The Crisis of Europe - Timothy Garton Ash by HoriaPuscuta

VIEWS: 166 PAGES: 14

More Info
									                  The Crisis of Europe
                    How the Union Came Together
                      and Why It’s Falling Apart

                            Timothy Garton Ash

May 10, 1943: German forces are de-           pavements. . . . We, who did not perish,
stroying the Warsaw ghetto. Facing            leave it up to you to keep the memory of
armed resistance from Polish Jewish           them alive—forever.”
fighters, they set fire to it house by           Fast-forward exactly 60 years, to
house, burning some inhabitants alive         May 10, 2003, a month before Poland
and driving others out from the cellars.      holds a referendum on whether to join the
“Today, in sum 1,183 Jews were appre-         European Union. At a “yes” campaign
hended alive,” notes the o⁄cial report        rally in Warsaw, a banner in Poland’s
by the ss commander Jürgen Stroop.            national colors, red and white, proclaims,
“187 Jews and bandits were shot. An           “We go to Europe under the Polish
indeterminable number of Jews and             flag.” Outside the rebuilt Royal Castle,
bandits were destroyed in blown-up            a choir of young girls in yellow and blue
bunkers. The total number of Jews             T-shirts—echoing the European flag’s
processed so far has risen to 52,683.”        yellow stars on a blue background—
An appendix to this document contains         breaks into song. To the music of the
the now-famous photograph of a terri-         eu’s o⁄cial anthem, which is drawn
fied small boy in an outsize cloth cap,       from the final movement of Beethoven’s
his hands held high in surrender. Marek       Ninth Symphony, they sing, in Polish,
Edelman, one of very few leaders of the       the words of the German poet Friedrich
Warsaw ghetto uprising to survive,            Schiller’s “Ode to Joy.” Soon these young
concluded a memoir published imme-            Poles will be able to move at will across
diately after the war with these words:       most of a continent almost whole and
“Those who were killed in action had          free, to study, work, settle down, marry,
done their duty to the end, to the last       and enjoy all the benefits of a generous
drop of blood that soaked into the            European welfare state, in Dublin,

     Timoth y G ar t o n Ash is Professor of European Studies at Oxford
     University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
     © Timothy Garton Ash.

       [ 2]
                                 The Crisis of Europe
Madrid, London, or Rome. “Be embraced,      integration, including the vital economic
ye millions! This kiss to the entire world! interests of European nations. Yet the
Brothers, a loving father must live above   single most important driving force across
that canopy of stars!”                      the continent was the memory of war.
    To understand how a predicted crisis    Among those parading down the streets
of European monetary union became an        of Warsaw in May 2003 was the bearded
existential crisis of the whole post-1945   professor Bronislaw Geremek, who, as a
project of European unification, you have   ten-year-old Polish Jewish boy, had seen
to see Europe’s unique trajectory from one  the Warsaw ghetto burning before his
May 10 to the other. Both the memories      eyes. It was no accident that he became
of World War II and the exigencies of       one of Poland’s most ardent advocates
the Cold War drove three generations of     of European integration, as a leader of
Europeans to heights of peaceful unifica-   the Solidarity movement, the Polish
tion that were unprecedented in Euro-       foreign minister, and then a member of
pean history and unmatched on any           the European Parliament.
other continent. Yet that project began         To be sure, the Warsaw ghetto survivor,
to go wrong soon after the fall of the      the Nazi soldier, the British o⁄cer, the
Berlin Wall, as western European leaders    French collaborator, the Swedish busi-
hastily set course for a structurally flawednessman, and the Slovak farmer had very
monetary union.                             diªerent wars. Yet from all their throats
    While many governments, companies,      rose the same passionate cry: “Never again!”
and households piled up unsustainable       For all the diªerences in national and
levels of debt, young Europeans from        subnational experiences across a hugely
Portugal to Estonia and from Finland        diverse continent, the historian Tony
to Greece came to take peace, freedom,      Judt could still title a history of Europe
prosperity, and social security for granted.that covers the 60 years up to 2005 with
When the bubble burst, it left many         a single word: Postwar. In this respect,
feeling bitterly disappointed and led to    if in no other, the European Union’s
excruciating divergences between the        favorite catch phrase, “Unity in diversity,”
experiences of diªerent nations. Now,       was strictly accurate.
with the current crisis still unresolved,       Those memories played an important
Europe lacks most of the motivating forces  role for those British Conservatives, most
that once propelled it toward unity. Even   of them World War II veterans, who took
if a shared fear of the consequences of the the United Kingdom into the European
eurozone’s collapse saves it from the worst,Economic Community, the precursor to
Europe needs something more than fear       the European Union, in 1973. But above
to make it again the magnetic project it    all, personal experience motivated those
was for a half century. But what can that   continental Europeans, up to and includ-
something be?                               ing French President François Mitterrand
                                            and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl,
wa r on t h e m i n d                       who created the eu of today. In a con-
Historians have identified many factors     versation I had with him after German
that contributed to the process of European reunification, Kohl delivered a line I will

