New President in Town


Germany takes over the presidency of the European Union for the first half of 2007. It promises to be quite a dramatic time for the EU, and, in particular, for Germany.

The greatest ceremonial event Germany will host during its EU presidency is the 50th anniversary celebration of the Treaty of Rome. Although the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ecsc) in 1951 laid the foundations for European unity, it was the Treaty of Rome in 1957 that established the European Economic Community (eec) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The signing of this treaty marked the birth of the European Union.

The original treaty was signed in its spiritual home, Rome. In recognition of that organic connection, the European Constitution that morphed out of the Treaty of Rome was also signed, by the then-25 EU member nations, in Rome in 2004.

Yet the jubilee celebration of the original treaty will be celebrated in the national capital of another of the member nations of the EU—Germany. This time, instead of “the mountain coming to Mahomet,” Mahomet, in the form of the EU’s spiritual leader Pope Benedict xvi, will come to the mountain. On this celebrated occasion, this German pope will grace the stage, not in Rome, but in Berlin, flanked by assembled EU dignitaries, hosted by fellow German Angela Merkel, chancellor of the nation holding the EU presidency at the time. Also at the forefront will be the leader of the most Catholic of Germany’s political parties, Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber.

Organizers plan a special European Council session in Berlin for March 25, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. “As the venue for the anniversary celebrations, Berlin is the symbol of a transformed Europe that has overcome the Cold War,” said Regierung Online (Oct. 11, 2006; emphasis mine). The same day, the European Parliament and Commission will issue a joint declaration “intended to inspire hope in the future of Europe—a culturally diverse, social and economically strong Europe.

“[European Commission President Manuel] Barroso praised the federal government’s plans. The ‘Berlin Declaration’ could be the symbol of a new, united Europe” (ibid.).

Not only that, it will be hugely symbolic for Germany! This celebration will be a coming-of-age ceremony for the united Germany as the nation reflects on its transition from a divided country throughout the Cold War era to what is now the EU’s leading economy and most strident political voice.

The transfer in 1999 of Germany’s national capital from the innocuous Bonn (which has no real attachment to past Teutonic glories) to Berlin makes for an intriguing setting for these grand anniversary celebrations. Berlin, a city perfumed with memories of Imperial Germany’s past glories, allows for appropriate pageantry against the backdrop of a refurbished national capital, spic and span, clothed in both new and revived old architecture. The city has reinstalled the statuary of German military heroes that was removed after World War ii due to its being perceived as an inappropriate reminder of Germany’s warring habits.

It is thus intriguing that, as this grand celebration approaches, war is once again on the German mind. Given Germany’s history as a united nation, that ought to be of major significance to us all.