Throughout the ten-day Fulbright German Studies Seminar 2012 (GSS) from June 12–18 in Berlin, Germany, and June 18–22 in Brussels, Belgium, fourteen US academics engaged the topic of “Nation-state and European Identity.” The seminar participants spoke with politicians, journalists, economists, and cultural figures about the eurozone crisis as well as the potentials for, and challenges of, European integration. There are neither easy questions about, nor easy solutions to, the problems currently facing the European Union—and in particular the debt-related issues facing member states participating in the euro area, the common currency project that oftentimes seems synonymous with the EU itself. The following essays by Fulbright GSS scholars from various academic disciplines represent a selection of perspectives on the relationship between the euro crisis and its implications for German Studies.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Two common themes emerged during the 2012 Fulbright German Studies Seminar: the complexity of decision-making within the EU and the difficulties involved in forming a broadly European identity. These themes are closely related to each other. The difficulty in fostering a European identity is deeply rooted within the institutional framework of the EU; this framework encourages the public to focus on nation-state level politics. The centrality of German identity to European consciousness—whether in admiration or opposition—places German Studies scholars in a unique position to explore the tension between these competing identities.
The policymaking power of the EU is less than that of a state but greater than that of any other strictly intergovernmental organization we have seen in history. The fundamental logic employed by the architects of European integration is found in the theory of neofunctionalism. Neofunctionalism has a federal structure as its end goal, yet achieves this through the incremental assumption of competencies from state governments toward a high authority. As functions of government shift toward the supranational, so too would individual identities. Once the link between daily life and EU policies is clear in the mind of the public, European identity should replace national identity. However, as we have seen throughout the current euro crisis, national identities remain strong despite the deep levels of policy integration. [End Page 125]
While numerous institutions exist within the EU to create or influence policy, four institutions play the largest roles. The first is the European Commission, the body that exercises executive powers. The Commission represents the interests of the EU as a whole and has the sole right to introduce all EU law for consideration. Although studies have shown that EU Commissioners act to maximize the interests of the EU, their appointments are made with consideration to each member state receiving one Commission portfolio. President of the Commission is arguably the highest-profile position in the EU structure.
The most powerful body, the European Council, is made up of the heads of government of each member state. All major decisions are negotiated at the European Council level, and the body operates on the basis of unanimity. This gives each individual leader the power to grind the European agenda to a halt if he or she so desires. We have seen leaders do this throughout the history of the EU. The power of national leaders comes from the results of national elections, which are themselves decided based on national issues. National leaders who focus their attention on Europe with no consideration of the national mood do so at their own political peril.
The third institution is the Council of Ministers, made up of the national ministers in government. The exact configuration varies, depending on the policy issue under consideration. Together with the European Parliament, the Council performs the legislative functions of the EU, reacting to laws proposed by the Commission. The express purpose of the Council is to represent the interests of national governments in the EU. As members of the Council are first and foremost government ministers in their respective national legislatures, their positions are dependent upon national election results.
Finally, we have the other legislative body: the European Parliament. Seats in the Parliament are allocated to member states according to population. Within that allocation, individual members are elected through proportionally representational party lists. The Parliament represents the only direct link between the public and the EU. Once elected, members then organize according to political party groups that adhere to traditional European cleavages. That direct democratic link comes with a tradeoff: the European Parliament is the weakest of the main decision-making institutions. Its influence ranges from approval to mere consultation, depending on the issue area under discussion, yet some issues remain the exclusive responsibility of the Council of Ministers. It is the European Parliament’s limited influence on policy that has led many critics to charge that the EU suffers from a “democratic deficit,” that the most important decisions are made by unelected “Eurocrats” or indirectly elected national policy makers. In other words, the people’s true representatives are marginalized.
The EU’s structure makes it clear that the institutions rooted in national politics display the greatest policy-making power, both in the number as well as in the importance of the issues they consider. The European Council and Council of Ministers [End Page 126] are explicitly rooted in national politics, as they are the representatives of national governments and are indirectly accountable to the national electorates. It should be no surprise that these representatives are primarily focused on domestic political realities and priorities. Commission portfolios and the number of seats in Parliament are assigned with consideration to the member states.
There are proposals on how to both de-emphasize nationality in the decision-making process and close the democratic deficit. The first of these is the direct public election of the President of the Commission. Currently, the Commission’s President is selected by the European Council and then approved by the European Parliament. Because the President is the most public face of the EU, many critics feel the selection process is too far removed from public input. Instead, some would prefer a directly elected President who would have legitimacy across the EU as a whole. Yet the mechanics of such an election remain unclear. Making the President of the Commission more accountable to the public is an important step toward a common political identity.
A second proposal is to reform European Parliament elections so that they are based on cross-national lists based on political party rather than by country, as is the current model. For example, voters would select the party to vote for, and the candidates on the list would be a cross-national listing of that party’s politicians. This would create European-level candidates associated with ideology and not geography, turning the EP into an explicitly partisan institution more closely resembling the multiparty legislatures the public is used to on the national level. Public attachment would form with the party groups and the leading personalities within those groups, not as a further extension of national attachment.
