Autorinnen und Autoren Jürgen Habermas

Biographie von Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas, geb. 1929 in Düsseldorf, Dr. phil., Philosoph und Sozialwissenschaftler, Professor em. für Philosophie an der Universität Frankfurt a. M., Mitherausgeber der »Blätter«.

Im Folgenden finden Sie sämtliche »Blätter«-Beiträge von Jürgen Habermas.

Jürgen Habermas in den »Blättern«

Unsere große Selbsttäuschung

In meinem Abiturzeugnis ist als Berufswunsch vermerkt: Habermas will Journalist werden. Allerdings ist mir, seitdem ich damit in der Gummersbacher Lokalredaktion des „Kölner Stadt-Anzeigers“ angefangen und dann bei Adolf Frisé für das Feuilleton des „Handelsblatts“ geschrieben habe, immer wieder bedeutet worden, dass ich zu schwierig schreibe.

Rethinking Europe

A discussion between Jürgen Habermas, Sigmar Gabriel and Emmanuel Macron

Bild: Maurice Weiss/Hertie School of Governance

This event, entitled ‘Which future for Europe?’, was hosted by the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin on 16 March 2017 and moderated by Henrik Enderlein, the Hertie School’s Vice-President.

Jürgen Habermas: I have been entrusted with the honour of saying a few introductory words about the subject of our conversation between our distinguished guest Emmanuel Macron and Sigmar Gabriel, our foreign minister who recently rose like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. Both names are associated with courageous reactions to challenging situations. Emmanuel Macron has dared to cross a red line hitherto untouched since 1789. He has broken apart the entrenched configuration of the two political camps of right and left. Given that it is impossible in a democracy for any individual to stand above the parties, we are curious to see how the political spectrum will be reconfigured if, as expected, he is victorious in the French election.

In Germany we can observe a similar impulse, albeit under different auspices. Here too, Sigmar Gabriel has chosen his friend Martin Schulz for an unorthodox role. Schulz has been welcomed by the public as a largely independent candidate for the chanchellorship and is expected to lead his party in a new direction. Although the political, economic and social situations in our two countries are very different, the fundamental mentality of citizens seems to me to reflect a similar feeling of irritation– irritation about the inertia of governments that, despite the palpably increasing pressure of the problems we face continue to muddle along without any prospect of restructuring. We feel that the lack of political will to act is paralysing, particularly given the problems that can only be resolved collectively, on a European level.

Emmanuel Macron personifies the antithesis of the passivity of political actors today. He and Sigmar Gabriel, back when both were ministers of the economy, proposed an initiative for enhanced fiscal, economic, social and political cooperation within Europe, even if unfortunately it was unsuccessful. If I recall correctly, they argued for a ministry of finance to be set up for the eurozone and for a joint independent budget, overseen by the European Parliament. They thereby hoped to create scope on a European level for flexible economic and political action, with a view to overcoming an obstacle that has inhibited closer cooperation between the member states in other areas as well. By this I mean the significant differences in rates of growth, in levels of unemployment and in national debt between the economies of the north and south of a common monetary are predicated on convergence even while its economies drift apart. Meanwhile the political cohesion of this monetary union is being worn down by its persistent and still increasing divergences in commercial performance. In the course of the implementation of an austerity regime that was bound to have dramatic and asymmetrical effects on the economies in northern and southern Europe, the divergent experiences and contrasting narratives of the various countries have given rise to aggressive reactions on both sides, and have deeply divided Europe.

Initiatives such as these can fail for all sorts of reasons, including institutional ones. For instance, it is the governments of member states, which have to justify themselves to their respective electorates, that are least equipped to assert the interests of the community as a whole; and yet, as long as there is no pan-European party system, they are the only bodies that can make any difference at all. What interests me is whether the refusal to accept the consequences of a potential redistributive policy means that any broadening of European competencies is doomed once the reallocation of financial burdens extends beyond national borders. To put it simply: does the reaction of, for example, the German public to the notorious buzzword ‘transfer union’ mean that appeals to solidarity here are bound to fail? Or are we just kicking the problem of a still-simmering financial crisis down the road, because our political elites lack the courage to tackle the burning issue of Europe’s future?[1]

On the concept of solidarity, I would simply say that since the French Revolution and the early socialist movements this expression has been used not as a moral, but as a political concept. Solidarity is not charity. Solidarity – united action supportive of one’s allies – means accepting certain disadvantages for the sake of one’s long-term self-interest, trusting that one’s partners will act similarly in comparable situations. Reciprocal trust, in our case trust that transcends national borders, is indeed a relevant variable – but so is one’s long-term self-interest. Despite what many of my colleagues assume, there is no natural or inevitable reason why issues of redistributive fairness should stop at national borders and should not also be discussed within the European community of nations – although these nations have long formed a legal jurisdiction, and nineteen of them have long been subject to the systemic constraints of the same currency union, albeit with asymmetric consequences.

To this day, European unification has remained an elite project because political elites have avoided involving the wider public in an informed debate about alternative scenarios for the future. National populations will only be able to recognize and decide what is in their own respective interests in the long run when we begin to discuss– far beyond the bounds of academic journals – the far-reaching alternatives between abandoning the euro, or else returning to a currency system allowing for a limited margin of fluctuation, or indeed opting for closer cooperation.

Global crises and the divided West

In the meantime, other problems that are now attracting more public attention anyway show that Europeans should be cooperating more closely. There is the perception of an escalating situation in global and international affairs that has slowly reached the tolerance threshold even of the Council of Europe’s governing members, shocking them out of their narrow national mindset. The crises, which must at the very least make us think about closer cooperation, are obvious: Europe’s geopolitical situation had already undergone dramatic change since the Syrian civil war, the crisis in Ukraine and the gradual retreat of the USA from the role of a global regulatory power. But now that the global power that is the United States seems to be turning away from the hitherto prevailing internationalist school of thought, Europe’s position has become even more unpredictable. With Trump’s pressure on the members of NATO to augment their military contribution, questions of external security have become even more relevant.

Moreover, the terrorist threat is not about to go away in the medium term; and the pressure of migration on Europe has become a century-defining problem. Both developments clearly demand closer cooperation from Europeans.

Finally, America’s new government threatens not only to divide the West with regard to global trade and economic policy. Nationalist, racist, anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic prejudices – which thanks to the new American government’s communication style and ideology have gained political weight – are, together with the authoritarian developments in Russia, Turkey, Egypt and other countries, forming an unexpected challenge to the way the West perceives itself both politically and culturally. Europe suddenly sees itself left to fend for itself, in the role of a defensive custodian of liberal principles supporting the sidelined majority of the American electorate.

So far, the only noticeable reaction to this tremendous pressure has been some tentative attempts to promote a ‘multi-speed Europe’ in the area of military cooperation. As I see it, this attempt is also destined to fail, unless Germany is willing at the same time to defuse the ticking time bomb of the structural economic disparities in the eurozone. As long as we pretend that this conflict doesn’t exist, we will not be able to achieve closer cooperation in any other policy area either. Besides, the vague notion of a ‘multi-speed Europe’ is aimed at the wrong targets – given that we can expect willingness to cooperate most of all from the member states of the currency union, i.e. the countries that since the outbreak of the banking crisis have been mutually interdependent and reliant on one another.

By no means do I wish to suggest that it is only Germany that has good reasons to reassess its policies. Another way in which Emmanuel Macron stands out among European politicians is that he calls problems by their name that can only be tackled in France itself. But it is now up to the German government – although it did not choose this role – to take the initiative alongside France, so that together we can turn this situation round. The blessing of being the major beneficiary of the European Union is also a curse – because, from a historical perspective, the failure of the European unification project would be attributed to the indecision of German policy, and with good reason.