	                foreign	affairs	 .	 September / October 2012              [ 3]
                                  Timothy Garton Ash
never forget. “Do you realize,” he asked,        the 1940s to the diplomacy surrounding
“that you are sitting opposite the direct        the reunification of Germany and the
successor to Adolf Hitler?” As the first         dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989–91.
chancellor of a united Germany since                 For the half of Europe stuck behind the
Hitler, he explained, he was profoundly          Iron Curtain—what the Czech writer
conscious of his historical duty to do           Milan Kundera called “the kidnapped
things diªerently.                               West”—the will to “return to Europe”
   European integration has rightly been         went hand in hand with the struggle for
described as a project of the elites, but        national and individual freedom. The
Europe’s peoples shared these memories.          growing prosperity of Western Europe
When the project faltered, as it did many        had a magnetic eªect on those who saw
times, the elites’ reaction was to seek some     it, whether at first hand or on Western
way forward, however complicated. Until          television.
the 1990s, when the custom of holding                It is the most elementary historical
national referendums on European treaties        fallacy to suggest that an event was caused
began to spread, Europeans were seldom           by one that occurred after it, yet some-
asked directly if they agreed with the           thing that was only to happen in 1992
solutions found, although they could             was a contributing cause of the velvet
periodically vote in or out of o⁄ce the          revolutions of 1989. The target year 1992,
politicians responsible for finding them.        the widely trumpeted deadline that the
Nonetheless, it is fair to say that for          European Economic Community had
about 40 years, the project of European          given itself for completing its single
unification could rely on at least a passive     market, conveyed an urgent sense of
consensus among most of Europe’s                 being left ever-further behind, not just to
national publics.                                the peoples of Eastern Europe but also
   These 40 years were those of the              to reform-minded Soviet-bloc leaders,
Cold War, the other conflict that shaped         including Mikhail Gorbachev.
the eu. From the 1940s through the 1970s,            This brings us to the last great motor
a central argument for Western European          of European integration until the 1990s:
integration was to counter the Soviet            West Germany. The West Germans, both
threat, visible for all to see in the presence   the elites and a large part of the populace,
of the Red Army in East Germany and              demonstrated an exceptional commitment
divided Berlin. Beside the memories of           to European integration. They did this
Europe’s own self-inflicted barbarism,           for two very good reasons: because they
there were, so to speak, the barbarians          wanted to, and because they had to.
at the gate. Soviet leaders from Joseph          They wanted to show that Germany had
Stalin to Leonid Brezhnev should be              learned from its terrible pre-1945 history
awarded posthumous medals for their              and wished to rehabilitate itself fully in
service to European integration.                 a European community of values, even
   Cold War competition also goes a long         to the point of surrendering much of its
way to explaining why the United States          own sovereignty and national identity.
lent such strong support to European             Having been the worst Europeans, the
unification, from the Marshall Plan of           Germans would now be the best. (As a

      [4]             foreign	affairs	 . Volume 91 No. 5
                                  The Crisis of Europe
joke at the time went, if someone intro-
duced himself just as “a European,” you         th e b i r t h o f a m a l f o r m e d u n i o n
knew immediately that he was German.)           The immediate origins of the malformed
But they also had a hard national interest in   currency union that is at the epicenter of
demonstrating that European commit-             today’s European crisis also lie in the
ment, for only by regaining the trust of        tempestuous moment of German reunifi-
their neighbors and international partners      cation and its aftermath. Following the fall
(including the United States and the            of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989,
Soviet Union) could they achieve their          Mitterrand, alarmed by the prospect of
long-term goal of German reunification.         German reunification, pushed hard to
As Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the former           pin Kohl down to a timetable for what
West German foreign minister, once              was then called economic and monetary
observed, “The more European our foreign        union. That proposal had already been
policy is, the more national it is.” West       elaborated to help the European Economic
German Europeanism was not simply               Community complete its single market
instrumental—it reflected a real moral          and address the di⁄culty of managing
and emotional engagement—but nor                exchange rates within it. Mitterrand’s
was it purely idealistic.                       general purpose was to bind a united
    After the two German states were            Germany, if united those two Germanies
reunited in 1990, many observers won-           really must be, into a more united Europe;
dered whether what was essentially an           his specific purpose was to enable France
expanded West Germany would con-                to regain more control over its own
tinue this extraordinary commitment             currency, and even win some leverage
to European integration. Well before the        over Germany’s.
crisis of the eurozone broke, the answer           In a remarkable conversation with
was already apparent. Reunited Germany          Genscher, the West German foreign
had become what some participants in            minister, on November 30, 1989, Mitter-
the post-Wall debate called a “normal”          rand went so far as to say that if Germany
nation-state—a “second France,” in the          did not commit itself to the European
commentator Dominique Moïsi’s striking          monetary union, “We will return to the
phrase. Like France, the new Germany            world of 1913.” Meanwhile, Mitterrand
would pursue its national interests through     was stirring up British Prime Minister
Europe whenever possible, but on its            Margaret Thatcher to sound the alarm
own when it deemed it necessary—as              as if it were 1938. According to a British
it did, for example, when securing its          record of their private meeting at the
energy needs bilaterally with Russia,           crucial Strasbourg summit of European
notably in the Nord Stream gas pipe-            leaders in December 1989, Mitterrand
line deal of 2005. Its leaders, in Berlin       said that “he was fearful that he and the
now, not Bonn, would still try to be            Prime Minister would find themselves
good Europeans, but they would no               in the situation of their predecessors in
longer open the checkbook so readily            the 1930s who had failed to react in the
if Europe called.                               face of constant pressing forward by
                                                the Germans.”

