Angela Merkel For History – Modern Diplomacy
If any speech by (still) German Chancellor Angela Merkel will go down in history, it will be the one she gave at the ceremony on the occasion of German Unification Day on Sunday, October 3, 2021. To be more precise: that speech is historical, not because of the usual phrases about democracy and freedom that are uttered on similar occasions, but because of the two, as she called them, personal episodes, based on which most of the German citizens living in its eastern part, the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) will view her as their true chancellor.
Angela Merkel herself comes from East Germany. She played no role in the turmoil that preceded the fall of the regime in East Berlin and the unification of the two German states. She entered the federal government of Chancellor Kohl (the ‘Chancellor of Unification’) primarily because Kohl needed a younger cabinet member from the former GDR – to demonstrate unity. She has never spoken about how former citizens of the GDR are viewed in a united Germany, in fact in its western part, in political and media circles strongly colored by anti-communist tones and marked by discriminatory treatment (both direct and indirect) towards ‘those from the East’. Never – until now. And now she used her speech at the celebration of German Unity Day to show by personal example how far is Germany, mentally, still from true unity.
She first cited one study in which she was described as someone ‘with the ballast of a 35-year-old GDR biography’, adding that she, of course, ‘could not immediately fit into the democratic currents of the Christian-democratic Party’. And she wondered, quite logically, whether this meant that all those who lived and worked at the time of the partition of Germany in its eastern part were permanently marked by such ‘ballast’. And does that mean that they have to permanently prove themselves as ‘good Germans’. Her short response was to quote a linguistic interpretation of the word ‘ballast’ which boils down to being a useless burden that can be discarded.
However, she did not stop there. She continued: “I am not saying this as a chancellor, but above all as a citizen from the East. As one of those 16 million who have lived their lives in the GDR, who have entered into German unity with their life stories and who are repeatedly confronted with such assessments. It’s as if life in the GDR means nothing. ”
She then recalled the words of a journalist who attacked her, accusing her of ‘turning her back on Germany’ for her statement that Germany, which would have to apologize for the friendly reception of refugees, ‘is not her homeland’. The journalist added an assessment according to which these words show that she is not a ‘born’ citizen of a united Germany and a born European, but only – accustomed, trained. So she wondered if the citizens of Germany should really be divided into those who were probably born as true and good Germans and Europeans and those who had just been trained. Quote: “Are there two types of citizens of the Federal Republic and Europeans? The original ones and the trained ones who have to prove their affiliation over and over again, day by day, in order to fail the exam in one sentence at a press conference? ”
In that context, she also mentioned the problems that many citizens of the GDR had to face after the unification, when they lost their jobs, and she mentioned that there were bad and good experiences from the time of the GDR. And this is, as far as this author knows, the first time that one of the politicians of a united Germany came out with the thesis that in the time of the German Democratic Republic (which was undoubtedly a one-party dictatorship and a police state) there were, or could be, positive experiences.
In short: Angela Merkel spoke honestly and openly. And it was by no means just personal, it was high politics. She spoke about something that she was undoubtedly aware of for years and that she also undoubtedly felt as a burden (not only personal), but also as an element that stood in the way of full and true unification of Germany (we mean primarily people, citizens), more than three decades after that unification was formally implemented. And that is why her speech is historical, no matter how it would be interpreted later, no matter how much it would be quoted, or not quoted. She said what she said and she knew well what and why she was saying. And she received an unusually long round of applause, with everyone present, including President Steinmeier and party leaders, rising to their feet (standing ovation).
