EU Disharmony on Eve of Anniversary
Munich—March 24, 2007
A cold front has swept through Europe over the past few days. Flying over Ireland, England and Holland, crossing the border into Germany, a carpet of white glistened below in the dawn. Upon touchdown in Munich Wednesday, the temperature rested at freezing. I could not help but feel that this sudden continental freeze was analogous to the cold shoulder that Germany was suddenly receiving from its fellow EU member nations for once again changing the rules to favor its own goals. This on the eve of what Berlin has planned as a grand weekend of all-night celebrations of European unity.
It was to be a grand event, a real milestone. It would be the opportunity to show the world that, despite the painful and bloody record of multiple generations dating back to its earliest eras of settlement, finally a solution had been found to the historical volatility of relations between nations on the continent of Europe.
The fact that the 50th anniversary of the foundational treaty establishing the European Union, the Treaty of Rome, would occur during the current six-month German presidency of the EU guaranteed that this very Teutonic idea of centralist government for Europe would be given a well-organized celebration, suitable to the importance of the occasion. Yet, right on the eve of Europe’s big sesqui-centenary birthday bash, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is faced with division in the EU camp over the drafting of the very document that was to confirm the strength of European unity in the public’s eye, to be known as the Berlin Declaration.
Disagreement over the wording of this much-touted document has come from a number of quarters. In fact, headlines only days before this weekend’s celebrations of European unity indicate there is quite a deal of difference between a number of EU member nations and Berlin over this latest and most controversial of EU public declarations.
The EU’S own parliamentary website, reporting that the two main parliamentary political groups are at odds over the future direction of the EU, stated, “The European People’s Party (epp) and the Socialist party pes have issued their own ‘visions for the future’ ahead of Sunday’s 50th anniversary ‘Berlin Declaration.’ But both take a different approach to how they believe Europe should move forward” (March 22).
In a piece on the subject of the Berlin Declaration published on the same date, the Turkish Daily News declared, “The euro’s in. God and the constitution are out.”
The euro is in the soon-to-be-released declaration simply because Britain backed down on its earlier stance to not have it unduly emphasized as one of the EU’s major achievements. The word constitution, despite Merkel’s desire to have the European Constitution endorsed within the Berlin Declaration, will not now be included due to French and Dutch sensitivities to that subject. And, in spite of the clamoring of Roman Catholic conservatives, the word God will not appear in the declaration due to resistance from the vocal secularists within the EU, in particular France.
Meanwhile, the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, is in a huff due to Chancellor Merkel’s highly controversial method of drafting the Berlin Declaration in secret with little or no direct input to the actual wording by the leaders of other EU member nations. Even members of the European Parliament were reported to be disturbed by the secrecy surrounding Merkel’s approach to drafting the document.
Battle Behind the Scenes
From the rumbles issuing thus from a collection of concerned EU member nations, it is clear that a battle royal has waged behind the scenes as Germany has sought to once again bully its fellow EU members into signing a document that may be interpreted by Germany as fulfilling its own EU agenda, but which falls short of meeting the requirements of others.
As one source opined, “[B]eneath the veneer, and despite serving as a model of integration to the world, EU leaders are battling to conclude a declaration that can mark past achievements and reassure citizens about the future” (EUbusiness, March 20).
All of this rather makes last year’s declaration by EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that “EU leaders must agree a ringing political statement of Europe’s values and priorities for a Berlin declaration next year” seem rather hollow. Far from a ringing and unanimous endorsement of Europe’s “values and priorities,” it seems that the EU has yet to even agree on just what those values and priorities constitute!
A year ago, it was Barroso’s declared desire for all 27 EU member nations to sign the Berlin Declaration “together as a collective act of will. The European Parliament will sign alongside the member states and Commission as proof the EU and institutions are working together” (TheParliament.com, June 20, 2006).
Barroso has simply now to eat humble pie.
In a complete about face that has caused an outcry across Europe, instead of the heads of all EU member states signing in agreement to the declaration, Chancellor Merkel has ruled that only she, European Commission President Barroso and the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, will now sign the text on behalf of all the leaders!
Twelve years ago, commenting on Germany’s involvement in sparking the Balkan wars, our editor in chief declared in a Personal in the Trumpet magazine, “The German bully returns!”
Now Germany is at it again!
The worry is, will the German government’s bullying tactics remain constrained to just coercive diplomacy? Perhaps we should pause to ask, on the eve of the celebration of Germany getting its way via overt diplomacy for the past 50 years in Europe, what will happen in the future if German diplomacy meets real resistance? Would Germany ever again be tempted to repeat the more aggressive tactics that it employed against resistant neighbors within the first half of the 20th century?
Our next report from Munich will be from the site of one of the most sobering memorials to the last time when duplicitous German diplomacy changed into a strategy of more devastating effect … lest we forget.