A common set of political institutions is an important element for societies forging a united political identity. These institutions are where the public looks for leadership, for solutions to problems, and for accountability. The EU has such a set of political institutions, yet the focus of politics within the EU remains at the national level, and the strongest decision-making bodies are those that are made up of national political figures. Conversely, the weakest institution is the one most directly linked to the public. These institutional barriers to a common identity will remain; national leaders will not give up their privileged position in decision-making to an elected President, and as the powers of the European Parliament continue to grow, the ability for the European Council and the Council of Ministers to veto decisions will surely remain. As long as the locus of decision-making power remains in the hands of national leaders, a European identity based on European institutions will prove elusive. German Studies scholars are uniquely positioned to examine these competing identities, as they help to distill and communicate the essence of German identity to the public and place it in a broader European context. [End Page 127]
The European sovereign-debt crisis rightfully occupies the attention of academic observers and the popular press. While understanding the crisis and its implications for Europe and international relations will undoubtedly take years, the overwhelmingly economic focus of much of the coverage is a disturbing trend. Certainly the euro crisis is economic in its origins, but focusing on the economics of the crisis misses the deeper, foundational weaknesses of the European project. Indeed, that Europe faces this crisis at all can be attributed to the focus of European policymakers—arising from the functionalist and neofunctionalist underpinnings of the EU—on economic integration, to the neglect of a more holistic approach to integration. The euro crisis is fundamentally fueled by a failure to imagine Europe as a social community. The failure of European leaders and societies to build an imagined community in turn exposes the failings of functionalist theory. Germany has for historical reasons facilitated these failings. At the heart of Europe and the euro crisis is the belief that economic integration could function in lieu of social and political integration.
In his address to the 2011 conference of the European Consortium for Political Research, Iceland’s president, Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson, argued that the crisis is rooted in the fundamental fallacy that the market should reign supreme, that economics matters more than politics. Despite Grimsson’s observation, leaders continue to focus on economic solutions while ignoring the political foundations of the crisis. Commentators in the United States, such as Paul Krugman, marvel at the inability of European policymakers to address the region’s economic problems. The failure does not arise from a failure to consider economic policy. Instead, summits produce a series of half-measures because they leave aside the political and social ties that would enable a more comprehensive economic response. Meanwhile, policymakers actively consider the possibility of one or more members leaving the Euro, nationalisms have flared as Germans talk of a fiscally responsible “North” bearing the burden of a lazy and profligate “South,” and Greeks use Nazi-era symbolism to talk about Germany.
European leaders have not used the period since the end of the Cold War to build a unified political, social, and economic union. Instead, they have focused on economics to the neglect of processes that would build social and political integration. Children are not taught a common European history but instead only national histories. Media largely do not report on EU politics and thus do not link issues of public concern with EU policy. Members of the European Parliament do not have local elective constituencies, denying European citizens a very basic tie to the EU political process. As Benedict Anderson so astutely observed, nations are imagined communities, bound together through social and political ties. The absence of these ties explains the failed responses to the euro crisis. Leaders cannot ask citizenries to make sacrifices for their fellow Europeans because “Europe” is not a well-formed imagined community. Further economic integration through “Eurobonds” and a [End Page 128] banking union meets public resistance because these risk-sharing policies require a level of political integration that a common currency was not presented as requiring. In short, the euro crisis is no longer about financial structures; it is about social and political structures. The crisis has exposed the European project as half-hearted, an economic union without the requisite social and political foundations. Like any building lacking a strong foundation, the weakness of the structure is exposed when the ground starts shaking.
In many ways, the theoretical basis of the EU can be found in the international-relations version of functionalist theory. First developed in the interwar period, functionalist theory was revived in the 1960s as neofunctionalism, most notably by Ernst Haas. At the core of functionalist theory is an essentially neoliberal economic argument that integration in one economic activity would “spill over” into other areas, creating a chain reaction of integration. Thus, the EU began as a coal and steel trade union and has progressed along largely economic lines to create the single market as well as the uro. However, the strong role of functionalist theory in guiding the founding and operating philosophy of the EU means that it inherits the flaws in the underlying assumptions of functionalism, notably the assumption that cascading economic integration would necessarily generate the attending political and social structures. That is, functionalist theory does not include a theory of how political and social structures move in conjunction with economic structures. While the European project continued to advance fiscally, the problem continued to exist structurally. With the crisis the flaws in the theory that underpins the EU have become all too apparent.
Focusing on economic integration suited German leaders for three reasons. First, it allowed Germany to continue to play the role of the economic engine of Europe, sidestepping a more political role that would have proven difficult for many to accept owing to the legacies of World War II. Second, it allowed German leaders to give responsibility for European-wide policymaking to the Commission, again avoiding a political leadership position that might have proven problematic both in Germany as well as in other EU member states. Third, it allowed German leaders to avoid the difficult task of changing social and political structures domestically to pave the way for greater political and social integration. World War II has given the German public a well-earned allergy to charismatic leaders seeking to fundamentally reorder social and political structures. The political leadership demands of the European project have always been in tension with the political culture of post–World War II Germany. Allowing Europe to focus exclusively on economic integration allowed German leaders to sidestep, at least for a time, this tension.
The euro crisis has exposed the foundations of European integration as partial, heavily reliant on economic integration without commensurate levels of political and social integration. Yet all three components are required for a functional system; the inability of policymakers to address the euro crisis highlights the failings of the EU’s [End Page 129] operational philosophy. There is no easy solution to this disjuncture, but the problems it causes will only worsen, the longer political leaders avoid it. Policymakers in Europe must begin to think about integration holistically and put into place policies that will strengthen the social and political elements of a common Europe. If such was ever in doubt, the crisis has shown that Germans are the heart of Europe economically and politically, and it will be up to them to start and fuel these changes. If they do not, then the future of the EU is dire, indeed. To this end, the contributions of German Studies scholars could be invaluable to the European Project, reminding policymakers that a community is more than an economic zone. Modern German history is rich with lessons in this regard for Europe. A powerful example is that of German unification, which was both an economic and a social project, one that succeeded on that basis. Other cases, both negative and positive, populate German history. Bringing these lessons to light and translating them into the broader European context will keep German Studies vibrant and relevant for many years to come.