Henrik Enderlein: Emmanuel Macron, you heard what Jürgen Habermas said: you are the only politician brave enough to say out loud what France can do at home to move the European debate forward. So what needs to be done?

Emmanuel Macron: Hello to you all. First of all I’d like to thank you for allowing me to speak French, since my German isn’t good enough. When I was lucky enough to be invited to the Humboldt University recently, I spoke English – naively hoping above all that at least I would be understood. But that bothered a lot of people in France, especially my opponents in the National Front, who saw this as a great insult to our language. I love the French language, I defend it – but I also think that Europe was created so that we could understand one another. Now you are giving me a double opportunity – to speak my own language and to be understood into the bargain. So I’m grateful for that.

Jürgen Habermas addressed many important issues. I think we are facing a double challenge today, one which we indeed need to tackle at a national level. The first challenge is that Europe has ceased to work as it should. Since the French and the Dutch ‘no’ to the constitutional treaty ten years ago, there have been no new proposals. And the fact that there is no longer an agenda with European proposals weakens Europe massively, because now all the talk is of division.

And yet the European adventure is driven by a logic of will. There will always be a few member states that suggest something that was hitherto inconceivable, who then succeed in bringing the others along with them. And this logic of will gradually includes everyone, according to the principle of concentric circles. But since nothing new has been put forward for ten years, apathy sets in, everyone pulls back and we have talk of Grexit and Brexit. If we do nothing, we shall have many other similar debates.

So we have to put forward a European agenda – and we have to stick to it. I think Europeans are mistaken if they think they will appeal to the general public by saying ‘Europe has become so unpopular – let’s not talk about it.’ Or, ‘let’s try not to be too European. Or ‘let’s be European, but first of all sort of nationalist’. But if you’re a timid European, you are already a defeated European – so this option isn’t one I recommend. Because today Europe is the thing that protects us from new dangers.

Let’s advocate a European agenda in our national debates

In response to Jürgen Habermas’s remarks I can perhaps highlight two points. First: Europe has stalled, because nothing new is being proposed, but above all because we are no longer managing to reconcile the ethics of responsibility with social justice – as you expressed it very well. In our country we are engaged in many debates in which social justice is interpreted in the classic sense, as redistribution between a country’s social classes. This is not a debate we are having at European level or in the eurozone.

And yet we have a problem of inequity at European level and especially in the eurozone: because at the moment our revenues are piled up in different areas, because some countries are carrying out reforms but not using them to best advantage, and because the eurozone is dysfunctional. So if we don’t have a real debate about distribution and fairness – and at the same time about responsibility – we won’t make any progress.

The chief risk is of fatally weakening the very governments that are actually pursuing reforms. Because as long as these countries are in the grip of this inequality, the reforms are too slow to yield results that are politically and socially noticeable, and then it’s the reformers who are in the wrong. And that plays into the hands of populists and extremists.

Enderlein: So does France have to reform in order to win back other countries’ trust?

Macron: Yes, and this brings me to my second point. Europe at the same time allows us to protect ourselves from the major risks that Jürgen Habermas mentioned – especially the international risks. I think that the momentum that we need to rediscover – and in any case the revival of the European project – will be achieved through the Franco-German partnership.

Today, the responsibility rests on French shoulders. Why? Because we have lost people’s confidence – that happened about fifteen years ago, when France didn’t carry out reforms. At the time France had made a commitment to tackling those reforms together with Germany, and negotiated joint exceptions from the Maastricht Treaty in order to do so. In some ways we have been trying to catch up with this history for fifteen years. So France has to restore its credibility in economic and budgetary matters – as a precondition for this discussion. But at the same time France has to spark off a movement towards more investments, towards economic revival and towards greater solidarity. Solidarity, for me, does not stop at the economic level, but on the German side also relates to immigration, security and defence.

For what concerns us today is a lack of trust, caused by the logic of direct responsibility that Europe is currently stuck with. Sigmar Gabriel and I spoke out against this almost two years ago now in a joint article, when we were both ministers of the economy in our countries.[2] So we have to solve the problems of reality and of trust.

Enderlein: So let’s talk about whether this indecision will continue, or not. Emmanuel Macron has just said that France is ready to act. Foreign Minister Gabriel, what is Germany ready to do?

Sigmar Gabriel: I think that before we succeed in doing what Professor Habermas has just called for, namely winning majorities for an extension of European competencies, we first need to change a few narratives. Because politics begins with saying what’s right. At the moment we like pointing at people who produce fake news – but there are also some bits of fake news that have become established here over the last thirty years, maybe even longer. The first bit of fake news is that Germany is the packhorse of the European Union:  We are the net contributors! We are the ones who support everyone else! Unfortunately this is a story that has been told for decades, in politics, in the media, in the economy – pretty much irrespective of who happens to be in power at any given time.

Whenever the financial structure of the European Union has been discussed, we have always stuck to the standard cross-party view that we have to reduce our net contribution – the balance of which incidentally comes to about twelve billion euros. So whenever I’m told – correctly – how important the European project is, twelve billion euros isn’t a figure that blows me away. In the German federal budget we pay more for far less important things. That’s why first of all we must stop this narrative of Germany as the packhorse of the European Union. Ultimately it serves only to pander to people’s alleged national interests. The upsurge in nationalistic feeling that we’re currently seeing is not the beginning, but the result, of thirty years of false narratives. The root of the problem is purely national narratives in the member states of the European Union, particularly in our country. Whereas the truth is that Germany is the chief profiteer, indeed the net beneficiary, of the European Union.

In political terms, there would be no united Germany without Europe – that much is obvious –but also culturally, in terms of peace, and of course more than that, commercially, financially and economically. Yes, we send more tax revenues to Brussels than we get back. But of course, you don’t become European export champions, even world champions, without producing enough steel, enough electrical technology, enough chemicals and enough machines that these products are subsequently bought not only in Germany, but in other countries as well.

And only when others are doing well do they have enough money to buy German cars – they’re expensive, partly because our wages and social security contributions are so high. And hopefully that will remain the case – we don’t want even lower wages or worse social security benefits. Therefore, as Germans, we must have a real – and indeed a purely economic – interest in the rest of Europe doing well. Because only then do we do well.

Germany as net beneficiary of the EU, not net contributor

So, far from being net contributors, we are actually net beneficiaries of the European Union. But what is the best way to break through this false narrative? My suggestion to my own party is this: in the upcoming general election campaign we should, for the first time, make an aggressive case that we are willing to invest more in Europe than the agreed one per cent of European GDP. We should even be prepared to take the strain on our own if need be, or together with others, without the same criteria being applied for all in Europe. Only with the provocative message ‘We are willing to pay more!’ will you get a debate about why, in Europe, we should actually all have a shared interest in this.

The second false narrative is to say that defence and security policies are somehow the ultimate vote-winner – because this presupposes a common world-view. By this I mean that actually we require, in the first instance, a common foreign policy concept. Not only because improving our security and defence policies will achieve nothing without social and economic progress in the EU, as Jürgen Habermas says, but also because we should not abruptly start forging ahead with defence projects on a purely national level without having a united European view of what our foreign policies should look like – because that could ultimately lead us in the wrong direction. That too is a false narrative, I believe. In Europe, foreign policy always used to be seen as paramount, particularly in defence policy – and I say that not just because I am a foreign minister, but because it should apply as a general rule. So politics starts with not telling people any fake news ourselves – which mostly only happens because people think it works better in an election campaign. We Germans in particular have to understand that a strong, united European Union is in our own interest. Our children and grandchildren will no longer have any voice in the world unless that voice is a European one – and that is why we are prepared to invest more, in our own interest and in the interests of Europe.