The question remains, of course: why did she say all this only now? Probably because she is aware of the fact that decades of systematic demonization not only of the GDR (which with its regime gave more than enough reason for that anyway ), but also the very ideas of communism in the ideologically ‘washed’ western part of Germany bore fruit and the statements she made on Sunday, October 3, 2021, that is, the questions she posed in her speech that day, in recent years could have politically meant her death. So: pragmatism has kept her silent for years about something she saw and felt, and only the days after the election in which both her party (CDU) and the candidate she chose as her successor (Laschet) lost, those days finally gave her the freedom to say openly what she thinks. Just by the way: it doesn’t speak very positively about Western democracy, for which Churchill’s saying that ‘it’s not perfect, but it’s the best we have’ is so often and often quoted. And is it really best when a politician of Angela Merkel’s caliber has to wait for the end of her active political career to tell some notorious truths that many German citizens (those in the East certainly) are aware of, but are silent about?
It is impossible not to draw a parallel with small states that emerged on the soil of the destroyed Yugoslavia (without putting a sign of equality between them). Isn’t every individual’s career achieved in the time of Yugoslavia, a ‘Yugoslav biography’, seen as the ballast? Unless, of course, that individual was ‘smart’ enough, or politically fickle, and declared himself a nationalist from time immemorial and a hater of Yugoslavia who, as a member of the League of Communists, ‘undermined her from within’. Here, too, everyone who would dare to say that it is not only important to have an independent state, but to question the character of such a state, would be seen as someone who has turned his/her back on his/her homeland. Are all those who, at least in a low voice, say that in Yugoslavia, that is, in former Yugoslav republics, there were also positive things, that there are positive experiences from that time from which one could (better said: from which one had to) learn, not labeled as ‘Yugonostalgists’? And that is the first stage of political or social defamation. Isn’t there a sharp division in society between those who have unconditionally accepted the so-called new historical narrative (a blatant lie about the past, in other words) and those who still in a ‘donquihotian’ way today insist on facts supported by evidence, documents, testimonies, in short: on historical truth?
Aren’t there differences, for example in Croatia, between Croats who lived and worked in Croatia during Yugoslavia (let’s leave aside the already mentioned ‘runners’ from one political camp into another) and those Croats who came from the so-called diaspora, those who (or their ancestors), according to one former Croatian President, sought a space of freedom there (while it is true that they fled fearing persecution for the crimes of the Ustasha quisling state, or terrorist activities that are now affectionately called ‘guerrillas’ in Yugoslavia after 1945, and the protagonists of that terrorism – ‘patriots’ and ‘victims of communism’?)
Is anyone at all seriously taken if he (or she) says that the Yugoslav model of socialism was significantly different from that practiced in the Eastern Bloc? That Yugoslavia, or Croatia, or Serbia, or Bosnia and Herzegovina as parts of Yugoslavia, not only were not the same, but could not be compared with Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, especially the GDR of that time? No, this would not be taken seriously, to say the least, because Croatia had a President who claimed that Yugoslavia was behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, and now has a foreign minister who claims that Croats lived in a kind of slavery during Yugoslavia and that to say ‘I am a Croat’ at that time – was dangerous.
For actors on the political scene of Southeast European countries it would be more than useful to read Angela Merkel’s speech. And especially to think about it. Finally, it was uttered by a politician whom all of them condescendingly (and some with vain arrogance) treated as ‘the most powerful woman in the world’. We consciously call them actors, because there are no real politicians in the countries of former Yugoslavia today. Consequently, there is not, nor will there be in the foreseeable future, anyone who, even at the end of his/her career, would dare to say what the German Chancellor said in her not last, but the only truly historical speech.
Angela Merkel told the truth, And the truth does not live in today’s politics, although it will not fade in spite of all who oppress it. Someday there will be someone, not anyone, but someone relevant who will utter it. Just as the German Chancellor did, who, more than with anything else she has done in her long term, has thus opened the door to history for herself.
The European Green Deal as an EU-Arctic Foreign Policy Tool
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The European Green Deal as an EU-Arctic Foreign Policy Tool
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Authors: Gabriella Gricius and Andreas Raspotnik*
As a transformational effort to change how the European economy operates and with the goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050, the European Green Deal can certainly not be called unambitious. The deal includes a diverse range of policy measures and subsidies while also increasing R&D and investment in environmentally friendly transportation and other key infrastructure within the European Union. But more importantly, the Green Deal is a foreign policy tool for the EU – acting not only as a driving force for environmental sustainability domestically and externally but also one that has a distinct Arctic agenda.