Georgia Institute of Technology
After two weeks of discussions in Berlin and Brussels devoted to the possibilities of German and European identity in these times of crisis, what emerged most pointedly in regard to culture was paradoxical. On the one hand, there was a palpable sadness or even fear that “culture” had been reduced to national stereotypes. On the other hand, there were bewildered and half-hearted efforts to foster positive notions of European identity. At one time the European project was a twinkle in the eye of writers, philosophers, and artists. Some of today’s architects of the EU, however, regard cultural development as too expensive and perhaps even too elitist to support. German Studies should actively promote a sustained and consistent project for European cultural development in the EU, one that maintains an appreciation of intercultural dialogue and sensitivity to the importance of more informal cultural networks.
In the “Weimar Prologue” (1802) to his occasional piece “Was wir bringen,” Goethe wrote, “Wo wir uns bilden, da ist unser Vaterland.”1 Paul Michael Lützeler explains this notion as follows:
The view of multiculturalism favored [by Goethe and some contemporary theorists] . . . is that of a dialogic, not of a dialectic nature, i.e., cultures that come in contact with each other do not result in pure syntheses but rather they retain contradictory elements, feelings of unease, points of friction, and the potential for conflict. We must be aware that Goethe did not envision a neutral or passive tolerance toward other cultures; instead, he pleaded for the constant expansion of horizons and a readiness to examine, to modify, to supplement, or to revise our current positions.2 [End Page 130]
If the EU were to take Goethe’s model as inspiration for its cultural program, it could develop a substantial yet flexible model for a transcultural European identity. Such identities would take generations to develop but could be fostered by increased exchanges of students, academics, and professionals; continued explorations and performances of European modes of cultural expression, old and new; and greater coordination of intercultural educational goals between member states.
The EU does directly intervene in culture. One thinks of the heavily promoted “European Capitals of Culture” and notes EU iconography on plaques describing the renovation of important cultural landmarks all over the European landscape, such as the St. John the Evangelist church in Szczecin, Poland. The church is also part of the European Route of Brick Gothic, a tourist route partially sponsored by the EU. Such efforts, as well as those funded through the European Regional Development Fund and other sources, and components of the EU’s current cultural program (2007–2013)—including art exhibitions, literary translations, and scholarly conferences supported to the tune of approximately € 400 million over the course of the program—are laudable.
There are also actions taking place around the edges of the EU in support of the development of intercultural European identities. One of the most significant—because it operates within the technocratic world the EU favors and because it has obtained some recognition as an official stakeholder—is the EU National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC). The national organizations that comprise EUNIC work together not only to foster cultural activities and coordination within the EU but also to provide “cultural diplomacy”: outreach beyond the EU around the world. Some member organizations, such as the Goethe Institute, combine the support of national foreign ministries with that of independent foundations; others are official arms of foreign ministries, such as the Austrian Cultural Forum. EUNIC supports language learning, multilingualism, cultural diversity, literary events, and dialogue around the arts. Independently the national cultural institutes support models of “national” culture, but together they develop interest in intercultural models.
At the same time, no one really wants EU bureaucrats acting as cultural commissars for Europe. The importance of face-to-face discussion, development, and performance on the one hand and financial support for cultural work on the other cannot be underestimated. The EU must continue to recognize the importance of supporting its cultural practitioners—artists, critics, and scholars—both for its own internal cohesion and as part of its mission of diplomacy around the world.
The goal of the cultural side of the EU, however, cannot be the development of a true broad-based “European” culture beyond the promotion of certain basic liberal democratic values; differences in language, history, religion, and national culture stand in the way of a bland, homogenized European culture that no one believes in or really wants. Advocates of proactive European cultural programs recognize the [End Page 131] intercultural nature of even the so-called “national” cultures that make up the EU. For example, among two recent EU projects one focuses on intercultural dialogue and Roma culture, and the other on “intercultural cities” such as Dortmund and Offenburg.
German Studies, too, should maintain its emphasis on examining the spaces within and between cultures in the German-speaking world. One thinks quickly of twentieth-century figures such as Franz Kafka and Paul Celan, who challenge our notions of “national” traditions. German Studies embraces the challenges inherent in discovering Kafka’s Czech and Yiddish influences and the importance of Czernowitz and Paris for Celan. Despite some critique of, and opposition to, the perhaps patronizing premise of the Chamisso Prize, granted to “authors whose mother tongue and cultural background are non-German and whose works make an important contribution to German literature,” the prize, named for one of German literature’s greatest immigrant authors, Adelbert von Chamisso (1781–1838), reminds us of this important aspect of the culture(s) of German-speaking Europe. Indeed, the motto of the prize, “Viele Kulturen—eine Sprache” underscores this point.
German Studies has, of course, long dealt with the complex interactions of Jewish and non-Jewish speakers of German and residents of German lands. In recent decades we have also seen attention paid to people with backgrounds linked to Turkey in German society, politics, and culture, as well as studies of interactions between ethnic Germans and other nearby groups including Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, and Romanians. German literature’s three most recent Nobel Prize winners, Günter Grass, Elfriede Jelinek, and Herta Müller, are instructive in reminding us of the international and intercultural reach of German Studies. We might remember discussions of the Kashubian roots of Oskar’s grandmother in Grass’s Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum, 1957); consider Jelinek’s constant critique of her Austrian home, made in an often bewilderingly multicultural and multilingual barrage of words; and recall Müller’s life in Romania up to the late 1980s, which has provided the impetus for much of her work.