	                 foreign	affairs	 .	 September / October 2012                       [ 5]
                                 Timothy Garton Ash
    David Marsh, the best chronicler of         fiercely independent of governments
the euro’s history, concludes that the          (unlike in the French tradition) and
“essential deal” to proceed with monetary       devoted with Protestant fervor to the
union was done at Strasbourg. Tough             one true god of price stability (lest the
negotiations followed, and exactly two          Weimar nightmare of hyperinflation
years later a treaty was agreed on in the       return). To his credit, Kohl wanted the
small Dutch city of Maastricht, setting         monetary union to be complemented
the basic terms of what would become            by a fiscal and political union, so there
today’s eurozone. It is too simplistic to       could be control of public spending and
characterize this as a straight tradeoª:        coordination of economic policy among
“the whole of Deutschland for Kohl,             the states, and more direct political legiti-
half the deutsche mark for Mitterrand,”         mation of the whole enterprise. “Political
as one wit quipped at the time. But             union is the essential counterpart to
Germany’s need for its closest European         economic and monetary union,” he told
allies—above all, France—to support its         the Bundestag in November 1991. “Recent
national reunification had a decisive           history, not only in Germany, teaches us
influence on both the timetable and             that it is absurd to expect in the long run
the design of Europe’s monetary union.          that you can maintain economic and
    To be sure, Kohl was a deeply commit-       monetary union without political union.”
ted European. He never tired of repeating          But France was having none of that.
that German and European unification            The point was for it to gain some control
were “two sides of the same coin.” So           over Germany’s currency, not for Germany
now, he told U.S. Secretary of State James      to gain control over France’s budget. So
Baker three days after the Strasbourg           the discussion of a fiscal union withered
summit, he had even agreed to a European        away into a set of “convergence criteria,”
monetary union. What stronger proof             which required would-be members of
could he oªer of Germany’s European             the monetary union to keep public debt
credentials? Kohl “took this decision against   under 60 percent of gdp and deficits under
German interests,” the German minutes of        three percent.
that meeting record him telling Baker. “For        Thus, in the Sturm und Drang of
example, the president of the Bundesbank        the largest geopolitical change in Europe
was against the present development. But        since 1945, a sickly child was conceived.
the step was politically important, since       Most Germans opposed giving up their
Germany needed friends.” As one does,           treasured deutsche mark. But they would
when one is trying to unite Germany             not be asked; the West German consti-
without blood and iron.                         tution did not envisage referendums.
    The design of the resulting monetary        Kohl had no intention of changing
union can also be understood, like so much      that. Alexandre Lamfalussy, the head
else in the history of European integration,    of the European Monetary Institute,
as a Franco-German compromise. At the           the precursor to the European Central
insistence of Germany, and especially of        Bank, later recalled telling him, “I don’t
the Bundesbank, the European Central            know how you will get the German
Bank would be a Bundesbank writ large,          people to give up the D-Mark.” Kohl’s

