“I have always wanted Europe” says Alfred Grosser, one of the great contributors to the Franco-German post war reconciliation that has shaped modern Europe.
A teacher in France since moving there from Germany in the 1930s he has lectured at Stanford, Tokyo and Singapore, led France’s Political Sciences Institute, and been honoured in both France and Germany for his work. He’s the author of a number of books, notably of the Franco-German relationship. euronews asked him what he thought about Europe’s current financial crisis.
Rudolf Herbert, euronews: Europe looks like it’s on its way under, and is sinking. Did you prepare your lifeboat?
Alfred Grosser: I do not have a lifeboat, but of course it is possible that there might be a catastrophe, that there might be consequences which could spread out everywhere. The deficits in most of the countries are terrible. One cannot fight against the deficits without slowing down the growth. And one needs the growth to cut back the deficit. It’s a vicious circle. A positive outcome could be that Europeans might find out that they cannot have a common currency without, at a minimum, a common authority for budgets and taxes.
euronews: According to analysts this is just the beginning of the crisis. Are there political causes for the crisis?
Alfred Grosser: First of all analysts constantly have been wrong, maybe this time they are making a mistake again. Nobody predicted the crisis in Greece for instance, nobody said that it would be so bad. So analysts have been at fault in this sense, maybe they will be at fault in another way. Experts are people who pretend to have a science but they don’t. It’s like this. But I think one of the political reasons for the crisis is that a coordinated Europe doesn’t exist. There is no Europe with a central authority for economy and budget affairs. In 1954 I was against the European Defence Community. One of my reasons was: Where is the sense of a common army if there is no political authority in command of this army? When the Euro was created I wrote – I am able to prove it because I wrote it – that I agreed and that I was for the Euro! But I also asked what could a common currency be without a central authority? Because this authority should control currency when making budget policy, should have a common tax policy.
euronews: Is Europe as a political project going into the dark? Will a politically powerful united Europe remain a utopia, a dream?
Alfred Grosser: It’s not a Utopia, it’s a necessity! Nobody seems to admit this necessity, that’s bad enough. It started with France saying No in 1953 to a political organized Europe. This is the reason why later on the Defence community failed. And there is still a negative attitude in France forged in words uttered by the former prime minister Georges Pompidou in 1964. He said: ‘France should play the role of Europe’. He didn’t say ‘France should play a role IN Europe’. He said Europe’s role should be played by France. This French arrogance is one of the causes of the crisis.
euronews: What are the threats for a political Europe?
Alfred Grosser: I do not see any threats apart from national vanities which should be overridden.
euronews: Is policy on Europe made in Brussels or in Paris and Berlin?
Alfred Grosser: Neither. Paris and Berlin are trying to speak with one voice to make pressure on Europe. After the Lisbon treaty it’s even more difficult to locate the power in Europe because for instance nobody knows who should make european foreign policy, or where: Should it be made by the president of the European Commission? By the new minister, Catherine Ashton who is also vice-president of the Commission? By the President of the Council? They are bothering each other a lot. Last but not least one doesn’t know what and how a commmon european policy should be!
euronews: Is the Lisbon treaty an adequate guide for Europe’s future?
Alfred Grosser: I would say it’s a good step. Maybe that events, the crisis will force the governments, maybe even the French and the Germans to say to themselves: We do need a more integrated Europe with more central power.
euronews: What do you think about the European institutions?
Alfred Grosser: The Parliament is working well, it has done a lot of useful things and has gained more and more responsibilities. It’s a pity that people don’t know – in Germany it’s better known than in France – that this Parliament is an institution which has been chosen in a democratic way.
The Commission is working better than one expected with all the new member states. Unfortunately the old system still exists: Every government nominates a commissioner. The President of the commission should be able to chose the commissioners for their skills and not for their nationality.
euronews: What is your opinion about the first permanent president of Europe? Does he have enough power?
Alfred Grosser: No, he doesn’t enough. But he is doing his job well. It’s much more difficult for the EU foreign affairs chief because she has to familiarize herself with her job, she needs to know more about things she is supposed to decide. And her administration has got far too big with missions everywhere. There is a dispute between the president of the European Commission, the president of the Council and the foreign affairs chief about who is going to represent Europe in foreign countries, about who is going to be Europe’s ambassador. There is a certain disorder in this field. But I think the president of Europe is happy about not being prime minister of Belgium any more because this job is more difficult than getting something for Europe. He is doing his job down-to-earth, sedately and well.
euronews: Should Europe become bigger or rather smaller?
Alfred Grosser: In no case smaller! And nobody wants to quit it! But it has been like this from the very beginning: One rails against Europe but everybody wants to join Europe. There are a lot of difficult questions but Turkey is not a difficult question for me. One should ask Turkey: ‘Do it like Switzerland – take all the benefits but don’t be a member. Take all the economic benefits, but you won’t get political responsibility because otherwise we would always be threatened by a war, with Iraq, Iran and so on.’ There are for instance Turkish military interventions in Kurdistan, in Iraqi Kurdistan. One doesn’t want Kurds to become independent because one is afraid about what Turkish Kurds would do.
euronews: You have always defended Europe. What is your message for young people?
Alfred Grosser: First of all I’ve never defended Europe, I wanted Europe! I did all I could for more Europe. We should show to the young the things we already have. If we had told Robert Schuman in 1950 what we have already today, he would have been very pleased. It’s less than we could have hoped but it’s more than we could expect.