German Studies can inform the EU as it develops policies that contribute to the development of a humanistic notion of European culture, one that questions the importance of nation-states and focuses on intercultural spaces as the sites in which identities are developed in the twenty-first century. German Studies can help by emphasizing in part what we might call intercultural relationships in and through literatures, histories, cinemas, and performances, and by continuing to investigate vital—if at times more informal and transitory—modes of cultural production. [End Page 132]
The Parliamentarium, the visitor center for the European Parliament, is located in Brussels and guides guests through the history of the EU and through the structural complexities of EU institutions. Upon entering the permanent exhibit, guests pass through a tunnel in which voices speak simultaneously in all twenty-three of Europe’s official languages. On the one hand, the diversity of languages is impressive; the voices create a rich fabric of sound. But on the other hand, the effect of simultaneous speaking is disorienting and even disturbing. Distinct words or phrases are indistinguishable; despite the impressive linguistic diversity, nothing intelligible is communicated. The tunnel is emblematic of the communication challenges present in the various administrative buildings of the EU itself. A more comprehensive European integration and the eventual development of a sense of European identity cannot come to fruition if the impacts of language are not considered to their fullest extent and if the challenges of efficient functioning in a multilingual community are not met. In order for effective language policy to be implemented, the cultural, political, and economic impacts of multilingualism and language learning should enter political discourse in Brussels and not remain isolated within the realm of educational and cultural initiatives. Policymakers, politicians, and economists should consider not only the practical, economic implications of more and better language learning, but also the ways in which language learning could simultaneously strengthen and broaden cultural identities, a process essential in upholding the “Unity in Diversity” motto of the EU.
Even though delving into another culture by means of language acquisition may, for some, smack too highly of immaterialism in this time of crisis, thinking about in-depth language learning as a path to higher employment rates; to more productive (and more humane treatment of) mobile work forces; to more sophisticated, more assertive, and more profitable business transactions does not. In order for language diversity to be more advantage than disadvantage, discourse at the political and administrative levels must be more aware of the complexities and potential of language itself and of the processes of language acquisition. Language learning does much more than teach an individual to function and translate. Language learning is a process of assessing oneself and assessing the Other, a skill imperative to identity development and, indeed, imperative to a type of integration that retains the values of diversity. Only after language learning is assessed to its full potential at a political and economic level will its benefits be felt from the bottom up—a lesson that both Europe and, to an even greater degree, the United States have not yet learned.
On the political and administrative levels, pragmatism rules. For the efficiency of EU operations in Brussels and between the member states, language diversity is more obstacle than aid. Especially in a time of crisis, when quick decisions and fast [End Page 133] communication are vital, the extra steps that translation and language learning add to the decision-making process can seem problematic. For those individuals on the ground in Brussels who exchange ideas and negotiate at less official stages, linguistic diversity takes a back seat to the efficiency that English, as a language of business and transaction, offers. The joke that the official language of the EU is “bad English” is certainly not accurate, although the joke contains a kernel of truth in that much of the English spoken in unofficial transactions is a nonnative form of the language, rife with managerial business-isms. English as a lingua franca is, as linguists have explored in depth, a functional option for speakers of different native tongues to communicate. Functionaries, businesspeople, lobbyists, and other participants in Brussels’s network of bureaucracy—in addition to national governments that function in native, official languages—view ease of communication and a power-neutral language as important. The byproduct of efficiency is that language is stripped of its potential identity-building role. Learning languages becomes more about being able to “do business” and “make decisions” than about reaching beyond one’s own national, regional, and cultural identity to explore another culture and simultaneously improve chances for job success and mobility. It is an attitude that often prevails in university and higher-education boardrooms in the United States. It is a problematic approach that fails to take into account the long-term cultural and financial gains that can be a product of investments in in-depth language learning. This practicality, while understood, is contradictory to the tenets of language learning that EU educational and cultural institutions attempt to establish.
For these educational and cultural institutions which, especially in a time of crisis, seem relegated to the periphery, language diversity has always been a key component to European identity and economies. Through its education policy unit, the Council of Europe promotes policies which strengthen linguistic diversity and language rights, deepen mutual understanding, consolidate democratic citizenship, and sustain social cohesion. Likewise, the Unit for Multilingualism Policy in the European Commission Directorate General of Education and Culture is active in promoting multilingualism and language-learning initiatives.
The benefits and challenges of multilingualism are well known to these passionate, although perhaps underfunded, projects. Initiatives such as the European Day of Languages promote plurilingualism throughout Europe. Celebrated on September 26 since 2001, the program supports events and projects throughout Europe that exchange information and promote the importance of language learning. Likewise, Language Rich Europe (LRE), a project led by the British Council and cofounded by the European Commission and other sponsors, advocates discussion about multilingualism and policymaking. In an initial draft of research findings released in May 2012 and accessible through their website, the LRE project took into account language use in areas including education, business, and media and reported a wide variance in [End Page 134] language policy and adherence to language policy among the EU member states. The study found, for example, that 83 percent of companies surveyed consider language skills in recruiting, although over 70 percent of the same companies do not keep records of employee language skills. The study also points to region-specific shortages of language teachers and lack of opportunities to learn non-European languages.
Starting in 2012 and extending into 2013, the LRE project will hold over eighty workshops to discuss its research findings and to develop recommendations for policymakers. In March 2013, the project will present its recommendation to decision-makers in Brussels. Hopefully, this sharing of information from the cultural and educational realm with the political realm will be successful—and not too late. It is in times of crisis that, sadly, cultural and educational areas are the first to see cuts in funding and in positive political attention. Productively tackling the questions of language and strongly considering recommendations from the initiatives that best understand the impacts of and challenges to multilingualism in the EU is a vital entryway into a more realistic unfolding of a European identity. The Parliamentarium’s language tunnel, with its indistinguishable voices, is a confusing portal into a permanent exhibit, which by means of multimedia presentations, timelines, and interactive displays creates a deceivingly clear-cut narrative of European integration. It is a narrative that does yet not play out in reality and which will not play out without the help of language-learning initiatives.
