Germany Plunges EU Into Crisis
The Lisbon Treaty ratification process and the recent European parliamentary elections have placed Germany at the helm in directing the future of the European Union.
On the eve of Sweden taking over the biannual rotating presidency of the European Union, Spiegel Online wrote: “[E]very EU nation occupying the presidency assumes leadership on a global scale” (June 29). Spiegel Online recognizes and supports the idea that the European Union is a global power in its own right.
Yet the EU constists of 27 disparate, often squabbling, member nations. What has been the driving force behind the evolution of a seemingly simple backyard agreement—initially a French/German agreement on coal and steel—to a grand constitution/treaty that could endorse this monolith becoming a European federation of superpower status?
Up to now, it’s been the postwar Franco/German nexus.
Emphasizing the importance of Europe’s two leading lights taking a prominent role in addressing the current global economic crisis, Spiegel Online stressed that “In the financial crisis … all eyes were focused once again on the heavyweights in the European Union, namely on Germany and France, without whom no significant European contribution would have been possible at the G-20 summit in April” (ibid.). Thus it was that Germany and France forced a European regulatory mechanism onto the global economy at that summit with the free compliance of Britain, America and the leaders of all other leading world economies.
In the beginning, France and Germany were crucial to the creation of effective postwar recovery in Europe and the stability of the rest of the world. Now the same two nations have become crucial to any way forward in the global economic restructuring occurring in the wake of the economic devastation of the past two years.
Yet, since the European parliamentary election, Germany has clearly accelerated its leadership over France. That election has placed Germany in a position of much higher and stronger representation than any other EU member nation, including France, in this Parliament. Germany is set to speak with a much louder and more assertive voice in the coming EU parliamentary year.
If we wanted a hint as to the ructions to be expected in the new European Parliament, we should look no further than the ceremony that took place on its official opening on July 13. The departing president, Germany’s Hans-Gert Pöttering, in a distinctly undemocratic, unparliamentary, yet very Teutonic manner, “urged meps to unite to freeze ‘anti-Europeans’ out of the decision-making process for the next five years” (Times, July 14). Pöttering told the Times that the Parliament “depends on those who are willing to unite Europe.”
Clarifying his true intent with regard to any valid opposition within the Parliament, Pöttering stated that “I think it is very important that the pro-European meps cooperate well so the anti-Europeans cannot make their voices heard so strongly.” Pöttering’s statements clearly were designed to prevent any prospect of a democratic opposition having effect within the Parliament.
By branding as “anti-European” any who might oppose the Eurocrats steamrolling their superstate agenda over any dissenting voices from their national electorates, Pöttering set the tone for this newly elected Parliament. This was a clear jab at the Parliament’s incoming Polish president, Jerzy Buzek, who has publicly stated that he would not ignore the Euroskeptics, declaring that “Euroskeptics are very important to us because they pick up our failings.”
Germanic overtones at the opening of the Parliament were only added to by their being “Accompanied by a militaristic flag-raising ceremony and the strains of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’—the European anthem” with “troops from the 1,000-strong Eurocorps garrison—consisting of soldiers from France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg—raising the gold-starred blue EU flag” (ibid.).
This, despite the fact that, as journalist David Charter noted in his sharply worded item in the Times, “[r]eferences to the [EU] flag and anthem were removed from the EU constitution to tone down its trappings of statehood when it was redrafted as the Lisbon Treaty after it was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands.”
Revealing the newfound confidence of his generation in the militaristic tendencies of his homeland, Pöttering observed of the presence of the military at Parliament’s opening: “Soldiers are part of the defense of our values of human rights, democracy and the law, and this is part of our value system of the European Union.”
Such flagrant jingoism just goes to support our claim that, with or without a treaty, with or without any sham parliamentary “democracy,” the prime advocates of a European superstate will just plow on over the top of all opposition to realize their totalitarian dream.
The new EU Parliament president, Jerzy Buzek, will have an uphill battle resisting pressure from the powerful German lobby within the new Parliament’s ranks. German parliamentary members have been elected to three of the most powerful legislative committees in the new European Parliament—the influential industry, research and energy committee; the environment committee; and the new legal affairs committee. In addition, a German member of the European Parliament now heads a special committee investigating the financial crisis. Industry, energy, environment, legal affairs and the financial crisis—about the sum total of all major EU business—will now be under German leadership in the European Parliament!
With such a powerful influence in the formulation of EU legislation—even without the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty—Germany has clearly jumped to the lead as the most dominant political and legislative power in Europe by virtue of its new strength within the European Parliament.
However, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by Germany and the remaining dissenting nations—Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic—sign up to it, the political power that Germany will then gain will be significantly greater, even above and beyond that which it has just won in the European Parliament. European Voice has commented, “If and when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, Germany stands to be the big winner. The introduction of a system of voting in the Council of Ministers by double majority, taking into account the population represented by the member states as well as their allocation of votes, will favor Germany” (July 9).
But there’s a fly in the EU ointment, and a very German fly at that.
In the wake of a recent ruling by Germany’s Constitutional Court applying certain conditions to Germany’s pending ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, Euroskeptic elements within Germany’s main political parties are seeking a declaration asserting the primacy of German law over EU law. This is the backlash to the court’s ruling on two main issues: that Germany’s parliament should have the final say if the EU wants to make any change to the existing Lisbon Treaty and that Germany’s highest court should decide on interpretation of EU law.
The effect of these conditions would be to overturn the present situation where EU law trumps any member nation’s sovereign law. This is the very reverse of the situation which Germany has forced on other EU member nations to ensure that they toe the EU line. It seems that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander in the eyes of Germany’s Constitutional Court.
Until Germany’s challenge to the EU legal powers is settled, the very future of the European Union hangs in the balance. This is a crisis that Chancellor Angela Merkel can ill afford as Germany’s federal election looms just two months away.
Given the history, it is intriguing to note that the party Edmund Stoiber led for so long—and Franz Josef Strauss before him—the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (csu), is the main antagonist in causing this legal crisis within Germany and the EU. EUobserver notes that “Some politicians, particularly from the csu, sister party to the governing Christian Democratic Union, now want Germany’s parliament to have the right to approve Berlin’s position before it negotiates EU decisions in Brussels” (July 15, emphasis mine).
For Merkel, riding the crest of a wave of popularity and seen by many to be a shoo-in for another term as chancellor following Germany’s September elections, the timing could not be worse. This places the former party of her old bête noire, Edmund Stoiber, right in the middle of fomenting trouble that could cause Merkel great political difficulty within both Germany and the EU on the eve of the German election.
What will be the outcome of this current political and legal crisis in Germany and the EU?
The effects could be enormous for the future direction of both.
Watch events in Germany and Europe closely over the next few months. The outcome to these events is set to have earth-shattering consequences.