge that, while it makes sense to transfer power to Brussels in some areas such as budgetary policy, there are limits – if only because ordinary citizens and their governments say so.”

We must remember that public opinion is paramount – while we can urge and offer good, strong arguments in favour of Europe, we cannot force Europe on people, otherwise we risk creating a Europe for the elite.

We must remember that despite this ’crisis’, Germany is not sending any professed anti-Europeans to the European Parliament. This country has not turned eurosceptic, and we can still take time to convince the public of the benefits of Europe. Their politicians and media must play their role, but as Habermas said, it is social movements which determine the course of countries.

One final essay of particular note. Alexander Cammann, a writer who has been published in Die Zeit on German identity, who was born in the GDR, was 16 when the Berlin Wall fell, and become an adult in a reunited Germany, draws attention to the fact that Europe is succeeding... He laments our “colelctive short-term memory loss”. Many of us should be able to remember a time when in Greece, this type of economic instability would have allowed “reactionary colonels” to take power in a coup, the strikes would have “mutated into a communist uprising”, and a country may have fallen into civil war. In Spain and Portugal, not forgetting most of Central and Eastern Europe, the scars of dictatorship are still raw.

While Jürgen Habermas may speak about our democratic deficit, and a lack of a public sphere, and we cannot forget these shortcomings. This is all secondary “given all the upheaval in this blood-drenched continent within an unprecedentedly short period of time?”

“The gains in democracy and freedom – not to mention prosperity – for the vast majority of Europeans are so incomparable that it is tempting to ask whether our poets and thinkers have lost all sense of history. Nothing new could possibly take shape any faster than what is currently occurring in Europe."

“Europe has become a continent that, historically speaking, is happier than ever. Naturally, we must do everything in our power to ensure it remains that way. But we Europeans certainly have good reason for optimism.”

The first part of this article was published on August, the 10th.

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