University of Houston
“Whom do you call when you want to speak to Europe? For France, press one; for Germany, press two; for Great Britain, press three. . . .” The economic crisis in eurozone countries has highlighted the problem of leadership within the EU. Inside and outside Europe, there are calls for Germany to take a stronger leadership role. At the same time, Germany—and Chancellor Angela Merkel—has come under harsh criticism, having been charged with an “economic occupation” in Ireland and Greece. Germany is the largest country and economy in the EU. Frankfurt is the location of the European Central Bank (ECB) and, on the continent, the financial center. Consensus has emerged among politicians and the media that without German leadership, the future of the European project is in question and the financial crises will remain unresolved. There are, however, equally valid reasons why Germany is reluctant to lead. The reluctance stems from, but is not limited to, underlying dissonance, fears, and apprehensions from both German citizens and other Europeans.
Although younger generations do not possess the memories of World War II and a Europe decimated by two world wars, there remains a reluctance to embrace German power. The projection of German power abroad is a hotly debated topic both within [End Page 135] and outside Germany. Although symbols of German patriotism have become somewhat acceptable in more recent years, public demonstrations of patriotism make some persons uncomfortable, due to the historic legacy of mass movements dating back to the nineteenth century and, more recently, to World War II. The historical memory raises questions regarding the use of German national symbols. Public displays of the German flag on cars, hats, and elsewhere, as well as the thousands of fans gathered at public broadcasts (Fanmeile) during the soccer championships, generate public debate regarding the appropriate expression of German patriotism. While Germans may be more comfortable with displaying their national symbols, others in the world are less so. Whereas in other countries mass gatherings raise no alarms, the sight of Germans gathered en masse, waving their flag, revives—for some—visions of Nuremberg party rallies. At the same time, the use of National Socialist symbols has been applied to Germany and its leadership abroad, with depictions of the chancellor in various forms of Nazi regalia. It is clear that the rest of Europe in some way perceives some threat from Germany. Beyond these considerations, there are other explanations for Germany and Merkel’s reluctance.
First, an oft-cited explanation for a lack of leadership is the German fear of inflation, the general rise in prices. Uncontrolled inflation during the Weimar Republic resulted in the severe devaluation of the German currency. It is not clear that this fear actually exists, particularly among the post–World War II generations. Some have even gone so far to assert that the current generations of citizens do not necessarily understand inflation, much less fear it.
Second, if Germany leads and Europe follows in adopting a German fiscal model, Europe may become more like a German Europe. (One could complete the sentence with: and less like a French Europe.) Some have observed that France already struggles with the shift of political power to Germany in part due to the financial crises. Whether this is true or not, the perception that Europe is becoming a German Europe would result in a disruption in the balance of power in Europe between France, Great Britain, and Germany.
Third, demands that Merkel (and therefore Germany) do something about the financial crises deny Merkel’s political reality at home. The sense is that, if Germany has already absorbed the massive costs of reunification, refugees from the Yugoslavian civil war, and migration from the former Soviet Union, other countries should be able to manage their internal finances more efficiently and pay their own bills. At the same time, there is little doubt Germany has benefited from the EU and the eurozone through trade within the EU and the common currency, which has made German exports outside the EU more affordable.
Merkel must walk a fine line, caught between what Parliament will agree to and demands from the EU. The debate regarding Euro bonds and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), as well as the fiscal pact negotiations, are examples of the difficulty [End Page 136] of her position. Merkel faced significant EU and international pressure to agree to Euro bonds, with the goal of issuing bonds from the ECB to increase cash reserves. Her political reality was that members of Parliament were not going to agree to that particular solution. Although Merkel held her position on Euro bonds, her concessions to the EU were sharply criticized in the Bundestag debates. Reports varied, with some praising her ability to withstand the Eurobond pressure, while others leveled harsh criticism for allowing bailout money to be funneled directly to banks.
Fourth, political leaders in the Bundestag have their own concerns regarding the exercise of leadership in the EU. Members of Parliament have raised questions over the number of transnational agreements Merkel has brought home. From the perspective of national politics, these agreements have two consequences. Domestically, the increase in the power of the executive at home through treaties has raised questions regarding the balance of power between the executive and Parliament. The problem at the EU with transnational treaties is that the agreements bypass EU institutions, further increasing tension between those institutions and contributing to the perception of a democratic deficit in EU governance.
Finally, it is important to note that Germany is one of 27 countries in the EU, yet potentially bears much of the financial support for the ESM. The ESM would create an organization responsible for collecting funds from EU member states. Those funds would then be available to help EU member states facing financial difficulties. Other countries are contributing to the ESM; however, it also appears that more countries may need to access those funds. As this occurs, the risk for Germany is the assumption of much of the financial responsibility for the ESM. Germany may have the largest economy in the Eurozone, but that economic power is already at risk and there are signs the German economy has begun to slow. The reality is that, although Germany may provide leadership, it cannot do so alone.
