Nations have the History they deserve and they can rarely escape from it. What happened recently in that meeting in Brussels is another case in point. Getting Greece humiliated and on its knees (as has been more or less the case in modern times) was one thing, Germany basking in its punishing predicament, unfortunately, another. When Tsipras was essentially packed off to hell and asked to pay the full price ticket for making his way there, such treatment seemed just too familiar, too German to ignore. It was the latest stroke of what Der Spiegel has aptly described as Merkel’s high-handed ‘paedagogical imperialism’: Germany spent a good part of July 12, 2015, strangling Greece almost into a colony, twisting the knife in a way which probably sent chills down the spine of many other European leaders, as it was probably intended to do.
Enter a nation rife with nationalist tensions and political extremism, which requested that its plight be alleviated by the writing off of its surmounting financial obligations, as they simply could not be repaid. A country feeling ‘stabbed in the back’ by friend and foe alike through the signing of what she considered unfair agreements and the imposition of impossible-to-bear debt. A state where polarization was further exacerbated by unemployment, disillusionment and instability caused by a succession of ineffective opportunistic coalition governments. An economy stumbling to make it through a mountain of accruing social security payments, as crisis unfolded; an economy which felt the ripples of an international recession caused by crumbling financial markets and its very own unfortunate dependence on foreign loans to survive, while trying to keep debt payments afloat and a balanced budget in place so as to satisfy its creditors. An unexpected leader who rose through the ranks of a so-far fringe party to rule for the first time, being ‘the last hope’ of a nation of beggars. And no, this was not Greece - Germany, Adolf Hitler, 1933. In fact, Hitler came to power exactly when creditors had actually written off German debt as non-sustainable, partly enabling him to rearm the Reich and reconstruct its war machine. It was rather quite ironic that the world let Germany off the hook, only for Germany to reciprocate a few years later by an attempt to take over it.
Cue a few years fast forward. The mainstream narrative on the establishing and the historic development of the EU has been based on the romantic notion that the EU initially stemmed from the idealistic desire of its Founding Fathers to bring peace, stability and cooperation to a continent hitherto torn and tortured by war. However true to some extent that may be, one cannot though forget that in the 1950s the European project really began primarily through the immediate security concern of keeping the Germans down and the Russians out of Western Europe. Having failed after WWI to contain the Germans through the use of the Versailles Treaty stick, as WWII came to an end, this time the Allies decided to try something different- the use of a carrot. Just as had happened with the writing off of the Versailles reparations in the 1930s, German debts were for the second time in a space of a few years scrapped, so as to allow the German economy to breathe and despite being the perpetrator of atrocious crimes rarely seen before in modern times, financial assistance was also provided as a means to reconstruction. Put simply, out went the guilt, in came the American money. Whitewashing complete.
Then, a few decades down the road, the unthinkable happened, bringing the so-called ‘en-granaze’ process of Europeanisation into a halt. In the 1990s, Communism collapsed and the German Question came back to the forefront, as the re-unification of the eastern and western parts of Germany became an issue of serious security considerations, mainly for the French. No more tip-toeing around the ghosts of history, the German past had come calling and decisions had to be made. Mitterand was adamant that reunification could not be allowed, unless Germany was possibly tied down in a common monetary union which would restrain its future hegemonic capabilities and create a European Germany instead. The British and the Americans facilitated the deal and ended France’s security predicament. Feeling the weight of history on his shoulders, Kohl was quoted as saying that he fully understood the implications of being the direct successor to Adolf Hitler as the next leader-in-line of a united Germany and thus, he considered the trade off of losing the Deutsche Mark in order to gain friends as absolutely necessary. Despite the protestations of the Bundesbank and the skepticism of a whole lot of economists, who thought the Euro was designed in haste and thus, a disaster waiting to happen, European leaders went anyway ahead with the scheme. This was in essence a deja-vu moment, as the Euro was more or less another vehicle aimed at facilitating the re-integration of Germany into European affairs, while at the same time constraining its freedom of movement.
But, now, History has finally caught up with us. The future of the EU has to be laid out by the stakeholders in no uncertain terms, if things can be at all fixed. The economic has become political and fabricated pleasantries previously exchanged between partners have already been replaced by raw, bitter, painful accusations. Effective collective decision-making and a common vision and strategy for the future has been exposed for the shambles that it really is. Pretensions of solidarity can now be put forever to rest, the way in which Greece was treated probably saying more about the Germans than it says about the Greeks. Too bad that the Germans don’t get it. Same Europe no more.