      [6 ]           foreign	affairs	 . Volume 91 No. 5
                                   The Crisis of Europe
reply: “It will happen. The Germans               truly dialectical leap of faith to suggest
accept strong leadership.”                        that a crisis that exacerbates diªerences
   In France, meanwhile, the Maastricht           between European countries is the best
Treaty scraped through in a September             way to unite them.”
1992 referendum with a yes vote of just               Since I was that author, I should add
over 50 percent. The passive consensus            that I did not anticipate three important
for further steps of European integration,        things. First, I did not expect that the
advancing ever closer to the heart of             monetary union would flourish for so long.
national sovereignty, was beginning to            For nearly a decade, the euro appeared to
break down even in heartlands of the              be strong, edging up toward the dollar
postwar project.                                  as a global trading and reserve currency.
                                                  For businesses, it removed the risk of
a cr i s i s f or etold                           exchange-rate fluctuations inside the
With a hat tip to Gabriel García Márquez,         eurozone. For the rest of us, it was a
a history of Europe’s monetary union              delight to be able to travel from one end
could be called Chronicle of a Crisis Foretold.   of the continent to the other without
By the time the eurozone’s 11 founding            having to change currencies. To visit
member states were preparing to introduce         Dublin, Madrid, or Athens was to see
a common currency on January 1, 1999,             cities booming as never before. Small
most of the problems that would beset the         wonder that in 2003 those young Poles
euro a decade later had been predicted.           sang Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” at the prospect
    Critics at the time questioned how a          of joining the happy Irish, Spaniards, and
common currency could work without                Greeks. And I, like others sympathetic
a common treasury, how a one-size-fits-           to the project, was lulled into a false
all interest rate could be right for such a       sense of security.
diverse group of economies, and how the               Because the crash came later than
eurozone could cope with economic shocks          originally expected, it was worse when it
that varied from region to region—what            came. Over time, enormous imbalances
economists call “asymmetric shocks.” For          had built up between the core, mainly
Europe had neither the labor mobility nor         northern European countries (above all,
the level of fiscal transfers between states      Germany), and the peripheral, mainly
that characterized the United States.             southern European countries (especially
    “Since 1989, we have seen how reluc-          Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain,
tant West German taxpayers have been to           which have sometimes been unkindly
pay even for their own compatriots in the         labeled “the pigs”).
east,” noted one article in these pages in            To be sure, the initial shocks that
1998. “Do we really expect that they would        started the earthquake came from outside
be willing to pay for the French unem-            Europe, in the U.S. subprime mortgage
ployed as well?” Reporting a widespread           market. In this sense, the travails of the
view that the monetary union would face           eurozone are part of a broader crisis of
a crisis sooner rather than later, and that       Western financial capitalism.
this would catalyze the necessary political           Yet the second thing we did not fully
unification, the author cautioned, “It is a       anticipate in the 1990s was the extent to

	                  foreign	affairs	 .	 September / October 2012                  [7]
                                  Timothy Garton Ash
which the eurozone would generate its own        with France, violated the deficit limit
asymmetric shocks. Whereas Germany,              of three percent of gdp in 2003–4. The
still staggering under the financial burden      penalties envisaged in the pact were
of German reunification, impressively            not even enforced.
massaged down its labor costs, trimmed its           Moreover, Germany had fared so well
welfare spending, and became competitive         partly because the peripheral countries had
again, many of the peripheral countries          fared so badly. The peripheral eurozone
allowed their unit labor costs to soar.          countries could no longer compete with
    While Germany and some other                 Germany on price by devaluing their
northern European countries maintained           own national currencies, and part of
fiscal discipline and moderate levels of debt,   their binge spending went to buying more
many of the peripheral countries went on         bmws and Bosch washing machines.
the mother of all binges. In some places,        The euro also enabled German exporters
such as Greece, it was public spending           to price their goods more competitively
that skyrocketed; in others, such as Ireland     in markets such as China. (One study,
and Spain, it was private spending. The          by Nathan Sheets and Robert Sockin of
open sesame to both kinds of excess was          Citigroup, estimated that Germany’s
the same: governments, companies, and            lower real exchange rate, courtesy of the
individuals could borrow at unprecedent-         euro, has lifted its real trade surplus by
edly low interest rates thanks to the            about three percent of gdp annually.) As
credibility that eurozone membership             the economist Martin Feldstein noted in
lent their countries. In eªect, Greece,          these pages, in 2011 Germany’s $200 billion
which had snuck into the eurozone in 2001        trade surplus roughly equaled the rest
with the aid of falsified statistics, could      of the eurozone’s combined trade deficit.
borrow almost as if it were Germany.             Germany was to Europe what China is
    When, therefore, Germany was asked           to the world: the exporter that requires
to help bail out those countries, German         others to consume.
voters were understandably indignant.                In addition, Germany and other
Why should we work even harder and               northern European countries with current
retire even later, they asked, so these          account surpluses recycled those surpluses
feckless Greeks, Portuguese, and Italians        partly by lending to Greeks, Irish, Portu-
can retire earlier than we do and go sun         guese, and Spaniards. So when Germany
themselves on the beach? “Sell your islands,     bailed out the peripheral eurozone coun-
you bankrupt Greeks,” snorted Bild,              tries, it was also bailing out its own banks.
Germany’s largest tabloid, in October 2010.          The third element few foresaw in the
    The Germans had a good point: they           1990s was the spiraling scale, speed, and
had demonstrated remarkable prudence;            folly of global financial markets. Most
the peripheral countries had not. But            egregious, bond markets contributed to
there was another side to the story. The         the burgeoning imbalances by mispricing
moment the Stability and Growth Pact             sovereign risk in general and the diªerential
(the formalized successor to the conver-         risk between various eurozone government
gence criteria) was revealed to be tooth-        bonds in particular. Despite the presence
less was when Germany itself, along              of a “no bailout” clause in the Maastricht