Europe and the rest of the world will have to reconcile the desire and demand that Germany lead with what Germany has been and what it has become. Is it reasonable to expect Germany to lead while judging German leadership and inappropriately linking it to symbols from its National Socialist past? Where does the accountability of the rest of Europe and the world begin, not only for their financial situation but also for their own historical legacies? Further study of Germany must examine how we perceive and treat Germany in all contexts. Germany’s importance to the world through its position in the EU requires close examination. The question Europe should ask before demanding German action and leadership is whether Europe will be comfortable with the overt exercise of German power. [End Page 137]
On April 30, 1945, the capture of the Reichstag building signaled the end of the Second World War, Germany’s defeat, and its new evolving role in European affairs. In July 2012, in that same building, the Bundestag voted on new EU financial rescue measures. The current financial and sovereign debt crisis is an opportunity in which Germany can definitively reconcile itself with other European nations and become a seminal leader of the EU. Germany can forge the development of deeper social and political integration by using this opportunity to lead, not dominate, the crafting of non–zero sum solutions. This can be done by establishing the EU as the seat of solutions. German Studies can greatly benefit from learning about Germany’s twenty-first century transformation in the next couple of years because it will be a period in which Germany, as a separate cultural, political, and economic entity, is rethought due to its commitment to the EU.
European integration, like many cooperative endeavors, is an exercise in collective action. Outcomes that require cooperation among actors, whether they are people or countries, eventually run into the problem of collective action. If countries act in a zero-sum manner, then it is unlikely that they will experience outcomes such as integration. What better situation is there if one country obtains all the benefits without assuming costs! When countries interact in this manner, we have suboptimal outcomes: none of them cooperates. One way to solve the collective action problem, the dominance strategy, is to monitor countries that attempt a free ride and sanction them accordingly. The dominance strategy can work, but sustainability is difficult because the consistent monitoring will overtax the capabilities of the most powerful countries. The leadership strategy, in contrast, would convince actors to cooperate voluntarily, relegating the sanctioning of free-riders to a minor function. The leadership strategy is about gaining voluntary cooperation through the development of institutions that craft favorable common identities, which leads to a positive sense of self. Identities are consciously created. If leaders can convince actors to form a cohesive group, then they obtain the voluntary cooperation needed to sustain collective action. As a result, leaders can lower the costs of cooperation.
Germany’s evolving role in European affairs is a transformation from collaborative leadership with France to the role of predominant leader. In the early years, the postwar reality prevented it from establishing itself as a force leading European integration. Given time, financial assistance, and the hard work of the German people, Germany rose economically from the ashes.
One thing, however, that could not be quickly changed was the war’s stigma. Perhaps this stigma was endogenous to German politics, or it came from external reminders, or both. The fact remains that Germany continued to be a reluctant leader and continued to partner with France in moving Europe into an “ever closer union.” The pinnacle of this effort, so far, is the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). This [End Page 138] established the euro as well as a set of principles, benchmarks, and conditions that member states would follow in order to maintain a truly integrated economic market. The EMU came at a time of European and German transformations due to the end of the Cold War and the unification of Germany. Germany was well positioned to craft the EMU along its preferences, which it did to a certain extent. The criteria for joining and remaining in the Eurozone, the governance of the European Central Bank, and the principles of orthodox monetary policy all come from the German policy handbook. It is also important to note that these preferences ran against the policy handbooks of many eurozone partners. (Italy is one example.)
However, Germany could not win on one issue: how to handle those that did not follow the rules. Given that the member states did not create a truly supranational sanctioning institution, it was up to the European Council to deal with this issue when it came up. Germany failed to produce a sanctions regime due to its continuing stigma. How can this former aggressor, who has already insisted on formulating the EMU on its own terms, convince other member states that it would lead the effort in punishing those countries that violate those terms? Germany was not yet a leader in its own right. Its stigma required it to rely on France and not project a forceful image.
Many have argued that the current crisis was born out of the lack of member states’ accountability. The current crisis also comes at a time of German unity, however one that comes out of significant investment in the East and review of fiscal discipline among all the federal states. Economically, Germany is in better economic shape than its European partners. These facts point to a clear position for Germany to lead the way through the crisis. Now the question is whether to lead or to dominate. To dominate is to approach the problems of crisis through the enforcement of the euro rules, which would mean the sanctioning of wayward partners. This carries the burden of subordinating the people of these countries to austerity. Added to this challenge is a zero-sum message: why should Germans pay for the faults of other countries? The message does not encourage the formation of a common identity; rather it is one of ultimatums that reinforce an “in-group” and “out-group” existence among European nations.
As Germany navigates these waters, German Studies should keep a watchful eye, because we may witness a new German leadership of Europe, one that will require us to rethink the German image in political, cultural, economic, and historical terms. German leadership can guide Europe out of crisis with plans that foster European identity. For example, austerity needs to be coupled with the expansion of the European financing of services. The problematic countries would need to cut budgets, and the EU would need to fill in the budget gaps. Another step would be the formation of a European taxing authority. A European-wide income tax would be necessary to foster the fiscal federalism that is currently in place in countries such as Germany. The proposed taxing authority undoubtedly will require Germans to pay out more than others. [End Page 139]
German Studies can help in developing this strategy of replacing national authority in problem countries with supranational authority. It could convince people to accept austerity if the bailouts included not only help for banks and governments but also for the average citizen. The key here is to recognize fully that the people of problem countries are also European citizens, as enshrined in EU law. Therefore, there is an obligation to help them as part of the social contract governments have with their citizens. If efficient European policies substitute for faulty national policies, then the average citizen will adopt new values and a common identity. If successful, the alignment of norms, values, and identity can lead to greater fiscal responsibility and a more solvent Europe. The thanks Germany would receive would be the removal of the last vestige of its wartime stigma.
