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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Two courageous speeches

I have admired – if not envied - the German political system since I first encountered it in the 1960s as a student – and was able in the 1970s and 1980s, on my various European trips, to compare the seriousness with which politicians (national and regional) were taken in Germany (eg the interviews in the weekly Der Spiegel magazine) with the shallow and elitist coverage of the London media. Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt were both, in their very distinct ways, inspiring Chancellors – and their Green politicians blazed a trail.
Helmut Schmidt (age 92) came out of retirement in December and gave a very powerful address to his Social democrat colleagues about Europe. It’s worth watching (in German) and reading (in English) – first for what he says about German responsibilities -
For all our surpluses in reality constitute the deficits of the other nations. The claims that we have on others are their debts. It is a case of undesirable damage being done to what was once elevated by us to a statutory ideal: »external balance«. This damage must unnerve our partners. And when foreign, mostly American, voices – then they came from all quarters – have been heard to call for Germany to take the leading role, all this together causes further unease in our neighbours. And it revives bad memories.
This economic development and the simultaneous crisis in the ability of the organs of the European Union have continued to force Germany into a central role. Together with the French president, the Chancellor has accepted this role willingly. However, there has appeared in many European capitals and likewise in the media of many of our neighbours a growing concern about German dominance. This time it is not a question of an overly strong military and political central power, but rather of an overly powerful economic centre.
At this point, it is necessary for a serious and carefully considered warning for our politicians, our media and our public opinion to be issued.
If we Germans allow ourselves to be seduced into claiming a political leading role in Europe or at least playing first among equals, based on our economic strength, an increasing majority of our neighbours will effectively resist this. The concern of the periphery about an all too powerful European centre would soon come racing back. The possible consequences of such a development would be crippling. And Germany would fall into isolation.
The very large and very capable German Federal Republic needs – if only to protect us from ourselves – to be embedded in European integration. For this reason, ever since 1992 and the times of Helmut Kohl, article 23 of our constitution obligates us to cooperate »with the development of the European Union«. Article 23 obligates us as part of this cooperation to the »principle of subsidiarity«. The present crisis regarding the ability of EU organs does not change these principles.
Our geopolitically central location and, in addition, our unfortunate role in European history in the first half of the twentieth century and our current capacity, all these things together demand from every German government a very large measure of sympathy towards the interests of our EU partners. And our willingness to help is essential.
We Germans have indeed not achieved our great reconstruction of the last sixty years alone and through our own might. Rather it would not have been possible without the aid of the Western victorious powers, without our involvement in the European Community and the Atlantic Alliance, without the aid of our neighbours, without the political break up of eastern Central Europe and without the end of the communist dictatorship. We Germans have reason to be grateful. And likewise we have the duty to show ourselves worthy of the solidarity we received through providing our own solidarity towards our neighbours.
As for what he says about the financial measures Europe needs to take -
The governments of the entire world in 2008/2009 saved the banks with guarantees and taxpayers’ money. Ever since 2010, however, this flock of highly intelligent (but also prone to psychoses) financial managers have continued to play their old game of profit and bonification. In any event, the countries that participate in the common European currency should join together to put into practice far-reaching regulations of their common financial markets. Regulations to separate normal commercial banks from investment and shadow banks, to ban the short selling of securities at a future date, to ban trade in derivatives, provided they are not approved by the official stock exchange supervisory body, and regulations for the effective restriction of transactions that affect the Euro area and are carried out by the currently unsupervised ratings agencies
And it was remiss of me not to have mentioned before now the courageous speech given in Berlin in November by the Polish Foreign Secretary who dared also to talk about German responsibilities, Here are some of the responses.

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