The main goal of the European Green Deal is to eliminate and offset its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in a broader attempt to limit global warming. It uses a variety of different objectives across the Union’s economy and society to achieve that broader purpose including biodiversity, sustainable food systems, sustainable agriculture, clean energy, sustainable industry, sustainable mobility, eliminating pollution and climate action. In doing so, it institutionalizes a form of green thinking – one that decouples economic growth from resource use and fosters an inclusive just transition. One example of this is the development of a sustainable blue economy policy for the EU. A blue economy policy must reckon with pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change to begin with, while also investing in technologies to switch to a circular economy, preserve biodiversity, ensure sustainable food production, and support climate adaptation.
As such, the European Green Deal is also a foreign policy tool for the EU. The blue economy aspect is particularly resonant here because it will have an impact in the Arctic with the EU leading as a regulatory power. Many parts of the blue economy proposal have to do with achieving climate neutrality, reducing pollution, supporting climate adaptation, and creating sustainable sea management. Moreover, the Fit for 55 package – a set of proposals to create fair and socially just policies that will help the EU combat climate change – brings even more blue ideas such as the FuelEU Maritime initiative that aims to increase the percentage of renewables and low-carbon fuels in maritime transport.
Importantly, this also has implications for the Arctic region. While the European Green Deal does not explicitly discuss the Arctic at all, it has a distinct Arctic agenda. With key elements in the Green Deal focusing on supporting biodiversity and sustainable food systems and industry, it is clear that part of the EU’s responses to the challenges in the Arctic actually is the European Green Deal. Not only does the Arctic – from regional developments in the European Arctic to broader considerations in the Circumpolar Arctic – have the potential to lead the green transition and play a key role in the realization of the Green Deal, but the way that the EU conducts itself will lend to a more sustainable and climate resilient Arctic. As the EU takes more of a leadership role in climate change discussions, it may be able to leverage its relationship with Arctic countries like Canada to encourage just transition policies and other green politics in the Arctic. At the moment, final touches are given to the latest update of the Union’s Arctic policy, with a new Joint Communication on A stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic to be published early October. It might not be this very update or the process leading towards a new policy that will determine the EU’s future Arctic agenda but rather the path towards implementing more robust environmental or energy regulations within the EU – within the framework of the European Green Deal. Developing a distinct EU Arctic policy should only be regarded as secondary to building a regulatory framework that considers the ongoing changes in the Arctic. GHG emissions schemes, internal climate policies and goals, and market mechanisms all impact the Arctic’s environmental security. Focusing on the EU’s internal legislative changes is crucial, including their consequences for the continuous development of the EU Arctic policy.
Once the revised version of the Union’s Arctic policy emerges, it will be key to watch what policies the EU promotes in the Arctic and the mechanisms through which they will work. In the past, the EU has already taken steps in the past to regulate fishing and oil & gas extraction in the Arctic. However, with the acceleration of new green proposals not only in the European Green Deal, but also the related the Fit for 55 Proposals, there is a serious opportunity for the EU to act as a regulatory power and influence others – whether they be blue economy leaders or not – in Arctic behavior. With the European Green Deal, the EU has the opportunity to turn one-off negotiations and bilateral agreements into institutionalized ways of approaching Arctic industry, economy, and sustainable development.
*Dr. Andreas Raspotnik is currently an Austrian Marshall Plan Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) in Oslo, Norway and a Senior Fellow and Leadership Group Member at The Arctic Institute – Center for Circumpolar Security Studies.