So, to conclude, one more point on the topic of solidarity – which is a concept that, as a social democrat, I know something about – solidarity means acting responsibly, both towards oneself and towards the community one belongs to. This responsible action is what it’s all about. And I am quite sure that if we pursue this narrative we will also obtain the majorities we need to put it into practice.

Enderlein: Jürgen Habermas made it very clear in his address that it is important not only that more is done for Europe in Germany, but also that more money is spent in other countries – that is, that the prevailing austerity policies are abandoned. But if you spend more money, you have more debts, and sooner or later someone has to pay off those debts. That might be the nation states, which are in crisis – and in that case the stability pact has to be abandoned. It might be Germany – but that doesn’t help those countries at a fundamental level. It might be the EU – but then we need to consider how these rising European debts will eventually be settled. So how should the abandonment of austerity policies be achieved?

Gabriel: Here too I think it is critical to begin with the right narrative. In Germany people always say that at the beginning of the 2000s we implemented all these great reforms and that the only mistake we made was to break the debt criteria of the Maastricht Treaty. The true story is of course that the social reforms were only possible because we were investing at the same time, and not reducing our debts. Germany’s success is the result of the fact that when we were reforming the country, we did not drive our economic development to the wall, but invested: in education – at the time the SPD–Green coalition developed the first all-day school programme – in renewable energies, in research and development.

So it borders on the irresponsible to justify policies of austerity by pointing to Germany as an example, the argument being that you can get out of the crisis if only you save enough. We did the opposite. We combined social and political reforms, as controversial as they were, with more debts than the EU permitted at the time. This is the only reason we prevented our growth from collapsing and unemployment from rising further. By the way, I would argue that otherwise we would never have got the social reforms through in any case.

And the same goes for Europe. Here too we need to get the right narrative across: if you are making reforms, you need time – or a time-out, even – to reduce deficits. If anything, you need more investment to stabilize growth and employment. Because ultimately, however much we do for Europe, it makes no difference: if the spurious pressure of austerity causes youth unemployment in countries like Italy to stand at forty per cent, why would anyone of that generation be interested in the European Union?

For me Europe always represented something hopeful. But for very many young people, Europe now represents a danger, because they have the impression that no one is helping them to find work and earn a living. That is why I think we need to tell the right story here. Only saving will inhibit reforms more than it helps them. And that is why we need more flexibility for investments at this time, rather than less.

This finally brings me to the question of how this is to be financed: which is of course by changing the debate over tax policy that we are having at the moment. It boggles the mind that the European Union loses 1.5 trillion euros every year through legal forms of tax avoidance and that we provide securities for Irish banks, but that the state there can refuse to seize fourteen billion euros from Apple that this ‘global player’ should actually have paid. It is not as if there’s no money – the question is only whether we’re prepared to let everyone have a fair share in our community. Or should every master baker in Berlin pay higher rates of tax than big corporations? That’s the important question.

If you don’t fight for Europe, you give up on it

Enderlein: Can this pro-European discourse still be at all convincing in France, Emmanuel Macron? There’s currently a heated debate there about national identity and also over the question of taxation, so about solidarity and its limits. And yet the most popular party among 18 to 24 year-olds is the National Front.

Macron: I think this line of argument in favour of Europe absolutely can be convincing, and I make a big effort to make it. Because if you don’t fight, you’ve already lost. And yet so far there hasn’t been any austerity in France. Sure enough, lots of people think there was a policy of austerity in France, but that’s not true. It was southern Europe that was hit by austerity. To take up what Sigmar has just said, the criticisms in France result from the fact that after the crisis of 2008–10, we, the Hollande government, corrected the mistakes of the past, and the mistrust that it gave rise to, by reforms.

You cannot adequately tackle the problem of social justice within Europe if you do not address the problem of the ‘moral hazard’, of moral temptation and economic irresponsibility. A lot of trust has been lost as a result. If we want to see a European revival, the real question is: How can countries implement reforms if there is no pressure to do so? And are we investing in the right place by supporting countries that implement the right reforms, or should we take a loss and invest in countries that don’t? That is the real debate that we will have – and it’s going to be a very spirited one – in Germany even more than in France.

This is why we will only make progress – beyond the flexibility that Sigmar Gabriel has called for, which some countries may be afforded – through the joint capacity to invest, i.e. by means of a budget for the eurozone. This is the only means to reconcile social justice with the problem of the moral hazard, because then there would be a European institution capable of restoring dynamism and trust in Europe. If the rules no longer permit progress, we need shared institutions to reach the next stage. We therefore need this institution at eurozone level, to create growth and foster solidarity.

Enderlein: Have you also discussed this with Chancellor Merkel?

Macron: I have discussed it with the Chancellor. I have told her that the first stage is obviously the reform in France, but that this reform cannot work if there is not a new European departure in all the matters that we’ve mentioned here. And therein lies the answer that Germany must deliver – more or less simultaneously.

We can win this debate and convince our fellow citizens that Europe is still the solution. I am impressed that in so many countries – this is true for France, for Italy and for many other countries – the commitment to Europe endures and there is a love for Europe and the European idea, even after so many years of crisis and massive difficulties. In Italy, Spain and Portugal an entire generation – the youngest – has never known anything other than mass unemployment that is directly linked to Europe. And yet, this generation remains attached to the European idea, and is therefore simply in need of a European project that operates at a level worthy of this commitment.

But this can only happen if we explain how we intend to create a future of growth and security. Therefore the European narrative that we must create – and this is exactly the same challenge that I face in this French presidential election – consists in this explanation: Europe is not this ultra-liberal vision of a mere common market, one which, if we take an honest look at our own history, we have very often been led towards by the British and a few others. What it is, is a common market free of barriers, so that we can function as a bloc of twenty-eight nations today and twenty-seven tomorrow, and a cooperative enterprise that is based on shared minimal rules and common standards and therefore highly ambitious.

But more importantly still, this European Union is a Europe that protects – in security and immigration – and that to this end must develop a common asylum policy and properly safeguard our European borders. This is a Europe that protects trade. When we were ministers of the economy and industry,[3] we fought to ensure that Europe would safeguard its steel industry against Chinese dumping. Only Europe can do that. Neither France nor Germany can resist China – but Europe can. So if we get back to our narrative of growth and protection, Europe has a future in our public spheres. But we have to accept this narrative, embrace it and stand by it. And this is something I insist on in the face of the defeatism that is far too widespread today. Initially, after I had launched my movement ‘En Marche!’, people said ‘He’s crazy. It’ll never get anywhere.’ Now people are wondering how we will govern – which is already an indication of how many obstacles we have overcome.

Yet still many people in France, Germany and England say ‘You’re completely naive. You think you can win an election by defending Europe.’ But I’m not naive at all, quite the opposite. I think you can win an election today by defending Europe, as long as you do so honestly. Not a Europe that isn’t working, in other words, but a European project.

We need fierce debates

Earlier Sigmar showed me the SPD archive in the Willy Brandt House. We were quite emotional as we looked at the Élysée Treaty. Where was public opinion in Germany and France when the first European initiatives were launched? I would say that if people at the time had talked as far too many are doing today, we would never have seen the European Coal and Steel Community, or the Treaties of Rome, or the Élysée Treaty.

