The eurozone debt crisis has raised existential questions about the future of the European project. Chancellor Angela Merkel believes that the only answer is more unity, says DW’s Peter Stützle.
For Helmut Kohl, the case was crystal clear. Raised in the Franco-German border region in post-war Germany, he and his friends used to rip border posts out of the ground. Later, Kohl the politician always liked to describe German unity and European unity as “two sides of the same coin.” Europe was close to Kohl’s heart, and for that, the EU’s heads of state and government named him “Honorary Citizen of Europe” in 1998.
Angela Merkel has also used the two-sides-of-the-same-coin quote, but when she says it, it doesn’t seem as clear. She was raised in East Germany, where people looked across the wall to West Germany and not necessarily further to Paris or Rome. During East Germany’s peaceful revolution, we heard her chant “we are one people” and “Germany, united fatherland.” Logical.
There is nothing nationalistic about this understandable quest for a united Germany, maybe with the exception of a few fringe groups. Nowhere did you see more European flags or more cars with EU bumper stickers. From the start, Europe was factored in, part of the package called “German unity.” There weren’t many who saw that a clearly as did Angela Merkel, who soon worked alongside Helmut Kohl.
Germany needs Europe
After World War I, the Pan-Europeans – who counted future German chancellor Konrad Adenauer among their ranks – called European unity an issue of war and peace. Unfortunately, they were proven right. Helmut Kohl, a witness to World War II, always spoke with great emotion of a united Europe as a work of peace. Angela Merkel, too, voiced that concept in numerous speeches – with less emotion, but that doesn’t mean she is less committed to the idea.
Europe is close to the heart of other politicians, too, such as Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. They all have rational reasons for their stance. They are convinced that Germany, the country that has more neighbors than any other state in Europe, can only prosper in a united Europe, politically as well as economically. Angela Merkel shares this point of view. And because she realizes that European cooperation is threatened by the debt crisis, the only consequence she sees is to move even closer together.
Author: Peter Stützle / db
Editor: Spencer Kimball