France’s anger at the US-UK-Australia (AUKUS) deal to build nuclear submarines in Australia is palpable but understandable, since Australia has reneged on a multi-billion-euro contract signed with France to supply twelve submarines to Australia. In an unprecedented outburst, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister, has accused Australia and the U.S. of ‘duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt’, recalling French ambassadors for consultations. Dismissing Britain as a ‘third wheel’ indulging in ‘constant opportunism’, he said that there was no need to recall his ambassador to London. Here, the implication is that the post-Brexit UK is not even worth the candle. We shall explore in this article whether France is just huffing and puffing in a face-saving gesture or whether her apparent stance could have major implications for NATO and European defense. But first, a spot of history.
From Gaullism to Inconsistency
In 1966, France left NATO’s integrated military structure and expelled NATO headquarters, which moved up the road to Brussels. De Gaulle had proposed the creation of a tripartite NATO, whereby France, the United Kingdom and the United States would be put on an equal footing for the purposes of discussing nuclear strategy. The U.S. and UK refused, leading to France’s withdrawal. By 1999, however, France was in full fling, joining NATO’s illegal attack on Serbia, though swinging back later, along with Germany, in condemning the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, under the Blair-friendly President Sarkozy, France rejoined the integrated military structure of NATO in 2009, playing a major role in destroying Libya two years later. To add to France’s post-Gaullist tendency to vacillate, the nation came to renege on the deal, just before its delivery, to provide Russia with two Mistral helicopter carriers, while having to repay Moscow. The Anglo-Saxon pressure on France in the wake of the Crimea’s return to Russia proved too strong for an allegedly independent France. It can be seen here that France did to Russia what AUKUS is now doing to France, thus suggesting an element of hypocrisy. To add to this French bipolar disorder in her foreign/military policy, President Macron described NATO as ‘brain dead’ only two years ago.
The big question now is whether France is serious about returning to an independent foreign and military policy. If she sticks to her guns, à la de Gaulle, we could then be witnessing an important shift in the distribution of power in the world and, perhaps paradoxically, an improvement of relations between the EU on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other, notwithstanding NATO cheerleaders like Poland and the Baltic statelets. In (neo-)Gaullist terms, this would imply a supranational and independent EU defense force, with France playing a central role nevertheless, albeit with German consent. To understand this, we need to turn to some more history.
The Cold War and an EU Army
The U.S., initially under British pressure on President Truman, decided that it must control what it could of post-war Europe, although in a more overtly benign non-Stalinist, yet CIA-instigated, fashion. Hence the Marshall Plan, the Brussels Treaty Organization (BTO), the (abortive) European Defense Community (EDC) and the subsequent Western European Union, which served as a politically acceptable bridge to accept West Germany to NATO as a full-fledged member. Moscow was again put on the defensive, as in 1812 and 1941.
A genuinely independent European army would have been unacceptable to the U.S.: even the EDC would have depended on NATO, as Article 6 of the treaty made it clear. NATO was shaken by de Gaulle’s withdrawing France in 1966 from its integrated military structure—but not really stirred—although the Gaullist France continued to annoy the Anglo-Saxons with its balancing policy and thus a friendlier attitude towards Moscow than most dared to entertain.
NATO—but essentially the U.S. and the UK—became increasingly worried at any tendency of the EU going it alone in its defense policies, not only during the Gaullist era but later as well, because of French and German opposition to the invasion of Iraq, which remains a badly damaged country. But Merkel and Sarkozy then went on to betray Chirac and Schröder.
The transmogrification of French and German policies was truly remarkable. Sarkozy, in particular, overturned the traditional Gaullist policy of independence, bringing France back into the integrated military structure of NATO. Since then, the EU has essentially been a strategic Cold War tool of the U.S., supported in particular by Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as well as by France and Germany, however, in a more lukewarm fashion.