So we must not be under any illusions: just because our democracies are so strongly dictated by public opinion, or because the media are more prominent, does not mean that our political representatives should simply follow public opinion. Instead, we should explain what ways we can find to achieve success, even if they upset public opinion. Let us resist this contemporary treason of the intellectuals![4] This manifests itself today in the belief that Europe is finished, that it is no longer a relevant concept for the challenges of our time and that nationalism or brutality are the right answers to our current experiences.

Enderlein: Surely we can also lose this debate about the idea of Europe? That’s what we’ve just seen in Britain.

Macron: This is the danger we face if we do not lead this debate. If we don’t front up to this battle and admit defeat, then we will lose. That much is certain. So we must lead this discussion. We need fierce debates. We have to say things that some people might find unpleasant.

By the way, the best thing is to take the lead in one’s own country in this complex debate. To be honest, I am not going to give the Germans lessons and explain to them that they have to invest. Many French people have already done this. We are the kings of teaching the Germans lessons. But what is far more useful is if I explain this to the French people: if we are to rediscover our dignity, our ability to act and to defend the idea of Europe, we first need to pursue reforms at home, so as to initiate something far more powerful in Europe. That’s why I also think that what both of you have been doing is very helpful – that is to say, if intellectuals and politicians say with one voice ‘We need more investment and more solidarity’. Nor should we fetishize budgetary consolidation, or even potential inflationary risks – which, to be honest, does not seem to me to be the biggest risk currently facing Germany.

Enderlein: Let me ask Sigmar Gabriel this question too: Can we lose this political debate about Europe? Can one even take this risk by going on the offensive?

Gabriel: Emmanuel Macron is right, of course: if you don’t even try, you’ve already lost. And besides, I am a firm believer that this is a debate we can only win. That’s what we learned from the French Enlightenment: ultimately those who espouse the enlightened view will triumph. They sometimes suffered setbacks, and sometimes even defeats. But the history of the Enlightenment shows us that they prevail in the end. And why should that not be the case here?

Enderlein: Jürgen Habermas, you said in your introduction that there is no natural law that dictates that questions of distributive fairness need to stop at national borders. Well, we can ask the question: why is Europe, specifically, the correct category here? It could equally be the nation state, or a region, or even the whole world. So why is this Europe so significant?

Habermas: History is full of accidents – all the more reason to trust in paths on which we are already travelling. We have invested half a century – sixty years, to be precise, since the Treaties of Rome were signed – in an extraordinarily demanding project. And now the question is not ‘why Europe?’ but rather: ‘Is there any reason to abandon this project that has advanced so far?’ – even if its successes are now no longer viewed in the light that they deserve, because, in the course of a wrongheaded crisis policy, we have reached a state of deep division within Europe.

We are sitting here discussing this question of Europe’s future because we have reached a historically critical moment. Having made so many efforts to create a legal jurisdiction in Europe that works and that we all belong to not simply by virtue of our passport, and having made so many efforts to create a common economic area and a common currency, which it would be infinitely more costly to abandon than any alternative – having done all this we need to look at how to keep the things that we’ve achieved, but above all how to correct the mistakes that have manoeuvred us into a pretty difficult situation. These mistakes are in large part the result of the economic asymmetries between the national economies of the member states, which were made even worse by the rather contrived and technocratic programme that the Council of Europe devised to resolve the problem. Sigmar Gabriel is right: in order to finally engage the general public in the policies that have such a profound impact on their lives, we need the narratives that will correct the preconceptions that have now become ingrained. Unfortunately, given the increasing opposition that we face, we don’t have much time.

Emmanuel Macron understandably argued on the basis of the status quo: his position is that the French cannot tell the German government what to do – nor should they want to – and that first of all they should resolve their own national problems. Except, Mr Macron, as I see it this isn’t enough in the current situation. Shouldn’t you be thinking about what you want to achieve in and for Europe when you next visit Martin Schulz or Angela Merkel as French president? In other words, what can be achieved only by working together.

Let’s renew a Franco-German relationship based on trust

Enderlein: Before Emmanuel Macron responds, I’d like to combine that with one final question and take up something that Jürgen Habermas has just said: What would be the first initiative that a President Macron would introduce? What is the most important initiative, as far as Europe is concerned, on the day after the election?

Macron: First of all, I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding: I have not abandoned myself to defeatism on this issue, and nor am I in any doubt that we need to create a different narrative. Sigmar and I have picked up on this idea time and time again. I’ve written about what I want for Europe and the eurozone. But I say this in a strict order of priorities: if we want to be credible, we first need to carry out the reconstruction that’s needed at home. But I don’t see that as an unalterable state of affairs.

What I’m trying to explain is that, yes, I am committed to reforms in France and consider them necessary for my country. But it’s not enough to stop there. For one thing, that is unsatisfactory for France. I won’t solve all France’s problems: the future of France lies in a policy focused on Europe and on investment. Second, I won’t solve all Europe’s problems on my own. And the road map that sets out the path we need to take together – to which, by the way, we have already committed ourselves in the EU – is much more ambitious. So in this respect there is no ambivalence at all. And I was just as clear about this when I spoke to Chancellor Merkel.

But right now, the essential precondition is the restoration of French credibility and a Franco-German relationship based on trust. Because the situation I find myself in is not one of an independent intellectual, but of an accountable politician who is standing for office and who seeks a return to a successful partnership with our German allies. The key, for me, therefore lies in rebuilding a level of trust that currently no longer exists. This may also have something to do with France’s habit in the past of sometimes offering lessons, narratives or opinions without delivering the necessary preconditions for them to be put into practice.

I am honest with myself, which is why I want to deal with both projects in the right order. So I want to convince my fellow citizens that we need reforms to become stronger, and I want to convince our European partners that this needs to go hand in hand with far more assertive goals on a European level and in the eurozone – that’s to say with a new narrative, a new common story – in order for us to move forward.

It is this common story that I intend to tackle as my very first act. I want to see much more structured Franco-German cooperation on at least three issues: investment, common security at our borders, and defence, especially in the Middle East and in Africa. And I believe that this must indeed be backed up with acts of symbolism.

If we pull off this ‘Franco-German New Deal’, we will have taken a very important step. It will allow us to set in motion further progress among all twenty-seven states and at the eurozone level. But even in our two countries, this initiative will lead to our investing in something approximating to a new answer to the big risks we face.

Because what are our peoples afraid of, at the moment? The problems of security and terrorism, the waves of migration and the security at our borders, as well as the problems with investment and low growth. The three answers to these problems that I have described are within our grasp if we decide to operate differently, and if we decide to act together and really trust one another.

Public opinion in both our countries is aware of the global risks, but is not automatically willing to go down the European road. I am sure that if you asked the German public to support a large-scale investment policy for Europe, that wouldn’t work. And if I asked people at home about a large-scale policy of common defence of our borders, the French would not be wildly enthusiastic. But was there any great appetite among the French and Germans to pool their coal and steel resources all those decades ago? No. But it still had to be done.

The three actions of solidarity I have described are in areas where partly France and partly Germany are marginally predominant. What I want to do is act swiftly and decisively after the elections to press ahead with these projects together. 

Translation by Saul Lipetz

[1] There have been some commendable and far from discouraging empirical studies conducted on this issue, by Jürgen Gerhards, HolgerLengfeld, Monika Eigenmüller and others; but these can of course lay claim only to a limited prognostic value. The real test lies in practice, with all its risks.

[2] Sigmar Gabriel and Emmanuel Macron, ‘Why Europe must become a social union’, in Die Welt, 4 June 2015.

