Amid the preparations for Germany’s elections and in the context of sustained concern over Europe’s euro currency and debt crisis, we sought expert opinions about one of the most powerful voices in Europe – that of Germany. This looks at views on the country’s policy on European integration. Some suggest an element of improvisation.
Carnegie Europe Director Jan Techau took a broad view: “The European Union’s system basically seeks to avoid domination and hegemony. This is not a system which makes it easy for even a very strong country to take the lead or determine the course of Europe alone. Dominance implies ignoring others; determining specifies a direction, with a willingness to compromise. I think this is what Germany is doing.”
Catherine Trautmann, a French member of the European Parliament (MEP), said: “In the European Union, Germany holds a key position to reinforce economic and monetary union and to reach agreement. From my French point of view, I hope it can also lead to Europe having its own resources – the financial capacity to carry out European Union policies.”
Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler, a German MEP, was unimpressed: “What European policy? That is the first thought that comes to my mind. It’s all a big mess, a muddling through, on-the-spot actions but without any plan.”
Greek MEP Maria Eleni Koppa said: “Unfortunately, it has been less European than German. It was rather turned to the inside, to the internal political arena. It was very introverted than extroverted for such a leading European nation as Germany. We all in Europe expected a more European voice than the one we have heard for these last years.”
Jerzy Buzek, a Polish MEP, however, put in a good word: “Chancellor Angela Merkel was open, she was tough enough, because it is necessary, and fair enough, reliable. That was very important!”
Daniel Rosario, a journalist with Portugal’s ‘Expresso’, said: “Without the German involvement maybe the euro wouldn’t exist at this time. But then I think that the way – especially at the beginning – the way Berlin approached the whole crisis – it was a complete disaster.”
Euronews correspondent Rudy Herbert puts the current context in perspective: “The German European policy has actually been a domestic policy, some say. Considering the dangers of the eurozone crisis, others say this policy was right and pragmatic. What should Germany’s policy on Europe be? What should we expect from the future government in Berlin? This is the second question we’ve been asking in Brussels.”
Koppa added: “Germany must change, because the lesson we learned from this crisis is that no single European member state can do it on it’s own.”
Rosario at Expresso said: “I think that the political integration will come as a natural step of this last development and I think that that will be very much in the interest also of Germany to see that happen, because I think that in a way the German vision for Europe is a German Europe – not in a bad sense but in terms of its institutional architecture. Germany looks at its own federal structure and thinks: Why, if this works so well here in Germany, why wouldn’t it work for Europe?”
In Trautmann’s view: “We expect Germany to take the initiative, and perhaps also take a new step towards closing the divide between the North and the South of Europe. This divide is enormous.”
Kreissl-Dörfler said: “Germany has to come out of its shell and shoulder its all-important role in the EU; it should get closer to France again, and stop excluding other countries, saying ‘We’ll only work with the countries we like’. Germany should tell the German people and the Europeans what things really look like!”
Buzek looked to the future: “You know, in Poland during Solidarity times (Note: Solidarnosc, trade union in the communist dictatorship) we had a slogan: No bread without solidarity, no bread without freedom! And now we can add: No solidarity without responsibility! This is a very important slogan for the European Union for the future as well!”
Techau at Carnegie concluded: “Germany should be a kind of serving leader. Germany is too large, historically too precarious… It’s importance to the architecture of Europe makes it too heavy to take the leadership alone. German leadership is quite different from French or British leadership. German leadership must be inclusive. Germany should lead by integrating itself into the group. Anything else generates fears and centrifugal forces, and generates blocks which oppose Germany.”
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