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Has Germany Changed to the Worse?

John Kornblum, a former American ambassador who has lived for nearly four decades around Germany, responds to the many articles that question Germany's commitment to the European Union: 

Germany has changed very little, but Europe and the world have changed a lot. Therein lies the dilemma.

Unfortunately, his NY Times op-ed does not elaborate this dilemma sufficiently for me to understand it. However, he reminds us that Germany pursued self-interests in the past as well. Though, I don't think Germany pushed for NATO enlargement like this:

Many important postwar accomplishments were conceived and pushed by Germany, sometimes over the opposition of others - including the United States. Ostpolitik was controversial for years, as was NATO enlargement. Germany pushed them with determination. Helmut Kohl did not consult before promulgating his 10 points on reunification. He agreed to French desires for a common currency, but only if it could be a mirror of the Deutsche mark, for decades the European monetary standard. The euro stability pact, now the object of so much controversy with Greece, was the result. After 1990, the E.U.'s eastward expansion was Germany's way of firming up its Eastern flank. Slowly and without fanfare, Germany has been remaking the European Union in its image. At each step of the way, Germany made its wishes more palatable by paying more than its share. Part of today's misunderstanding is caused by Germany's success in using its contributions to build an image of selflessness.

It's a great analysis, but it would be even better, if Kornblum would get into more detail regarding these remarks: "Most maddening for most thinking Europeans is the knowledge that the Germans are right." and "European fecklessness seems to worry Washington officials these days." Any readers with interpretations?


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Pat Patterson on :

I'm not sure if describing differences of opinion and national interests can be dismissed as examples of European 'fecklessness.' So I have to agree that this part of his argument needs to be fleshed out and explained as Germany seems much more hesitant about using it economic and political clout now compared even to the 60's.

Marie Claude on :

The partisan NYT journalist should read some other papers, Germany might contribuate a lot to EU (as we do as the 2nd largest population), but she forget to count how much she got for the reunification from EU, and still get : she is the 2nd benefitor of the EU subventions (Admin: Long quote in French deleted) Idem for the Defense budget Germany spends 20% less than France or UK. This is why UK (future) government is decided to turn toward France for it, as UK nor France wants to renounce to their specific arms, nuclear and navy. "les coopérations bilatérales. Intéressant ! « C'est important non seulement pour des raisons politiques mais pour résoudre les coûts » souligne-t-il. « Je sais: le mot coopération européenne peut provoquer des réactions émotionnelles chez certains d’entre nous » prend-t-il soin de préciser. Mais elle est utile et nécessaire, « particulièrement avec la France ». Nous pouvons avoir avec d'autres également : les Pays-Bas ou les pays d'Europe centrale" Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Joerg Wolf on :

Marie-Claude, Please don't copy and paste long quotes in French. It might be a copyright violation. Moreover the working language on this blog is English. Wikipedia ranks the net contributors to the EU per capita (!): 1. Netherlands, 2. Denmark 3. Sweden 4. Germany 5. Austria 6. United Kingdom 7. France 8. Italy 9 Finland 10. Cyprus. All other countries benefit more from the EU than they pay into. [url][/url] If you don't trust Wikipedia, then go to the BBC and click on "net contribution" [url][/url]

Joe Noory on :

Tout a fait une enculage des mouches. To imagine that the German government and population got much of anything out of the EU when it came to reunification is laughable compared to the CAP, especially considering what they put in. Germany has a population 3+ times larger than the 3 per-capita contributers to Brussels combined. Plus, using the Netherlands and Denmark in a any statistical comparison is as specious as saying that the entire US is reflected by the economy of Arkansas or Rhode Island alone. Let's face it: the rest of them want Berlin to foot the bill for anythign and everything, then balk at the idea that they want to put conditions on, say, aid to Greece, that are akin to "don't spent it all on gin". Why shouldn't they put some conditions on it? They have to ask their own taxpayers to accept the idea, don't they? It still doesn't stop people from hysterically trying to call the German populations comparative success and hard work "[url=]privelege[/url]," but that's to be expected when you're more accostomed to peddling emotions than intellectual honesty.

Zyme on :

I agree to the point that in essence, Germany's leaders have always pursued the national interest in the best way possible at any given time. When the country was only recently established, it surely has given its leaders the feeling of strength and consequently they have gone after neighbours perceived to be attractive prey. After 1945 this feeling of strength was completely gone, being occupied by four powers makes different means necessary. So the emphasis shifted to diplomacy. International goodwill was to be rebuilt over the course of decades. It probably makes sense to argue that international organisations were so strongly supported specifically because of the perceived weakness of our country, which was lacking full sovereignty. Of course this policy does not make sense anymore, once the underlying reasons for this weakness are gone. Back in a position of strength, I expect political leaders to fully exploit the European organisations crafted over this long period, because the others need them more urgently than we do now. Rather symbolically, this change of mentality became apparent when a few backbenchers of the governing coalition publicly demanded from Greece to sell islands in return for monetary support. Surely there probably have been rather creative guys sitting in parliament at all times - but what has changed is that the government didn't immediatly rule out and apologize for this. Instead, our yellow press engaged in a row of populist verbal bombardment of Greece, having the biggest part of the population behind itself. Our leaders these days no longer dare to stand against such sentiments anymore, instead they rather jump on the bandwaggon.

Marie Claude on :

Zyme, I got the same feeling. The french blogs specialised on EU covert, are saying more or less the same too. It's hello to Bismarckian Germany !

Zyme on : Take a look at the picture - and this is the real one, in Hamburg: After the "negotiation" over Greece, nobody here criticized her for her lack of diplomacy, instead she was celebrated as the Iron Chancellor ;)

Marie Claude on :

I suppose that the Brits conservatives see that too, we are going to re-make the end of 19th century alliance, dunno how feel our bling bling president about that, he has no historical knowledge !

Marie Claude on :

Kaczynski's Twin to Run in Election: Polish opposition party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he will run in summer... so, we'll have some more coup de théâtre with Poland, finally I was getting bored by the tranquility of the EU sheep

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