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Is Germany too powerful for Europe?

Twenty years ago, Germany's economy was stagnating. Today, as the eurozone crisis deepens, this giant is keeping Europe afloat. But what does it want in return? Stuart Jeffries talks to German sociologist Ulrich Beck, who believes that his country has become a political monster.
Stuart Jeffries The Guardian, Sunday 31 March 2013 19.00 BST

Anti-German feeling: an employee of Cyprus Popular Bank at a protest last month

In his novel Fatherland, Robert Harris envisaged a hellish scenario – Hitler won the second world war. Decades later, the Greater German Reich extends from the Rhine to the Caspian Sea. The rest of Europe, though notionally consisting of independent states, is really under the Nazi jackboot. Sound familiar? Of course not. That nightmare never came to pass. Happily, Germany does not rule Europe. Or does it? Munich-based sociologist Ulrich Beck argues in his new book that the eurozone catastrophe has given birth to a political monster: a German Europe. When, on 1 July this year, Croatia becomes a member, the European Union will contain 500 million people and be the largest market and trading bloc in the world. "The new German power in Europe is not based as in former times on force," writes Beck in German Europe. Which is a consolation. "It has no need of weapons to impose its will on other states," he says. "It has no need to invade, and yet is ubiquitous." His homeland's latest iron chancellor Angela Merkel rules Europe, imposing German values on feebler client nations, bailing out southern Europeans with their oversized public sectors, rampant tax evasion and long lunches. "In the countries most harshly affected by the crisis, many people think they are losers because the austerity policy pursued jointly by Berlin and Brussels deprives them of their means of livelihood – and also of their human dignity," argues Beck. Other Germans, naturally, don't see it quite that way. The official line from the German embassy in London is that Germany is helping other European economies to become globally competitive and more able to take on emerging markets. "Germany was among the first to have started this endeavour and therefore might temporarily be a little ahead of others," says spokesman Norman Walter. "Our main political drive over the last few years has been to increase competitiveness in all eurozone and EU member states." The worry is that Germany thinks of itself as a nation of strivers bankrolling a continent of skivers. "German money [is being] thrown away on the bankrupt Greeks," ran a headline in the tabloid Bild, while Focus magazine had a cover image of the Venus de Milo giving the finger to the world. "If Ireland and Greece sank into the sea tomorrow, Germany would be quietly relieved," says Simon Winder, publishing director at Penguin and author of Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern. "Germany today reminds me of the British Empire, burdened with non-lucrative colonies that it has to defend when all it's really bothered about is India. The problem for Germany is that it has no India just, as it were, lots of Sierra Leones." The latest euro crisis over Cyprus bears out Beck's analysis. According to Newsnight's Paul Mason, the Germans want to "avoid creating a moral hazard, rewarding a country that has sold itself as a rule-free playground for Russians who want to keep their money". For German politicians, and not just those of Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union, that irresponsible nonsense can't go on for ever: it's time for Cyprus to wake up and smell the austerity. Beck argues that Germany is teaching Cyprus a moral lesson, namely that, as he puts it: "Suffering