      [8 ]            foreign	affairs	 . Volume 91 No. 5
                                    The Crisis of Europe
Treaty, bond traders acted as if the risk         the historic enlargement to eastern
associated with lending to the Greek or           Europe, they proposed a new set of
Portuguese governments was only frac-             institutional arrangements for the eu’s
tionally higher than that of lending to           27 states (since 2007) and 500 million
Germany or the Netherlands.                       people. But in referendums, voters in
    When belief in the solidity of the            France and the Netherlands rejected
eurozone began to collapse, soon after            even a watered-down version of these
its tenth birthday, the markets plunged           lofty plans. “The nations don’t want it,”
to the other extreme. Again and again,            commented Geremek, that passionate but
they punished eurozone leaders’ belated           also realistic European, shortly before
half measures with soaring bond yield             he died in 2008.
spreads, so that country after country found          So the mountain labored again, and
its borrowing costs whizzing upward. At           brought forth a mouse. The Treaty of
interest rates of five to eight percent, it       Lisbon, which came into force in 2009, did
becomes very di⁄cult for a government             give more powers to the directly elected
to sustain its debt burden, even with             European Parliament. But decision-
the most exemplary German-style fiscal            making in today’s eu still consists mainly
discipline and structural reform. There           of national politicians cutting deals
was only so much that even the wisest and         behind closed doors in Brussels. And
most economically responsible leaders,            the politics and media they worry about
such as Italian Prime Minister Mario              are national, not European. There are
Monti, could ask of their own people.             Europe-wide political groupings, based
                                                  on those in the European Parliament,
e u r ope’s dys fu n cti on a l tr i a n g le     but there are no truly European politics.
Structurally, Europe now finds itself             The average turnout for elections to the
caught in a dysfunctional triangle, between       European Parliament has declined with
national politics, European policies, and         every vote since direct elections began
global markets. Ever since the European           in 1979. Although there are some good
Coal and Steel Community was founded,             Europe-wide media outlets, watched and
in 1951, integration has proceeded through        read by a happy few, there is no broader
the development of common European                European public sphere.
policies: from those on agriculture, fisheries,       The French historian Ernest Renan
and trade, all the way to monetary policy.        said that a nation is “an everyday plebiscite.”
The democratic politics of the eu have,           Well, today’s eu has an election almost
however, remained stubbornly national.            every day, but these are national elections,
    While the volcanic magma was heating          conducted in diªerent languages and in
up under the outwardly calm crust of the          national media. Increasingly, the election
eurozone, European leaders spent much             campaigns feature parties that blame
of this century’s first decade engaged in         the country’s current travails on other
an ambitious attempt to write what some           European nations, or on the eu itself, or
called a constitution for Europe. To cope         on both. Visiting Maastricht earlier this
with both the deepening of the eu, through        year—a city now a little worried about
monetary union, and its widening, through         its place in the history books—I was

