May 17, 2012

Europa über alles


Thursday 17 May 2012

Schauble 458397.jpg

Wolfgang Schäuble gets the Charlemagne Prize today – the very prize that was awarded to Ted Heath. It is given for services in promoting European unification, and makes for an interesting development.

Despite claims that the eurozone crisis is reinforcing German power, we have a German finance minister at the heart of the crisis who, according to Deutsche Welle, is "passionate about Europe", and is committed to greater integration. The Franco-German alliance, we are told, is particularly important to him.

He is seen as an eminence grise, both in Brussels and Berlin, having played a central role in negotiations over the EFSF and ESM rescue funds and had worked closely with Merkel on the European fiscal pact. Now he is being asked to become head of the eurogroup.

Schäuble is also the man who is saying that Europe needs closer financial integration – that the eurozone "must learn from its sovereign debt crisis by forging a more closely integrated financial policy".

That was earlier this week, when he was speaking at an academic event in the western German town of Aachen. Schäuble then said: "We must ensure that financial markets retain confidence in the common currency", adding: "I would be for the further development of the European Commission into a government".

This is his long-term response to the eurozone crisis which, he says, may have been exacerbated by the fact that the EU lacked the tools - such as a central transfer system - effectively to deal with it.

He says he wants to widen citizens participation in EU politics beyond voting for MEPs to voting for the president of the EU Commission, noting that the recent French presidential elections, including a three-hour TV debate between the two candidates, attracted interest far beyond the country's borders.

And this is the same man who, earlier this year, was drawing up plans for Greece to leave the euro, against rumours of a split with Merkel. But, he stopped short of pushing for Greece to leave the euro, and played the EU game.

The euro-credentials of Schäuble, therefore, are somewhat at odds with the Germanophobia rampantthroughout this crisis, even more so when he is staunchly supporting the EU's new fiscal pact.

It seems to be, therefore, that far from being an example of Germany attempting to dominate Europe, we have a situation familiar to us in Britain. There, like here, the élites are staunchly pro-EU and are pursuing their agenda, no matter what the people want. In all probability, the British and German peoples have more in common with each other than they do their own leaders.

Deutschland über alles, as a slogan, it should be recalled, referred to the goal of a unified Germany taking precedence over formally independent states. With the same thing happening on a larger scale, it is not Germany we need to fear, but a German finance minister singing Europa über alles.


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