" says Winder. But." Beck says. Since the fall of Hitler." What Wehn means by that is that the 19th-century German chancellor. he argues. Beck argues. After the second world war and the Holocaust." says Beck. Merkel is in a position to dictate the terms under which struggling eurozone nations can apply for further credit. perhaps. Germany's European dominance has given the nation a new sense of identity after decades of Nazi guilt. Fatih Akin. German reunification is being used as the template for German crisis management in Europe. Two decades ago. who presided over a vast and recently unified people. say. machine tool or optics industries? "There's one simple reason. Germany after reunification was once as Greece is today. which means (roughly) the struggle to come to terms with the past – and. though. never again fascism. Some of us are enjoying the Wagner bicentenary. "Thatcher was doing to Britain something the British electorate had voted for. who also prudently approached the balancing of government accounts as though they were a household budget." Why is Germany failing to export its cultural goods with the success of. Next to nobody is learning German as a foreign language. a Nazi past. Now. thanks to neoliberal austerity and taking on the Protestant notion that "suffering purifies"." replies Wehn. As head of the continent's strongest economic power. it has been Germany's self-imposed obligation to help build a Europe where the petty nationalisms that had ruined the continent in two world wars could be definitively overcome. Italian and Spanish parliaments. In a recent survey by Monocle magazine. culturally. Queen Merkiavelli the First of Europe. "There is one important difference. decided not to emulate Britain. English became the world's most widely spoken tongue. the road through austerity. Christian Petzold. The road through hell. "Bismarck didn't believe in colonies. The Germans no longer wish to be thought of as racists and warmongers. What Merkel is doing to Europe has no democratic mandate. and provides liberation from what he calls the "never again syndrome" – never again a Holocaust. but culturally negligible. but it can hardly be argued that his music indicates the virility of German cultural exports in the new millennium. never again militarism. "They would prefer to become the schoolmasters and moral enlighteners of Europe. eroding the democratic autonomy of the Greek. leads to the heaven of economic recovery. Nobody is wearing lederhosen in Glasgow or Warsaw. "The English language is dominant because of Hollywood and that helps British culture. More than 20 years ago. demands that Germany's new colonies save in the interests of stability – a formula based on the good housekeeping practices of a woman who sometimes casts herself as a sensible Swabian housewife. The origins of German economic dominance predate our current crisis. German never became a global language. It's all about Vergangenheitsbewältigung. "They're living on empty." It's a very German lesson." Beck says. healing gift to the rest of Europe." There is. Europe is culturally null. the Germans were able to realise a jobs miracle. As a result. Britain was found to be the world's leader in what's called "soft power" – a country's ability to make friends and influence people not 2 . Spain and France in their imperial land grabs. in both senses. Germany was in ruins morally and economically. But it's the same throughout Europe. its car. Hans-Christian Schmid and Ulrich Köhler have one thing in common: few have heard of these alleged icons of German new wave cinema outside Germany. with a stagnating economy and five million unemployed. it is back. Beck calls her Merkiavelli – after Machiavelli – to highlight the political nous with which she has run rings around other leaders. in particular.purifies. He suggests that she is the uncrowned queen of Europe. "There's no German novel I'm looking forward to. Now. a paradox in Germany's European domination. an act of self-denial in which they cashed in their totemic deutschmark for the continent's greater good. But what are the Germans getting out of teaching allegedly slacker Europeans how to run their economies? For Beck. Germany made a sacrifice for Europe at Maastricht when it agreed to put the deutschmark to the sword so that another currency could be born." says Wehn. borne of the philosophies of Martin Luther and Max Weber and based on the protestant work ethic." It's a moot question whether the rest of Europe wants to be on the receiving end of German enlightenment. Britain is the cultural dynamo of Europe by a million miles. It is economically supreme. That doesn't play too well in Nicosia: hence all those "Merkel – Kaput" banners waved by soon-to-be redundant employees of Cyprus's Popular Bank. and no German film. "The tragedy for the Germans is that they viewed the euro as their great. Beck's chancellor sounds like Margaret Thatcher.

здрав разум = be able to do something much better than someone else can двестагодишњи имитирати заостао оптужити indict Talking Points 1. How can Germany be compared to the British Empire according to Simon Winder? Do you agree with him? 4. Why is Britain “soft power”? 14. as a good German committed to the end of petty nationalisms. If the answer is negative. the things that make people love us rather than fear us. budgetary credits were tied to austerity and neo-liberal reform: in the future. they should be linked to a readiness to support a new." he replies. thanks to the darkness of their 20th-century past. Does Germany rule Europe? If the answer is positive. "In short. How can we explain German economic dominance? 6. It's a different kind of German Europe from the one Beck indicts and one that nobody need fear: not one premised on Teutonic austerity. 2. Good luck with all that." says John Worne. I say. but filled with a European idealism you get hardly anywhere else on this cynical continent. least of all in Britain. say why not. education. In the past. explain how it rules. What is Vergangenheitsbewältigung and what are its consequenes? 8. Beck counsels more powers to the European Union to bring the undemocratic reign of Queen Merkiavelli to an end. 12. What is the German solution for Cyprus? 5. What is the position of German culture in Europe and in the world? Explain why. Unsurprisingly. language and values. the British council's director of strategy. Why does Beck call Angela Merkel Merkiavelli? 9." Maybe only Germans. What is the difference between Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel? 10. envisage jackboot ubiquitous bail out rampant strive bankroll skive bear out austerity borne slack (adj.) totemic warmonger nous run rings around bicentenary emulate benighte предвиђати висока чизма свеприсутан избавити полагањем кауције осион тежити гомила новца = to avoid work or school потврдити строгост сносе немаран тотемски ратни хушкач ум.through military might but through culture. How does Germany see its role in Europe? 3. "but why not be utopian and naive? Look at the alternative. What other issues does this text raise? 3 . 11. continent-wide social contract set up to defend job security. have such sunny hopes for this benighted continent. What has Germany's European dominance given to the Germans? 7. Professor. extend freedom and promote democracy. How does Beck see the future of the European Union and the role of Germany in it? 15. "It may well sound hopelessly utopian and naive. What is the position of the German language? 13. Beck argues.

Greece. Italy. France. Poland).g. Positions of different countries in the EU (e. 4 . Spain.16. the UK.