Some half-hearted attempts were made to give the EU a more independent military identity, hence the European Security and Defense Initiative/Policy/Personality (ESDI/P). This was still to be subject to NATO, since it would only operate in areas where NATO was not engaged. In other words, with NATO agreement. The manic NATO-sponsored EU-enlargement of 2004, virtually synonymous with NATO enlargement, turned the embryonic and battered European defense identity into a damp squib: first, the West European Armaments Group (set up in 1976) died in 2005. Then, the West European Armaments Organization, set up in 1996, died in 2006, probably to be followed by the still existing European Defense Agency. Then, in 2009, the ESDP was subsumed into the Common Foreign and Defense Policy. All these acronymic gyrations were, of course, meant to give expression to the Treaty of Maastricht’s (1992) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
If anyone is feeling slightly confused by now, then you have understood: it is indeed a confusing story, characterized by disorganization and a lack of leadership, which naturally suits the U.S. military-congressional-industrial complex, whose main aim, some would think, is to demonize Russia and China as well as create a war on terror—if selective—in order to emphasize NATO’s primacy over the EU. To add to the lack of leadership, it is important to remember that there is little agreement among the countries that belong to both the EU and NATO, with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey being prime examples. To complicate matters further, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden are members of the EU but not of NATO, although the U.S. would dearly love to welcome them in. Then we have the NATO-member Norway, which is not in the EU, and, of course, Cyprus, which is in the EU but not in NATO, although it has to be said that because of the British-occupied parts of Cyprus, the latter’s territory is de facto in NATO.
It is time to make a perhaps obvious point: as the Ukraine experience has shown, and is showing, the U.S. is paranoid about a Russia-friendly EU, since that might lead not only to the end of NATO as we know it, but even to a genuinely European supranational force in a few years’ time, which is friendly towards Russia and which will promote European defense industries to the obvious detriment of U.S. shareholders in arms companies. The U.S. is nevertheless quite happy to encourage and sponsor EU defense initiatives, only as long as they are directed against Russia and controlled by Washington in one form or another, as history demonstrates.
The possibility of the twenty-eight EU members actually agreeing to a supranational army is a pipe dream, since Poland and the Baltic statelets, at the very least, would never agree to sever military links with the U.S. Britain, which would never contemplate severing its military links with the U.S., can be guaranteed to fight tooth and nail, together with its strategic master, against a supranational European army.
This may result, however, in the interesting possibility of a two-tier Europe, at least in defense, led by the Franco-Germans: an inner core with its own defense and spending, probably friendly towards Moscow, with its own European standardized weapons, to the chagrin of U.S. shareholders; and an outer core of U.S.-friendly and Russophobe states. We should be reminded here that the first thing that Poland did on entering the EU was purchase 4 billion dollars’ worth of U.S. military aircraft, infuriating European manufacturers. With a strong Russia and an EU army independent of NATO, however, it would only be a matter of time before Poland and the Baltic states accepted the reality to join the EU army or declare themselves neutral.
The alternative to the EU military independence is an EU that continues to obey U.S. diktats, with the concomitant threat to world stability, through a profit-mad arms race. Here, we can recall how France succumbed to U.S. pressure, breaking its contract with Russia to deliver two helicopter carriers, when they had been built and were about to be delivered. This obviously connects to U.S. pressure on Germany to destroy the North Stream II gas pipeline, even though it now only needs the final German go-ahead.
Recent developments suggest that France and Germany are both worried about U.S./NATO muscle-flexing: they were recently reported by Bloomberg to have dismissed as ‘provocative’ Washington’s pressure on them to perform naval drills near the Kerch Strait. Perhaps, we are seeing a slow return to some sort of sanity. The expediently independent attitude of the Italian government is also one encouraging sign. They are, for example ignoring Washington’s threats and are pushing to join China’s Silk Road. All roads lead to Rome, as they say.
At any event, only history exists: it was William Pitt the Younger who, arguably, began the Cold War by criticizing Russia in 1791 for wishing to dismember the Ottoman Empire. The hysterical anti-Russian mentality is still with us today. It was always more anti-Russian than anti-Communist, the latter being an excuse to feed to the masses, in order to disguise hard-nosed business interests.