[3] Emmanuel Macron held this office between August 2014 and August 2016, Sigmar Gabriel between December 2013 and January 2017 (ed.).

[4] In the original ‘trahison des clercs’, a reference to the book of the same name by Julien Benda (1927/1946). In it he criticizes the tendency of contemporary intellectuals towards nationalism, fascism or communism, which, he argues, represent the abandonment of universalism.

For a democratic polarization

Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik: After 1989, all the talk was of the ‘end of history’ in democracy and the market economy; today we are experiencing the emergence of a new phenomenon in the form of an authoritarian/populist leadership – from Putin via Erdogan to Donald Trump. Clearly, a new ‘authoritarian international’ is increasingly succeeding in defining political discourse. Was your exact contemporary Ralf Dahrendorf right in forecasting an authoritarian twenty-first century? Can one – indeed must one – speak of an epochal change?

Jürgen Habermas: After the transformation of 1989-90, when Fukuyama seized on the slogan of ‘post-history’, which was originally coined by a ferocious kind of conservatism, his reinterpretation expressed the short-sighted triumphalism of western elites who adhered to a liberal belief in the pre-established harmony of market economy and democracy. Both of these elements inform the dynamic of social modernisation, but are linked to functional imperatives that repeatedly clash. The balance between capitalist growth and what was accepted by the populace as a halfway fair share in the average growth of highly productive economies could be brought about only by a genuinely democratic state. Historically speaking, however, such an equilibrium, one warranting the name of ‘capitalist democracy’, was the exception rather than the rule. That alone made the idea of a global consolidation of the ‘American dream’ an illusion.

The new global disorder, the helplessness of the USA and Europe with regard to growing international conflicts, is profoundly unsettling; the humanitarian catastrophes in Syria or South Sudan are unnerving, as are Islamist terror acts. Nevertheless, I can’t recognise in the constellation you indicate a uniform tendency towards a new authoritarianism; rather, I see a variety of structural causes and many coincidences. What connects them is nationalism in its various shades, which has now begun to appear in the West. Even before Putin and Erdogan, Russia and Turkey were by no means ‘unblemished democracies’. Had the West pursued a somewhat cleverer policy, the course of relations with both countries may have been set differently – and liberal forces in their populaces may have been strengthened.

Aren’t we retrospectively over-estimating the West’s capabilities here?

Of course, given the sheer variety of its divergent interests, it wouldn’t have been easy for ‘the West’ to choose the right moment to deal rationally with the geo-political aspirations of a relegated Russian superpower, or with the expectations of a tetchy Turkish government as regards European policy. The case of the egomaniac Trump, highly significant for the West over all, is of a different order. With his disastrous election campaign, he has brought to a head a process of polarisation that the Republicans have been running with cold calculation since the 1990s. They are escalating this process so unscrupulously that the ‘Grand Old Party’ – the party of Abraham Lincoln, don’t forget – has utterly lost control. This mobilisation of resentment is giving vent to the social dislocations of a superpower in political and economic decline.

What I do see as problematic, therefore, is not the model of an authoritarian international that you hypothesise, but the shattering of political stability in our western countries as a whole. In any judgment of the retreat of the USA from its role as the global power ever ready to intervene to restore order, one has to keep one’s eye on the structural background – which is affecting Europe in similar manner.

The economic globalisation that Washington, with its neoliberal agenda, introduced in the 1970s, has – measured globally against China and the other emergent BRIC countries – caused a relative decline of the West. Our societies must come to terms with this global decline, together with the technology-induced, explosive growth in the complexity of everyday life, at a domestic level. Nationalist reactions are gaining ground in social milieus that have either never or only inadequately benefited from the prosperity gains of the big economies, because the ever-promised ‘trickle-down effect’ failed to materialise over the decades.

Even if there is no unequivocal tendency towards a new authoritarianism, we are clearly experiencing a massive shift to the Right, indeed a rightwing revolt. The Brexit campaign was the most prominent example of this trend in Europe. As you yourself recently put it, you ‘did not reckon with a victory for populism over capitalism in its country of origin’. Every sensible observer cannot but have been struck by the irrational nature not just of the outcome of the referendum but of the campaign too. One thing is clear: Europe is also increasingly being seduced by populism, from Orban and Kaczynski to Le Pen and the Alternative for Germany. Are we are going through a period in which irrational politics becomes the norm in the West? Some parts of the Left are already making the case for reacting to right-wing populism with a left-wing version of the same.

Before reacting purely tactically, the puzzle has to be solved as to how it came about that rightwing populism stole the Left’s own topics. The last G-20 summit delivered an instructive piece of theatre in this regard. One read of the assembled heads of government’s alarm at the ‘danger from the Right’ that might lead nation states to close their doors, raise the drawbridge and lay waste to globalised markets. In line with this mood is the astonishing change in social and economic policy that one of the participants, the British prime minister Theresa May, announced at the last Conservative party conference, which caused waves of anger as expected in the pro-business media. May had clearly studied the social reasons for Brexit thoroughly; in any case, she is trying to take the wind out of the sails of rightwing populism by reversing the previous party line and setting store by an interventionist ‘strong state’, in order to combat the marginalisation of the ‘abandoned’ parts of the population and the increasing divisions in society. Given this ironic reversal of the political agenda, the Left in Europe must ask itself why rightwing populism is succeeding in winning over the disaffected and disadvantaged for the false path of national isolation.

Socially acceptable globalisation through supranational co-operation

What should a leftwing response to the rightwing challenge look like?

The question is why leftwing parties don’t go on the offensive against social inequality by embarking on a co-ordinated and cross-border taming of unregulated markets. The only sensible alternative – both to the status quo of feral financial capitalism and to a völkisch or left-nationalist retreat into the supposed sovereignty of long-since hollowed-out nation states – is, I suggest, a supranational form of co-operation that aims to shape a socially acceptable, political reconfiguration of economic globalisation. International treaty regimes are insufficient; aside from their dubious democratic legitimacy, political decisions over questions of redistribution can only be carried out within a stable institutional framework. That leaves only the stony path of institutional deepening and embedding of democratically legitimised co-operation across national borders. The European Union was once such a project – and a political union of the eurozone could still be one. But the hurdles within the domestic decision-making process are rather high for that.

Since Clinton, Blair and Schröder, social democrats have swung over to the prevailing neoliberal line in economic policies because that was, or seemed to be promising politically; in the ‘battle for the centre ground’, these political parties thought that the only way to win majorities was by adopting a neoliberal course. This meant tolerating long-standing and growing social inequalities. This price – the economic and socio-cultural abandonment of ever-greater parts of the populace – has since become so high that the reaction to it vents itself on the right. And where else? If there is no credible and pro-active perspective, then protest must retreat into expressive, irrational forms.

Even worse than the rightwing populists themselves seems to be the risk of ‘contagion’ among the established parties throughout Europe. Under pressure from the Right, the new British prime minister has undertaken a hard-line policy of deterring and even expelling foreign workers and migrants; in Austria, the Social Democrat chancellor wants to restrict the right to asylum by emergency decree and, in France, François Hollande has been governing for nearly a year in a state of emergency, to the delight of the Front National. Is Europe strong enough to counter this rightwing revolt, or are republican achievements being irreversibly eroded?

