Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Karlsruhe decision: end of the European dream?

In a recent editorial of Le Monde, the reputed political journalist Arnaud Leparmentier interprets the decision of the Constitutional Court as Germany's final word to European integration. Successfully rebuilt after 1945 and successfully reunited by 2009, Germany no longer needs Europe, European integration or the Franco-German axis, says Leparmentier. Germans have become happy, indifferent and inward-looking.

On a personal level, he sees the shift from Joschka Fischer to Angela Merkel and young economic minister Theodor von und zu Guttenberg as emblematic for the shift in German mentality. In 2002 there were heated debates about a Germany that had to be defended in Afghanistan. In 2009, the citizens' own pockets have become the main topic. Hence the spectacular rise of the economic hardliner Guttenberg to being the second most popular politician in Germany.
Where Guttenberg showed no solidarity for the domestic producer Opel or the mail order company Quelle, one may indeed ask how much solidarity Germans would bring up for Eastern Europe, Italy or Iceland. As one of the few European countries which consolidates its finances instead of pouring money into the market, Germany currently impedes imports from the rest of Europe. Finally, with the decision of the constitutional court, Leparmentier finds that the country has now put a resounding halt to any further political integration as well.

One may answer to Leparmentier that the politics of austerity is merely a phenomenon of the right. The SPD is committed to deficit spending if need be, and has even ridden over SPD finance minister Peer Steinbrück in this matter. On a political level, the SPD has criticized the populist stance of the CSU, currently abusing the Karlsruhe decision for election purposes.

In my view, Germany has not lost its European vocation; if any, the current proponents of the right may have lost it. Parliament will meet in the middle of the election campaign to vote the law giving the Bundestag a greater say in European matters at the request of the Constitutional Court. If the political debate about the European Union continues as it is at the moment, it may even become an important topic in the campaign. And then we will see which party is committed to the European project and which one isn't.

The irony is that Europe might be extensively debated during the national elections while nobody cared about it during the European elections.

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