Isn’t It The Other Way Around?

Isn’t Europe doomed to be led by Germany?

Germany

Germany is doomed to lead Europe – The EU’s biggest member is in charge, whether Germans like it or not.

Walk into any meeting in Brussels and, most likely, a German will be leading it. In the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the former German defence minister, is in charge. For the next six months, German ministers will be cajoling their peers into signing off legislation as the country takes over the EU’s rotating presidency. In the European Council, where the bloc’s leaders butt heads, it might technically be Charles Michel, the former prime minister of Belgium, heading it. But it is Angela Merkel—longer in post than the leaders of France, Spain, Italy and Poland combined—who is the undisputed top dog. The EU’s main response to the covid-19 crisis—a flagship €750bn recovery fund paid for with debt issued collectively by the EU—is based on a plan cooked up in Berlin and Paris. The Germans are running the show.

How did Henry Kissinger put it? “Poor old Germany. Too big for Europe, too small for the world.”

PS: German oddity 5. Young adults in Germany have never known another chancellor other than Angela Merkel. She has been in office since 2005.

“A Bulwark No Longer”

For the last ten years, German elites successfully used EU membership to accrue political and economic benefits while offloading costs to Germany’s partners and avoiding the responsibilities and costs of European leadership. The irony is that the success of this strategy has now engendered the kind of divides inside Germany that it had forced upon most of the rest of the EU…

Germany

Germany is now entering a period of party system fragmentation, electoral volatility, unstable coalition governments and social polarization, all features of the politics of most other European countries.

Germany Honestly Not Seeking Hegemony In Europe I Swear

German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected again today claims that her country was seeking hegemony in the European Union.

Hegemony

“We already are the largest economy in Europe,” she might have said. “Like, by a long shot. So why on earth would we want to do that? All we want to do is just keep exercising our predominant influence over all those other namby-pamby nations around us and with time, through peaceful terms and non-aggression, achieve world, I mean, total European domination.”

“Germany has a sometimes complicated role,” she actually said. “Because we are the largest economy – we are not the richest, but we are the largest. Therefore Germany will only act together with the others – hegemony is totally foreign to me.”

We Hate Being The Hegemon

But somebody has to do it.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Germany knew how important it was in Europe but kept its mouth shut about it (while pulling the strings behind France’s back). Those days of semi-credible falsche Bescheidenheit (false modesty) are over, sort of. Now they continue to refuse to lead openly, but still pull the strings. Only France isn’t standing there anymore.

As shown once again during yesterday’s latest “rescue” of Europe, Germany makes the decisions while France still holds the press conferences, but the absurdity of this show is starting to lose a lot of its regular viewers. This formula has jumped the shark, in other words.

But as long as major contradictions keep on coming, everybody here in Germany is happy. You remember, don’t you? Germany fled into the EU to protect itself from itself (there was something about World War II a few years ago). Now it dominates Europe through its sheer economic power anyway, but still psychologically/socially/institutionally traumatized (and loving it), refuses to openly take the role history has assigned it. It prefers instead to publically turn its back on Europe (nobody on the street in Germany truly undestands or much cares about Europe) and concentrate instead on more important things at home like solar energy, local elections and not hurting coalition partners’ feelings.

In other words, Germany may clearly call all the shots now, but it still refuses to lead. Which is kind of clever, if you think about it. When everything ends up going tango uniform later, it wasn’t Germany’s fault.

Mit politischer Macht verhält es sich wie mit Millionen von Euro auf dem Konto: Man spricht nicht darüber.