	                  foreign	affairs	 .	 September / October 2012                    [ 9]
                                Timothy Garton Ash
told how the anti-immigrant and anti-     Rate Mechanism—would have been
Islamic Dutch populist Geert Wilders      demanding. But it is hard to disagree
has redirected his political fire against with this retrospective judgment by the
“Europe.” That’s where he thinks the      economic commentator Martin Wolf:
votes are now.                            “Consider how much better oª Europe
   At the same time, panicky global mar-  would have been if the exchange rate
kets instantly impinge on both European   mechanism had continued, instead,
policies and national politics. As countrywith wide bands.”
after country finds its credit rating cut     We also have to consider other roads
and its borrowing costs going through     not taken. What if, instead of introducing
the roof, governments tremble and call    the euro, Europe had deepened its still-
yet another emergency summit in Brussels. far-from-complete single market? What
As the clock ticks into the early hours,  if the whole eu had concentrated on
exhausted national leaders are torn       improving its competitiveness, as Ger-
between their terror of what the markets  many did so impressively, and not merely
will do to them when trading opens the    paid lip service to that goal in a catalog
next morning and their terror of what     of good intentions called “the Lisbon
their national media, coalition partners, agenda”? What if it had used this time to
parliaments, and voters will do to them   develop a more eªective foreign policy?
when they get back home.                  But regret is futile. An old and now
   As soon as the meeting ends, each      politically incorrect English joke has an
leader will dash out from the conference  American couple arriving at a crossroads,
room to brief his or her own national     deep in the Irish countryside, and asking
media, so that every time, there is not   a tweed-clad farmer the way to Tipperary.
just one version of a European summit     “If I were you,” says the Irishman, “I
but 27 diªerent ones—plus a 28th, the     wouldn’t start from here.” Yet here is
implausibly irenic conclave described     where we are.
by the eu’s own clutch of institutional       At the end of June this year, the eu
                                          held yet another “save the euro” summit—
heads. This is Europe’s political Rashomon,
with 28 conflicting versions of the same  by a rough count, the 19th of the crisis.
event delivered in 23 languages. It is an Germany said it would allow special
odd way to run a continent.               European funds to be used to help
                                          imperiled Spanish banks, and the euro-
t h e m i s s i n g i n g r e d i e nts   zone states resolved to create a single
Europe’s monetary union was a bridge too banking supervisory structure run by
far—meaning not a bridge that should      the European Central Bank. Although
never have been crossed but a bridge that nobody noticed, the summit communiqué
was crossed too soon, before Europe was was a reminder of useful things the eu
strategically prepared to defend it. To   continues to do. For example, European
be sure, carrying on for another decade leaders reached agreement on a unitary
or two with a system of fixing the        European patent system, which is expected
margins within which exchange rates       to lower patenting costs for European
could fluctuate—the so-called Exchange companies by as much as 80 percent. They

     [10]           foreign	affairs	 . Volume 91 No. 5
                                  The Crisis of Europe
also decided to open accession negotiations         Today’s crisis is the greatest test yet
with Montenegro, a newly independent            of what has been called “the Monnet
state that just 13 years ago was still          method” of unification, after Jean Monnet,
embroiled in the wars of former Yugoslavia.     a founding father of European integration.
    As of this writing, no one knows how        Monnet proposed moving forward, step
the euro saga will end. The possibilities       by step, with technocratic measures of
include a total, disorderly collapse of the     economic integration, hoping that these
eurozone, a continued muddling through,         would catalyze political unification—not
and, most optimistically, systemic consoli-     least through moments of crisis. “Crises
dation into a genuine fiscal and political      are the great unifier!” he once explained.
union. Yet even if the eurozone crab-           Yet even in the first 40 years of European
marches toward a political union, it will       integration, crises sometimes pulled
still have to generate the solidarity among     Europe together and sometimes did not.
its citizens necessary to underpin it, a        If they tended more often to promote
degree of European compatriotism that           unity than division, that was in large
does not yet exist. Another open question       part thanks to wartime memories and
is how a more united eurozone core, which       Cold War imperatives. So where are the
would itself contain creditor and debtor        drivers of integration now? Go back
nations with very diªerent perspectives,        down the list.
would relate institutionally and politically        A single market of 500 million con-
to eu member states not in the zone,            sumers remains a powerful economic
such as the United Kingdom, Sweden,             attraction for most European countries.
and Poland.                                     However, it no longer seems as evident
    According to one projection by              as it once did that Europe brings steadily
analysts at ing, a total collapse of the        growing prosperity and welfare to all its
eurozone could cause gdp to fall by more        citizens. Exporting nations, especially
than ten percent over two years in all the      Germany, and global service providers,
leading European economies, including           such as the United Kingdom, are increas-
Germany. Coming on top of the hardships         ingly looking to emerging markets, where
already endured, that could lead to dan-        the growth is.
gerous political radicalization. (Unlike            Unlike during the Cold War, there is
in the 1930s, such radicalization, to the far   no obvious external threat in Europe’s
right and the far left, has been remark-        front yard. Try as he might, Vladimir
ably limited so far, even in Greece—a           Putin just does not match up to Stalin,
tribute to the resilience of contemporary       or even Brezhnev. Could China step
European democracies.) But even if              into that role? Without stigmatizing
the eurozone falls apart, there will still      China as an enemy, the most compelling
be a place called Europe and probably a         new rationale for European unification
set of institutions called the European         is indeed the rise of non-Western great
Union. And there will be a new yet also         powers: China, mainly, but also India,
familiar historic challenge for Europeans:      Brazil, and South Africa.
to pick themselves up from the ruins                One cannot simply extrapolate from
and rebuild.                                    current economic and demographic

