Germany Needs To Decide What the EU Is For

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In a new column I respond to Gideon Rachman's interesting article in the FT, Germany faces a machine from hell, which I think takes a too-sympathetic view of recent German policy. I argue that Germany needs to remember its ambitions for the European Union and why it embarked on this venture in the first place.

For the past several decades Germany's aim for Europe has been to create a wider and deeper union. In this way it sought to advance its economic and national-security interests, to bind itself to ever closer co- operation with its neighbors, and to atone for its history. Today, the system that it designed is in danger of coming apart, and newspapers in Italy and Greece carry digitally altered pictures of Angela Merkel in Nazi uniform.

Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times: "Across southern Europe, the 'ugly German' is back -- accused of driving other nations into penury, deposing governments and generally barking orders at all and sundry." The European Union was intended to bury that caricature once and for all. Instead it has brought the ugly German back to life.

Rachman sympathizes with Berlin: The attacks on Germany are deeply unfair, he says. Germans have done plenty for southern Europe and are reluctant -- quite rightly -- to do more. True, he admits, Germany co-designed the euro monetary system, which turned out to be flawed. But what's done is done. Right now the Germans are doing all they reasonably can.

The Nazi caricatures and other anti-German slurs are disgusting and unforgivable. But Germany's leaders are much more deeply implicated in the causes and mismanagement of the European crisis than Rachman allows. I don't think it's unfair to say the plight of the European project is largely Germany's fault.

Read on.

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