As I see it, domestic politicians mishandled rightwing populism from the start. The mistake of the established parties lies in acknowledging the battlefront that rightwing populism is defining: ‘Us’ against the system. It hardly matters whether this mistake takes the form of an assimilation or a confrontation with the ‘Right’. Take the strident, would-be French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is outbidding Marine Le Pen with his demands, or the sober-minded German justice minister Heiko Maas, who forcefully confronts (AfD co-founder and spokesman) Alexander Gauland in debate – both strengthen their opponents. Both take them seriously and raise their profile. Here in Germany, all know the studiously ironic grin of (AfD leader) Frauke Petry and the behaviour of the rest of the leadership of her ghastly troupe. Only by ignoring their interventions can one can pull the ground from under the feet of the rightwing populists.

But this requires willingness to open up a completely different front in domestic politics, by making the aforementioned problem the key issue: how do we regain the political initiative vis-à-vis the destructive forces of unbridled capitalist globalisation? Instead, the political scene is predominantly grey on grey; for example, it is no longer possible to distinguish the leftwing, pro-globalisation agenda of giving political form to a global society growing together economically and digitally, from the neoliberal agenda of political abdication in the face of blackmail by the banks and unregulated markets.

Political contrasts therefore need to be made recognisable again, including the contrast between the ‘liberal’ open-mindedness of the Left – in a political and cultural sense – and the nativist drivel of rightwing critiques of unfettered economic globalization. In a word: political polarisation again needs to crystallise between the established parties on substantive issues. Parties that give rightwing populists attention rather than contempt should not expect civil society to disdain rightwing slogans and violence. Therefore, I regard the greater danger to be a very different polarisation towards which the hard-core of the opposition within the CDU seems to be tending when it comes to what happens after Merkel. It sees in Alexander Gauland the pivotal figure of the (national conservative) Dregger wing of the old Hesse CDU, in other words its own flesh and blood, and toys with the idea of winning back lost voters through a coalition with the Alternative for Germany.

A breeding ground for a new fascism

Even verbally, much seems to be giving way these days: politicians are increasingly denounced as ‘enemies of the people’ and openly abused; Alexander Gauland calls Angela Merkel a ‘dictatorial chancellor’. Along the same lines is the gradual rehabilitation of Nazi jargon: Frauke Petry wants to return the concept of völkisch to everyday speech, (the AfD politician) Björn Höcke refers to ‘degenerate politics’, and a CDU MP from Saxony reverts to classic Nazi diction about ethnic cleansing – and all of this without consequence.

The only lesson democratic parties should draw as regards dealing with people who use such language is: stop pussyfooting around with these ‘concerned citizens’ and dismiss them curtly for what they are – the breeding ground for a new fascism. Instead of which, we are still witnessing the comic ritual, well-practised in the old FRG, of a compulsive balancing-act: every time ‘right-wing extremism’ is mentioned, one feels obliged to point hastily to a corresponding ‘left-wing extremism’, as if to avoid embarrassment.

How do you explain the receptivity to the AfD’s rightwing populism in eastern Germany and the sheer number of far-Right crimes there?

Of course, one should be under no illusions about the electoral success of the AfD in western parts of Germany, for example Baden-Württemberg – even if the aggression of (the AfD politician) Jörg Meuthen towards the liberal-left legacy of the ’68 generation suggests not so much rightwing extremism as a leftover from the old Federal Republic. In the west, the rightwing prejudices of AfD voters seem mainly to be filtered through a conservative milieu that had no chance to develop in the former GDR. The west also has to answer for those right-wing radicals who, immediately after 1990, moved from the old FRG to the east in their droves, bringing with them the necessary organisational talents. However, judging by the familiar statistical data, an unfiltered susceptibility to diffuse authoritarian prejudices and ‘old continuities’ is definitely greater in eastern Germany. Insofar as this potential emerged from people who were not non-voters anyway, it remained more or less inconspicuous until the recent refugee policy, which acted as a catalyst: until then, these voters had either been attracted by the selective view and national goodwill of the eastern CDU or to a large extent absorbed by the Left Party. Up to a point, that may have served a positive purpose. But it is better for a democratic body politic when questionable political mind-sets are not swept under the carpet for good.

On the other hand, the west – in other words the former government of West Germany, which defined the mode of reunification and the reconstruction and that now bears political responsibility for the consequences – might even end up as the villain in terms of how history judges these facts. Whereas the population of the former West Germany had, under good economic conditions, the chance, in public discussions lasting over decades, to free itself from the legacy of the Nazi period and from contaminated mind-sets and elites continuing in office, the population of the former GDR had no opportunity after 1990 to make their own mistakes and be forced to learn from facing the Nazi past.

In Germany, the AfD has placed the above all the CDU/CSU into strategic turmoil. Politicians from the CDU and CSU recently drafted a formal appeal for a ‘core’ national culture to preserve the inherited cultural framework, in order to prevent ‘patriotism being taken over by the wrong people.’ The appeal stated that: ‘Germany has a right to stipulate what should be self-evident’ and called for promotion of ‘rootedness in a homeland one has come to love and a lived experience of patriotism’. In the old FRG, with the growing acceptance of democracy, the Basic Law increasingly acted as the ‘core’ culture; its recognition became the standard for successful integration. Are we experiencing today the transference of this constitutional-patriotic core culture into a new mainstream German culture consisting of habit and custom, such as the duty to shake hands on greeting somebody?

We assumed, clearly over-hastily, that Angela Merkel’s CDU had left the backwards-looking debate of the 1990s behind it. Refugee policy has brought to the surface an internal opposition that combines the descendants of the national-conservative wing of the old western CDU/CSU with the converts of the eastern CDU. Their appeal marks the seam at which the CDU would split apart as a party if forced to decide between conducting the integration of refugees according to constitutional standards, on the one hand, and according to the ideas of the national majority culture on the other. The democratic constitution of a pluralistic society provides cultural rights for minorities so that they have the opportunity to practice their culture within the limits of the law. The obligation upon immigrants of a different background to subordinate themselves to an inclusive majority culture is therefore incompatible with a constitutional integration policy. This demands the differentiation between a traditional majority culture rooted in the country, and a political culture equally accessible to all citizens.

However, this political culture also includes the historical context of the country, which influences how citizens understand themselves and interpret constitutional principles. Civil society must expect of the immigrant citizens that they grow into this political culture, without being able to enforce it legally. The report published in Der Spiegel by Navid Kermani, a German of Iranian origin, about his visit to the former concentration camp at Auschwitz is a moving and illuminating example: in the language-mix of visitors from many countries, he opted to join the silent group of the Germans, the descendants of the perpetrator generation. At any rate, it was not the German language of the group that moved him to do so.

Given that political culture does not remain static in a living democratic culture of debate, naturalized citizens as much as those of longstanding German descent have the right to bring their voice to bear on the process of developing and changing this common political culture. The defining power of these voices is best exemplified by the successful writers, film directors, actors, journalists and scientists from the families of former Turkish ‘guest workers’. Attempts to legally conserve a national core culture are not only unconstitutional but also unrealistic.

The Chancellor’s career as a political poster child

In Die Zeit of 7 July, you criticized, from the perspective of an ‘engaged newspaper reader’, a ‘certain conformity of the Press’, without which Merkel’s ‘policy of lulling everybody to sleep’ would not have worked. Clearly, since Merkel’s refugee policy, we are experiencing a new polarisation. Do you think this offers a chance of finally thinking in political alternatives?

On the contrary, given the fixation on the Alternative for Germany, I fear a further levelling of the differences between the parties. When I spoke about the policy of lulling people to sleep, I was referring to Europe. Regarding the future of the European Union, nothing has changed since Brexit. For example, you read virtually nothing about the new escalation of the conflict between finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and the IMF, which has quit the aid programme for Greece. Without an initiative that changes the crippling policy of austerity, the readiness inside Europe for co-operation will equally fail to develop in other policy areas.

