Letter From Berlin: European Solidarity?


haraldA question of war and peace

 By Dr Harald Daehne in Berlin

The former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl once said: “For me Europe is a question of war and peace.” Close friendship between Germany and France was in the past the most important “engine” for Europe.

The recent European integration was the price Germany has to pay to its neighbours for the reunion. And the Germans paid the price with pleasure.

Political advice

In the 1990’s, more political experienced people than I often told me how important it is to take a look at EU politics.

But that was too far away from my local and national interests; what happened in Brussels was too complicated and

Brussels -- EU Headquarters
Brussels — EU Headquarters

abstract for me and for most Germans.

Europe was a project of politicians and economic leaders.

Eastern Europe extension

In 1997, I was in Hungary at an international congress on “European Integration”.

The EU was at that time a success story. The former Communist countries in Eastern Europe wanted to become members quickly and people had big hopes about getting economic welfare and security against the ‘big bear’ — Russia.

But conversations with my Hungarian, Polish, Czech or Baltic partners revealed an extreme nationalism and hate against minorities. How could union work? I was very sceptical.

Democratic deficiency

At the same time I realized how influential and non-transparent the EU-institutions were for our national laws.

For example, except among experts no one in the public discussed important new directives. There was a deficit in democracy in the EU and still too much power lay with national governments.

In 2009, I visited the European Parliament in Brussels:  27 countries, 27 languages, 27 members in the EU-commission, 27 interests.

My view: a clumsy, confusing and self-satisfied atmosphere. How could it work? It couldn’t work !

The budget and refugees

Since 2008, the up-and-down Euro-crisis has illustrated the Europe’s problems.

And there weren’t any powerful leaders in the EU any more. Every member has been fighting for their own interests.

Refugees from the Middle East: a European problem
Refugees from the Middle East: a European problem

I think Germany played  the wrong part as a strictly and thrifty schoolmaster against Greece (especially in summer, 2015), instead of being European integrator.

The German message to the others: charity begins at home. So only a few weeks later the chastised EU-members closed their borders and sent all refugees to Germany.

A new chance?

In the past few days, our Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had a long televised interview.

A symbol of past division -- a section of the Berlin Wall preserved as a monument
A symbol of past division — a section of the Berlin Wall preserved as a monument

She argued passionately for a European solution of the refugees-problem, together with Turkey and the countries around Syria.

A Europe with closed borders is not the answer, it’s a disaster, she said.

Well, in my opinion the EU-Members like Great Britain, Poland or Hungary now must decide: prosperity and liberty or national egotism.

We’re at a crossroads. History since 1945 is showing that working together is always the best way.