	                 foreign	affairs	 .	 September / October 2012               [ 1 1]
                                 Timothy Garton Ash
trends, but in any likely world of 2030,       at the moment. Rather, both the United
even Germany will be a small to medium-        States and Europe are making their own
sized power. Then, the only eªective way       tense accommodations with China.
to defend the freedoms and advance the             Another past driver of integration,
shared interests of all Europeans will be      eastern European yearnings, still has some
to act together and speak with one voice.      traction today. Eastern Europeans have
Intellectually, this argument is persuasive.   more recent memories than other Euro-
But emotionally, to sway a wider public,       peans do of dictatorship, hardship, and
it does not compare with the visible           war. Many appreciate the new freedoms
presence of the Red Army at the heart          they enjoy in the eu; for some, belonging
of Europe.                                     to the same club as western Europeans is
    If Russia no longer fits the bill for      the realization of a centuries-old dream.
an external threat, the United States no       One Polish economist explains why Poland
longer plays the part of active external       still aspires to join the eurozone thus:
supporter. Already in 2001, President          “We want to be on board the ship, even
George W. Bush could ask, in a private         if it is sinking!” Of course, they would
meeting, “Do we want the European              rather the ship stays afloat. Last fall, in
Union to succeed?” Part of his adminis-        a speech in Berlin, Radoslaw Sikorski,
tration, at least in his first term, was       the Polish foreign minister, memorably
inclined to answer no. President Barack        observed, “I will probably be the first
Obama would definitely answer yes,             Polish foreign minister in history to say
but until the eurozone crisis threatened       so, but here it is: I fear German power
the U.S. economy, and hence his reelec-        less than I am beginning to fear German
tion prospects, it was hardly a priority.      inactivity.”
His administration has taken Europe as it
has found it and dealt pragmatically with      e u r opean g e r many, g e r man e u r ope
Brussels or with individual countries—         Germany is the key to Europe’s future,
whatever worked. Its geopolitical focus has    as it has been, one way or another, for at
been on China and Asia more generally,         least a century. The irony of unintended
not Russia and Europe.                         consequences is especially acute here. If
    Conceivably, the United States’ attitude   Kohl was the first chancellor of a united
could change if China really came to be        Germany since Hitler, François Hollande
seen as the new Soviet Union, a global         is the first Socialist president of France
geopolitical threat to the West. Then one      since Mitterrand, and it is Mitterrand’s
option would be for Washington to seek         legacy he has to wrestle with. Monetary
a closer strategic partnership with a more     union, the method through which
united Europe, including, for example, a       Mitterrand intended to keep united
transatlantic free-trade area. Old Europe      Germany in its proper place—co-driver
and its cousins across the water would         with France, but still deferential to it—
work toward what Édouard Balladur,             has ended up putting Germany at the
the former French prime minister, has          wheel, with France as an irate husband
imagined as a “Western Union.” But             flapping around in the passenger seat
there is scant evidence of such thinking       (“Turn left, Angela, turn left!”).

      [12]           foreign	affairs	 . Volume 91 No. 5
    At the time of German reunification,
German politicians never tired of char-
acterizing their goal in the finely turned
words of the writer Thomas Mann:
“Not a German Europe but a European
Germany.” What we see today, however,
is a European Germany in a German
Europe. This Germany is an exemplary
European country: civilized, democratic,
humane, law-abiding, and (although Mann
might not have rated this one) very good at
soccer. But the “Berlin Republic” is also
at the center of a German Europe. At
least when it comes to political economy,
Germany calls the shots. (The same is not
true in foreign and defense policy, where
France and the United Kingdom are more
important.) This is not a role Germany
sought; leadership has been thrust upon it.
    Moreover, if the need to win support
for German reunification drove Kohl to
accept European monetary union on a
tight timetable, and without the political
union he thought essential to sustain
it, German reunification has changed the
German attitude to the European project.
The very same set of closely linked histor-
ical developments that has now produced,
20 years on, the need for a special German
contribution to Europe has in the mean-
time reduced both the country’s idealistic
desire and its instrumental need to oªer
that contribution.
    Were he still chancellor, Kohl would
surely insist that the euro must be saved
by moving decisively toward a political
union. Merkel and her compatriots have
reacted very diªerently, reluctantly doing
the minimum needed to prevent collapse.
The modest and plain-speaking Merkel
is in many ways the personification of
the civic, modern European virtues of this
new Germany. She is also a brilliant and

