Europe's Common Destiny

Alexander Goerlach is the editor of German online magazine The European. Here, in his first opinion column for Mediapart, he argues why Europe sorely needs leaders with political vision. Can you imagine Europe divided by the Iron Curtain? Hardly, I believe. The German reunification has also united the European continent. It marked the end of the Cold War, and nobody is longing to bring it back.

Alexander Goerlach is the editor of German online magazine The European. Here, in his first opinion column for Mediapart, he argues why Europe sorely needs leaders with political vision.

 

Can you imagine Europe divided by the Iron Curtain? Hardly, I believe. The German reunification has also united the European continent. It marked the end of the Cold War, and nobody is longing to bring it back. I can remember childhood days filled with fear of the Russians or of nuclear war. Today, it is a thing of the past. In the popular German cartoon "Werner", one of the protagonists keeps shouting "Russians attack!" What once used to inspire fear in post-war youths in now deployed to ridicule the demise of the Soviet empire.

Just in time for the festivities for the 20th anniversary of German reunification, the magazine SPIEGEL uncovered that the French only agreed to German unity when chancellor Helmut Kohl promised concessions about the timetable for the introduction of the Euro currency. Germans loved their Deutsche Mark, and the tense Franco-German alliance isn't helped by this story. The former Secretary of State Genscher denied the allegations; the Secretary for Reunification was red with anger.

For many Germans, Helmut Kohl remains the chancellor who brought reunification and European integration. Germany likes to see itself as the engine that powers the European Union. A story that offers a different point of view can easily offset the country's self-perception.

Europe won't move unless both Germany and France agree to lead together. The current chancellor Merkel has the guts to leave the Euro currency summit through the backdoor while the French president Sarkozy stands before the press corps to explain that French ideas and French leadership have saved the union. Merkel pushes the EU forward through her politics, not her talking points. She is not obsessed with herself as much as Sarkozy or Berlusconi are. It is equally irrelevant whether François Mitterand demanded concessions from Helmut Kohl in exchange for reunification. The European Union can only progress when visionary leaders take the helm.

The picture that shows Mitterrand and Kohl on the battlefield of Verdun, holding hands in 1984, is still an iconographic symbol for European cooperation. But the picture is dated. Twenty years after German reunification, we need another strong symbol for the unity of Europe.

Alexander Goerlach

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