The University of Texas at El Paso
The suggestion of EU failure provokes divergent reactions from policymakers. On one side, policy experts predict doom for the euro and the entire EU, highlighting a lack of coordinated leadership in the capitals of the member states that increases both populist nationalism and broad discontent as the bite of austerity measures starts to sting. The second response, typical of “eurocrats,” suggests almost willful denial of a credible threat and an insistence that the euro cannot fail: the currency project is irreversible, the costs of failure are too great to consider, and the only solution to the crisis is to strengthen the EU and empower its financial institutions. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy summarized this policy prescription at the 2012 Europe Conference: “The answer to end the crisis is more Europe, not less Europe.”
Euro-optimists rely on the historical experience of the EU, where several crises have been resolved by increased European integration. For example, the EU was formed in response to the challenge of postwar reconstruction; it experienced quick institutional development in the 1980s as a reaction to the economically damaging “Eurosclerosis” of the 1970s; and it enforced the reformative Lisbon treaty after the European constitutional crisis of 2005. These experiences led several analysts and policymakers to claim that crisis is an important catalyst, and perhaps even a prerequisite, for European integration.
The prediction that crisis inevitably promotes integration is too simplistic, partly because it assumes all crises present the same type of challenge to the EU. Ludger Kühnhardt develops an important analytical distinction between crises in and crises of European integration to these ends.3 Crisis in integration suggests challenges to the mechanisms of integration or trouble achieving policy goals. While crises in integration can be serious and distressing, they do not challenge the legitimacy of the European project and are common occurrences in the EU. Crises in integration can be resolved with an appropriate political response, but when a policy response is inappropriate or [End Page 140] misleading, the crisis in integration can lead to a more serious crisis of integration, which involves a challenge to the fundamental ethos of integration—questioning the motives and existence of the EU itself.
Could the sovereign debt crisis be the first serious crisis of integration for the EU? The current crisis integrates political turmoil with severe and general economic recession. This is also the first economic crisis suffered while the eurozone is linked with a common currency, making the effects of isolated problems felt across the continent. The threat to the economic union also shakes the theoretical foundations of the neofunctionalist foundation of the European project, which builds European political and social unity on economic integration and assumes political integration is self-propelled.
For Europe to achieve successful integration in the face of crisis, the notion of self-propelled integration should be abandoned, and committed leadership must be identified and rigorously promoted. At the EU level, leadership must be distinguishable from national interests; it must be visible, assertive, and accountable to the European people. The voice of EU leadership must be as loud, if not louder, than that of the national leadership. At the national level, political leaders must be coordinated in their efforts to reach out to their constituents and explain why the EU is good for Europe, the country, and the individual citizen. Leaders at the EU and national levels must agree about the future of the union.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the EU has exhibited a complete lack of coordinated leadership. The European Commission lacks a personality like that of Jacques Delors, who paved the way for the single market in the face of heavy opposition. At the national level, the celebrated relationship between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, who has since been replaced by François Hollande, pales in comparison with the more energetic and productive Franco-German relationships of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, or of François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl. Rather than promoting Europe, today’s national leaders often blame the EU for unpopular decisions and take the credit for positive outcomes, behavior that dooms the European project.
The task of turning things around will not be easy, especially in the current political climate. European leaders must make substantial and sometimes unpopular institutional reforms while confronting almost instantaneous public reaction. Complaints about “democratic deficit” and accusations of elitism are common, and many fear that the supranational European project threatens individual freedom. EU leaders must endeavor to overcome fear of European autocracy and build trust in European institutions. National German leadership must play a key role in reassuring both the European and the German public that Germany’s interests in bailout are benevolent.
For the survival of the European project, Europe and especially the Mediterranean South must embrace and cooperate with Germany’s efforts to stimulate economic recovery, and Germany should endeavor to attract rather than force cooperation. The [End Page 141] language of a zero-sum bailout must be transformed into the promotion of a positive-sum investment, especially when appealing to the German public. At the same time, EU leadership, especially in the Commission, must step up and take responsibility. Merkel cannot be at the vanguard of European integration. She is a national politician responsible to her constituency, and national interests cannot lead a union of diverse member states—even if national interests are aligned with EU interests. It is vitally important for leadership to come from the supranational level, building strength from within existing institutions, and for national politicians to provide the scaffolding that stabilizes the Union.
In the end, Europe may experience further integration on the heels of this crisis. However, it will safeguard itself from future crises of integration only if EU and national leaders devote themselves to promoting the European project. In the face of overlapping German and European identities, the field of German Studies must seek to incorporate a discussion of the European dimension of German identity. And as Germany takes a leading position in pushing the EU toward increased integration, understanding the importance of national and supranational leadership will be vital for the continued relevance of German Studies, where the question of what counts as “German” is politically malleable.
Virginia Wesleyan College
The current eurozone crisis has clear implications for scholars working in the field of German Studies. The crisis has led to a variety of artistic responses that deserve attention, not only because these responses often speak directly to the challenges of integrating the heterogeneous cultures of various member nations into the ambitious project that is the EU. These artistic responses can also teach leaders in Brussels as well as decision-makers in individual countries a great deal about how to approach policy disputes by reframing the issues in cultural and aesthetic terms.
The lack of a common cultural identity, even more so than the eurozone crisis itself, appears to be the real threat to European integration. But because of an ingrained anxiety about the instrumentalization of knowledge, some academics balk at the idea of discussing their work in relation to political outcomes or economic policies. Yet those scholars working in the realm of culture, specifically those who pursue a tradition of intellectual inquiry in line with Johann Gottfried von Herder’s Counter-Enlightenment credo of cultural pluralism, are ideally situated to emphasize the vital role that culture plays—not simply as an “add-on” to political and economic life but as part of the very essence of negotiating modern social existence.