	                                             [ 13]
                                  Timothy Garton Ash
ruthless domestic political tactician.         younger eastern Europeans from states
Whatever her personal convictions, she         such as Estonia, which did not exist on
knows she faces what may be called the         most maps just 22 years ago, have come
four Bs: the Bundestag (the lower house        to take these hard-won achievements for
of the national parliament, from which         granted. In this sense, the deepest prob-
Germany’s most pro-European politicians        lem of the European project is the
have largely migrated to the European          problem of success.
Parliament, another unintended conse-             Over the last decade, European peoples
quence of that well-intended institution),     with historical complexes about being
the Bundesverfassungsgericht (the coun-        consigned to the periphery of Europe felt
try’s constitutional court, deliberately       themselves to be at last entering the
established after 1945 to be a U.S.-style      core. Eastern Europeans joined the eu.
check on a leader’s power), the Bundesbank     Southern Europeans thought they were
(still very influential in the German          flourishing in the eurozone. In Athens,
debate), and, last but by no means least,      Lisbon, and Madrid, there was a sense of a
the populist tabloid Bild.                     leveling up of European societies, of a new,
   Many Germans resent the idea of             not merely formal equality among nations.
bailing out Greeks and Spaniards and              Now that illusion has been shattered.
recall that they were given no say on Kohl’s   In Greece, the homeless line up at soup
decision to give up the deutsche mark.         kitchens, pensioners commit suicide, the
In a German opinion poll conducted in          sick cannot get prescription medicines,
May 2012, no less than 49 percent of           shops are shuttered, and scavengers pick
respondents said it had been a mistake         through dustbins—conditions almost
to introduce the euro. So far, the benefits    reminiscent of the 1940s. In Spain, every
they have derived from the euro have           second person under the age of 25 is
not been adequately explained. Yet this        unemployed; across the eurozone, the
European Germany is a free country,            average is nearly one in four. But the
open to argument, and some are now             pain is unevenly spread. In Germany,
making the attempt.                            youth unemployment is comfortably under
                                               ten percent. There is a new dividing line
m e m ory, fea r , a n d h op e                across Europe, not between east and west
The greatest single driving force of the       but between north and south. Now, and
European project since 1945, personal          probably for years to come, it will be a
memories of war, has disappeared. Where        very diªerent experience to be a young
individual memory fades, collective mem-       German or a young Spaniard, a young Pole
ory should step in. Remember Edelman’s         or a young Greek.
appeal: “We, who did not perish, leave            Think back to those two May 10
it up to you to keep the memory of them        moments in Warsaw. Someone whose
alive—forever.” Yet most young Euro-           formative teenage experience was of the
peans’ consciousness of their continent’s      terrors of 1943 would find today’s crisis
tortured history is shallow. Their formative   shocking, but still not half as bad as what
experiences have been in a Europe of           he remembered—and he would insist
peace, freedom, and prosperity. Even           that Europe must never fall back to that.

      [1 4]           foreign	affairs	 . Volume 91 No. 5
                                 The Crisis of Europe
The teenager of 2003 has a diªerent            repeat election this June, the Greeks
mental lens: this is terrible, she thinks,     narrowly voted for parties that were
and not what she was led to expect.            serious about keeping the country in
    Europeans such as Geremek and Kohl         the eurozone, the Swiss cartoonist
witnessed Europe tear itself apart, and        Patrick Chappatte drew a weary-looking
then dedicated themselves to building          man standing next to a ballot box in the
a better one. The generation of Spain’s        shadow of the Acropolis and exclaiming,
indignados, young protesters who have          “Good news! Fear triumphed over despair.”
rallied across the country since May 2011,     Adapting a famous phrase of U.S.
grew up in that better Europe, and have        President Franklin Roosevelt, one might
now been thrown backward. The trajectory       almost say that today Europe has nothing
of those who were, say, 15 years old in        to put its hope in but fear itself.
1945 went from war to peace, poverty to           The fear of collapse, the Monnet-like
prosperity, fear to hope. The trajectory       logic of necessity, the power of inertia:
of those who were 15 in 2003, especially       these may just keep the show on the
in the parts of the continent now suªering     road, but they will not create a dynamic,
the most, has arched in the opposite           outward-looking European Union that
direction: from prosperity to unemploy-        enjoys the active support of its citizens.
ment, convergence of national experiences      Without some new driving forces, without
to divergence, hope to fear.                   a positive mobilization among its elites and
    Could this very discontent provide         peoples, the eu, while probably sur-
the psychological basis for a popular          viving as an origami palace of treaties
campaign to save Europe? The signs             and institutions, will gradually decline
are not promising. Popular movements           in e⁄cacy and real significance, like the
have arisen during the crisis, but they have   Holy Roman Empire of yore. Future
pointed in other directions. One of the        historians may then identify some time
largest was against the Anti-Counterfeiting    around 2005 as the apogee of the most
Trade Agreement, which many young              far-reaching, constructive, and peaceful
Europeans saw as a threat to their             attempt to unite the continent that
online freedom. The indignados of all          history has ever seen.∂
countries, Europe’s counterparts to the
Occupy Wall Street movement, rail
against bankers, politicians, and baby
boomers, whom they see as having stolen
their future. An interview-based survey
of activists in these diverse campaigns,
coordinated by Mary Kaldor and Sabine
Selchow of the London School of
Economics, found that the eu is either
invisible among them or viewed some-
what negatively.
    Fear should not be underestimated as
a motivating force in politics. When, in a

	                foreign	affairs	 .	 September / October 2012                [ 15]

To top