After Brexit, in an interview with Die Welt, Wolfgang Schäuble publicly recanted on his forward-looking proposal for a pro-active core Europe that he and (CDU politician) Karl Lamers had drafted at the start of the 1990s. Angela Merkel, who has gained the reputation both as a pleasantly rational, pragmatic politician as well as a short-sighted, power-driven opportunist, surprised me with her constructive refugee policy. Her latest trip to Africa shows that she does have the capacity and willingness to act in a strategic and far-reaching manner. But what does it mean when – and this has been the case since 2010 – her policy on Europe is determined by the narrow perspective of national economic selfishness. She seems to think only in terms of national interest in the very policy area where it is incumbent on our government to provide the impulse for building and developing the EU. Merkel’s short-sighted austerity policy, which sticks rigidly to the status quo, has prevented the necessary progress and has hugely deepened the splits within Europe.

You have long demanded a trans-nationalisation of democracy, in other words the strengthening of the EU, in order to compensate for nation states’ loss of control in a highly interdependent global society. Yet the longing for a retreat into the cocoon of the nation state is clearly growing. Given the current state of the EU and its institutions, do you see even the remotest realistic chance of fighting back against this re-nationalisation?

The negotiations over Brexit will certainly bring this issue back onto the agenda. I do still endorse the internal differentiation between a political euro-union that works ever closer together (keyword: core Europe) and a periphery of member-states that prefer to wait things out and that can join the core at any time. There are so many political reasons and economic facts that speak for this that I think politicians would do better to believe in people’s ability to learn, rather than to justify their abandonment of political intervention by fatalistically referring to unalterable systemic forces. With her withdrawal from nuclear energy and her path-breaking refugee policy, Angela Merkel’s career offers two remarkable counter-examples to the notion that no room exists for political manoeuvre.

Translation by Social Europe

Europe and the "new German question"

Bild: ECFR

Addressing a panel hosted by the European Council on Foreign Relations and the Mercator Foundation on 6 April 2011, Jürgen Habermas criticized political elites for shirking their responsibility of delivering Europe to its citizens, instead relying on opportunism that threatens to "sink 50 years of European history". Germany in particular is at a crossroads in terms of re−imagining its place in the world (and its place in Europe), a task that German leaders, so far, have met with uninspired policies and politics. (Habermas' speech is available in German here.)

In the ensuing debate, published below, political, legal and economic experts took up Habermas' criticisms, addressing in particular the question of the role of the German government in policies leading to what is being seen as the European Union's crisis of democratic legitimacy. Is Germany's perceived withdrawal from the common European project at the heart of the current crisis?


Ulrike Guérot: Joschka Fischer, to begin right away with Jürgen Habermas' central idea: Is it true that Germany is once again staking an unabashed claim to leadership in a Europe that is increasingly shaped by Germany? Is this the trend of the age and are we therefore seeing a kind of renationalization of Germany, to the detriment of Europe?

Joschka Fischer: Jürgen Habermas' findings are impossible to disagree with, in the sense that the facts simply bear out his conclusions. But this "renationalization" does not express a conscious decision in the sense of a strategic U−turn, in the sense that on 9 November 1989 Germany made this great reversal back to the nation state. My impression is rather that, for several years now, this development is simply what is happening. Which, it must be said, does not improve the situation in the slightest. Of course the failure of the European constitutional treaty plays an important role in this, since the optimism connected with it has evaporated. I think the criticism of the treaty and its requirements as having been too ambitious is wrong, not least in view of what came next. It was not the oft−criticized ambition and emotionality of the European debate, particularly on the constitution, that led to failure; true cross−border democracy on a European scale could have done with this kind of emotion and engagement. That is the quintessence of the last few wasted years. The Lisbon treaty plainly cannot fill this emotional gap, for all its legal and administrative complexity.

What we experience today when we venture outside Europe is a fundamentally different global reality, which could not be in more marked contrast to the European one. If we look at China or the other BRIC states, or the reorientation of the USA, it's frankly laughable to imagine that even the "big three" in Europe −− Great Britain and France, the two most powerful states, both nuclear powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, the most powerful country economically and with the largest population −− could on their own still play a globally significant role.

If we look at the economic facts and our mutual dependency, and the fact that the welfare state, the stability of our democratic system and the prosperity of the German population all require a large German national economy, it becomes simply ludicrous to continue to talk of a German domestic market. The interconnections in the European common market are much too close for that.

The euro is indeed coming under fire at the moment, but none of the professors vocally advocating a return to the deutschmark have said what the costs of doing so would be. And with good reason, since the costs would be huge and, believe it or now, the very country that has been the number one winner from the euro would become the chief loser. And guess which country we are talking about here? Yes −− ours.

The facts all argue, especially from the German perspective, not only for pressing on with the process of European integration, but for pushing it to its conclusion. If we look at the effects of the EU's strategic weakness on its neighbouring countries, we see how the situation is stagnating and even threatening to reverse the progress that has been made −− for instance in the Balkans, in Bosnia and other countries that are undoubtedly part of Europe, and no one disputes that the Balkans are part of Europe. And if we look further, we see how Turkey is moving further and further away from Europe and taking on an independent role; I wouldn't be surprised if Turkey were increasingly to take over the role of Europe in our immediate neighbourhood in the Mediterranean and also in the Middle East −− not in economic terms, but politically. And when we consider the current security issues in the case of Libya −− that is to say, the inability of the Europeans to reach a common policy on security and foreign affairs −− then it becomes clear that in this country, even at the very top of government, it has not yet been understood that there can be no European foreign and security policy without unity among the "Big Three". Naive as I am, I thought that it was genetically inherited there should never again be a "two against one" conflict in Europe and that we should all act concertedly. But that's the very opposite of what we're seeing now.

And on top of that, Germany is now renouncing its leading role in the economic and particularly the currency crisis. This, although the Chancellor had just one decision to make: will she defend the euro or not? As the German Chancellor, her only option was to say yes. Any further hesitation was only going to be counterproductive.

The return of the great crisis

This is the current sorry state of Europe, and Germany plays a big part in that. It reminds me a little of the period of the 1880s and 1890s; to paraphrase Karl Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire, today we are seeing the tragedies of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries repeated as farce. Even Max Weber argued at the time, together with many others of his generation, that Germany had to escape from Bismarck's system of balance and equilibrium, since without Germany's entry into world politics the whole unification project would have been worthless. We know how that ended.

Fortunately no threat on the same scale faces us today, but the same mentality has returned. And yet nothing has changed in the German position, in the basic facts or in the fundamental situation. We are too big to be a Switzerland −− something many people would welcome, but it won't work −− and too small to be able to pursue an independent foreign policy on a global scale. None of that has changed, except that we now feel powerful again. This is where the comparison with the late 1880s and early 1890s comes in: this feeling of strength is a dangerous tendency −− albeit one not about to lead to a new tragedy, just to make myself clear. Germany is and has been the driving force behind European integration, for its own historical reasons. If this Germany now no longer views the continuation of European integration as its supreme interest, then integration will not only stagnate, but actually regress.

Sociological and societal factors come into play as well: Europeans are getting older and older, they feel weak and rightly suspect that they could lose out. This confused sense of threat is transferred to immigrants −− yet at the same time we are heavily dependent on immigration. This is another contradiction that puts a huge brake on the process of European integration from the bottom up −− Euroscepticism and xenophobia are close bedfellows in most European member states.