In the immediate term, France could offer to sell China some nuclear submarines, delivering a major slap in the face to the Anglo-Saxons. China represents France’s largest bilateral trade deficit (€29.2 billion in 2018). A major military sale to China would offset the trade imbalance. This putative sale is, however, unlikely, as France is apparently concerned at China’s stance regarding the South China Sea. Yet, only ten years ago, the Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Ma Xiaotian, remarked that the two countries enjoy a high degree of mutual political trust, and the bilateral economic and trade co-operation between them is rapidly expanding. He further said that the Chinese side was willing to work together with France to develop the Sino-French comprehensive strategic partnership.
For now, however, direct French military assistance to China is unlikely, if anything because France still has Pacific interests that are incompatible with China’s. Thus, in the wake of the AUKUS deal, France is more likely to further enhance its military co-operation with India. India and France had already decided to intensify defense co-operation early this year, with Paris offering to shift production of Panther medium-utility helicopters as well as 70 per cent of the assembly line for Rafale fighters under the ‘Make in India’ rubric, accompanied by a full transfer of technology. It is eminently possible that France’s military co-operation with India annoyed the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex, and it may well have justified the AUKUS deal in Washington’s and London’s minds.
Prediction is a risky game, especially given the vagaries of individual and corporate human behavior. We may, however, be witnessing a French-led latter-day Gaullist attempt to clip the wings of Anglo-Saxon and NATO attempts to continue/restart (depending on your view) the Cold War. The aim would be to establish a multipolar world, with enough checks and balances to prevent illegal attacks on sovereign states, à la Belgrade, Libya and Iraq.
From our partner RIAC
At the helm for 16 years, Angela Merkel exhibited a light touch. Germany prospered; in fact has been the most prosperous EU nation. After a thirty-year career in politics, she has decided to step down.
The contrast with the heavy-handed Xi Jinping in China is stark. His state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have muscled in on large corporations like Ali Baba, one of China’s biggest companies. Ali Baba has also been forced to divest many holdings.
All of which would be unthinkable in Merkel’s Germany. She is known as Mutti Merkel or just Mutti, the diminutive for mother (mutter in German) for her thoughtful and compassionate leadership. For example, Germany opened its doors to Syrian refugees and others. ‘Wir schaffen das’ meaning ‘We can do this’ became her rallying cry in speeches. Within a few weeks 10,000 refugees had arrived, and more were to come. Many in the general public opposed the policy but she won enough of them over. A million applied for asylum in 2015 and three-quarter million the following year. There have been some problems in absorbing such a huge influx. But all in all the country is managing.
Germany has also been climate conscious. It is a pioneer in renewable energy development and uses it for 40 percent of consumption. It has the world’s third highest capacity in wind power (59 GW) and generates the most photovoltaic energy (49 GW) of any country. As such it has become the first major renewable energy economy. It is also exploiting geothermal sources with 25 plants used for heating, five have combined usage delivering heat and electricity and four generate electricity only.
In line with the 17 UN sustainable development goals, Germany is focusing also on climate change mitigation (SDG13) and conservation of natural resources (SDG 14 and 15) in its national sustainable development strategy. In March 2021, the German cabinet updated this strategy to include employing international influence through development cooperation where and when it had leverage.
Angela Merkel has now served almost 16 years in office, just 82 days less than her mentor, Helmut Kohl, and is third longest serving — behind Kohl and Otto von Bismarck who was in office for almost 23 years. Quite a record for a research scientist thrust into politics by an accident of fate. If Bismarck master-minded the reunification of Germany in the 19th century, Merkel helped in the assimilation of East Germany within the far richer and more powerful western region. The difference between the two was obvious to any visitor in the 1990s.
Born in Hamburg, she moved to Perleberg when her father, a Lutheran pastor, was posted there. The town was in East Germany where she grew up. After the Berlin wall came down she entered politics, running for the Bundestag. Following a couple of ministerial posts, she became General Secretary, and later was elected party leader after a scandal toppled her predecessor.
Now she is off to the quiet pleasures of retirement.
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