As Torsten Wöhlert and other fellows of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at The John Hopkins University have demonstrated, nations and cities receive more than just public-relations benefits from supporting robust cultural [End Page 142] sectors. These individuals rightly have noted that the economic return on cultural investments can be significant. German Studies scholars nevertheless can help situate the creative economy in all its richness by emphasizing other aspects of “return” over and above the exclusively positive economic ones. More specifically, German Studies scholars can emphasize that the creative economy speaks to the idea of nonproductive expenditure, to the ways in which innovative approaches to problems, to research, to solutions might be vetted and discussed before these approaches gain traction in the “real” world. Artists and designers learn to deal with failure and rejection quite often, and often quite well. The best among these creative professionals understand that failure and rejection are not simply obstructions to achieving desired outcomes, but rather also learning opportunities. Yet for too many proponents of the creative economy, the role of failure and rejection is often glossed over—or even ignored—in an effort to demonstrate that museum renovations and tourism revenue are better ways to make the case for culture within the contemporary context of globalization.
To focus explicitly on the complex relationships among culture, the creative economy, and the EU crisis, I organized a workshop in late June 2012 with Karin Goihl, Program Coordinator for the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität, and a fellow alumnus of the program, Dr. Matthew Miller of Colgate University. The workshop sought to address culture and the creative economy in their various relational forms and to situate cultural and aesthetic labor, and the scholarly analysis of this labor, in terms directly relevant to the question of European integration:
At a time when the German nation-state is increasingly expected to provide the political and economic means by which to prevent the collapse of the EU, this workshop seeks to provide an occasion for scholars to examine the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of the nation-state and of the EU by focusing on the persisting power of social imaginaries. In contrast to the influence of economic exigencies as well as governmental and finance-institutional policies, the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of EU integration receive noticeably less attention. This workshop will bring together projects addressing the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of the imaginary as a primary vehicle for articulating relationships between the global and the local.4
The Berlin Program workshop asked scholars to address the role of culture as part of EU integration. Yet it became clear during the event that presenters had difficulty explaining the relevance of their specialized work to the contemporary common good. At one level, the failure was no doubt a desire to resist a crass instrumentalization of knowledge. But on another level, it was symptomatic of a fundamental challenge that twenty-first century academics must acknowledge. We would do ourselves a [End Page 143] great service by asking why our work matters to nonspecialists and by reframing our arguments in the voice of public intellectuals.
EU policymakers and German Studies scholars should utilize the approaches of creative professionals in thinking through problems and solutions. The contemporary art exhibition dOCUMENTA (13), also on view during the summer of 2012, provides an ideal context for reflecting on the relationship of culture to the eurozone crisis and to the question of European integration. Situated in four locations—Kassel, Kabul, Alexandria/Cairo, and Banff—the thirteenth dOCUMENTA, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, sought specifically to mediate global political struggles through aesthetic reflection:
dOCUMENTA (13) is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. These are terrains where politics are inseparable from a sensual, energetic, and worldly alliance between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges, both ancient and contemporary. dOCUMENTA (13) is driven by a holistic and non-logocentric vision that is skeptical of the persisting belief in economic growth. This vision is shared with, and recognizes, the shapes and practices of knowing of all the animate and inanimate makers of the world, including people.5
As a potential model for a European identity realized through aesthetic engagement, a model in which difficult cultural questions are explored through cross-cultural interaction, discussion, and exchange, dOCUMENTA (13) makes clear the corporeal dimensions of the EU’s dilemma. Through mesmerizing works such as Ryan Gander’s wind installation piece I Need Something I Can Memorize (The Invisible Pull), visitors were challenged to consider contemporary threats in the context of assumed narratives of progress and betterment. Through strategically placed vents, Gander gently guided visitors through several of the mostly empty main rooms of the Fridericianum. The absence of cultural artifacts became the stage for unifying heterogeneous ideas of cultural wholeness. In situating Gander’s piece at the geographical and symbolic heart of Kassel’s dOCUMENTA (13), Christov-Bakargiev juxtaposed the violence and tragedy of more overtly political works in the exhibit, such as Natalia Almada’s film about the Mexican revolution, El General, or Sanja Iveković’s disturbing photographic and stuffed-animal installation piece about Nazi persecution, The Disobedient (The Revolutionaries). In Gander’s I Need Something I Can Memorize (The Invisible Pull), the space and time for reflection, engendered by an invisible yet corporeal and sensuous exchange, provided the ideal means for integrating diverse histories, experiences, and voices.
The frameworks of culture and the benefits of aesthetic reflection speak to the [End Page 144] lived experiences of social actors within and among the EU nation-states. As such, the role of culture and the space for exploration afforded by an adequate definition of the creative economy are key for both German Studies scholars to explore, and European and German policymakers to appreciate. We enthusiasts of culture and creativity should not hesitate to engage the eurozone crisis and the challenges of European integration directly in terms of policy. By pointing out the aporias and by introducing alternative frameworks, German Studies scholars can encourage experimentation and help facilitate the development of an array of potential solutions, while also allowing for real, human interactions among the occasionally acrimonious citizens of the European project.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Sämtliche Werke: Jubiläums-Ausgabe, ed. Eduard von der Hellen, vol. 9 (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1902–1912), 280.
2. Paul Michael Lützeler, “Goethe and Europe,” South Atlantic Review 65, no. 2 (2000): 95–113.
3. Ludger Kühnhardt, “Introduction,” in Crises in European Integration: Challenges and Responses, 1945–2005, ed. Ludger Kühnhardt (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009), 1.
4. Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies: Berlin Program Summer Workshop, German Studies Between the Global and the Local, Berlin: Freie Universität, June 25, 2012.