This means that conditions are far from good. If de facto renationalization intensifies, the European project will be massively jeopardized.

Failure of economic leadership

As far as economic and financial questions are concerned, and they are of central importance in all of this, I see a very serious failure of leadership on Germany's part, which is greatly damaging to us too. Henrik Enderlein will go into this in more detail, but I would simply like to give an example.

The German pensioner who until recently had several good reasons to be distrustful of large banks would loyally take her savings to the supposedly safer local savings banks, to the Sparkasse. But before this grandmother had even reached home, her money might already have reached the southern periphery of Europe, where it was being offered out at fantastically low rates of interest. Greek citizens thought it was Christmas all year round. So they started spending −− big time. After all, getting into debt was so cheap.

And guess what the Greeks spent it all on? Those wonderful top−of−the−range cars and other vehicles, all sorts of marvellous products, mass−produced for the most part in Germany. And thus grandmother's savings returned via the economic cycle and began working here as a growth turbine. The fear of the so−called "haircut" of Greek debts is therefore in essence the fear that German banks and insurance companies with Greek debt documents could be affected.

Well, in the case of Greece it could indeed be said that they had done unacceptable things that should never be repeated. In the case of Ireland, on the other hand, the same cannot be said, since their levels of debt were actually lower than ours. Money earned in the backrooms of Dublin was enjoyed by German banks, whether under Social Democrat or Christian Democrat control. But no one explains this critical point to our citizens.

And here I come to the failure of leadership: Why is no clear position taken in this country? Why is no debate initiated? Of course the debate will be hard−fought, but that is necessary in a democracy, because this is about an act of material solidarity, about the fact that responsibility needs to be taken and shared around. What I see here is a very serious failure on the part of the Chancellor, because this needs to be led from the top.

Even if Jürgen Habermas rightly points to the need for a pan−European process of political interest−formation, I can't at the moment see any alternative to the intergovernmental method, because there is no chance of any remotely ambitious change to the Lisbon treaty ever being passed. It will quite simply founder on the objections of certain member states. But what we now need is precisely some far−reaching decision−making in order to properly restore the economic and fiscal union.

The democratic deficit

The European Parliament (EP) remains indispensable as a basis for legitimacy in a formal sense. Nevertheless this was for me one of the major disappointments of the constitutional treaty. It was an error to believe that with a new convention structure, one that included the representatives of the national parliaments and the European Parliament, the existing deficit of legitimacy in European structures could simply be removed. The legitimate power of the European Parliament as opposed to the national sovereign states is −− let me put it mildly −− very small indeed. The European Parliament also stands for the distance of Brussels and not the representation of each of the national sovereign states on a European level. That might be regrettable, but it is the case nonetheless.

That's why in my opinion we need a further, not merely formal, but also substantially legitimizing element. By this I mean signing up national governments to actively campaign for majorities in these European questions. Not only for formal majorities in parliament, in which governments tell parties that now they need to vote in favour, but for genuine majorities among the people. This would mean conducting a real debate in society −− and that involves taking a risk.

So as not to solely criticize Angela Merkel −− something she clearly deserves on this issue −− I have to be honest and include the opposition. When I look at the German federal parliament and the parties represented there, in all seriousness I see no one among the younger generation currently in charge who might be prepared to develop a vision of Europe, to make an intellectual investment in that vision and thus put part or all of their political destiny on the line. I simply don't see that.

As long as this is the case, the de facto process of renationalization will continue. Of course the supreme responsibility lies with the Chancellor as the head of government. But it also lies with the political parties: without a serious debate in each national public sphere about how to overcome this crisis and whether we really do want to proceed towards the realization of an economic and fiscal union, in other words, towards a solidarity union or transfer and stability union, without this fundamental debate I don't see how the European Union will be able to work in the long term. And exactly the same goes for common foreign and security policy.

That's is why I take the view that democracy develops above all through the pressure of crisis. At the moment it doesn't yet look as though this crisis will be powerful enough to push that democratic process into action. Right now I get the impression that Europe is running out of steam. Nevertheless, I still hope that pressure will build up through this chain of events and that this will really trigger off democratic mobilization. But this also means that the Eurosceptics will become much stronger. That's why those who want Europe should finally say where it is that they want to go. For me this goal is no longer something confused or abstract, some kind of legal construct sui generis. Of course, that is what it will ultimately be, but the child needs a name, and I believe that what we are talking about is the fulfilment of a United States of Europe.

The right policy for a country that doesn't exist

Ulrike Guérot: If I interpret Joschka Fischer's diagnosis correctly, the real risk is not a massive crash, but the gradual crumbling and decline of Europe for want of a viable vision. In a recent article in Newsweek entitled "Murder on the EU Express", the British historian Niall Ferguson describes this course of events as "incremental disintegration", as the slow implosion of Europe. Henrik Enderlein, perhaps you can explain to us in a little more detail how this implosion is taking place in the European crisis and where the opportunities and flaws in the current euro treaty lie?

Henrik Enderlein: To answer the question about the euro crisis, I have to trace events back a bit: what is this monetary union that we are dealing with precisely? Monetary union, as economists were always quite clear about, is a political and not an economic project. It was plain to every economist that if a single economic policy is followed in all member states in a monetary area that is not ideal for the purpose, because insufficiently homogeneous, imbalances will inevitably be created. It is because this topic is so important that the debate on the Maastricht treaty was so interesting. It is therefore worth returning to this debate once again, for this is where we saw the fatal error of monetary union. In the debate there were two internally consistent approaches: the French approach said let's create the common currency and form an economic government that will furnish us with a homogeneous and ideal currency area. This was coherent. Then there was the opposite but equally coherent German position, which said that first we build the common integrated monetary area, and at the end we add the common currency, as the icing on the cake.

But what does Europe actually do? It comes to a compromise. The common currency is introduced, but no institutional framework is created in order to shape the homogeneous currency area. That's the fatal error, and what were the inevitable consequences? Imbalances within Europe; and that's exactly what we have seen over the past ten years.

But why do these imbalances arise? The pensioner that Joschka Fischer referred to illustrates this perfectly. The European Central Bank (ECB) fixes a uniform interest rate for all countries, no matter how different they are. If half the countries have zero inflation and the other half four per cent, the ECB will settle on the midpoint of two per cent. The interest rate thus arrived at is wrong for both sides: too high for one and too low for the other. The ECB operates a "one size fits none" policy −− the right policy for a country that doesn't exist.

And what's the result? Of course there are economic shifts that lead to imbalances. If people live in a country with zero inflation and no growth −− like Germany in the first half of the last decade −− then they will save their money and invest it on the other side −− in regions with high inflation, rapid growth and a booming housing market: Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece... At first sight these countries are doing very well, and the "problem countries" are on the other side.

But the contractual basis of the Maastricht treaty did not allow for imbalances of the kind that we have created with the common currency. The Maastricht treaty suggested that everyone would be better off under the single currency. That is why it created a fixed legitimacy for the euro −− an unsuitable one. The logic is as follows: if there is no redistribution, we can rely purely on output legitimacy, i.e. legitimacy created by politically independent bodies, for example a central bank or regulatory system such as a stability and growth pact, which derive their legitimacy from the results they achieve.

But if redistribution takes place, then procedural legitimacy is required, in other words input legitimacy, which includes national parliaments, allows for political debate, and which can ultimately only be put into practice in the context of an economic government. But we never created one, and it was the German government above all that always rejected such economic integration.

What should be done?

Now we are faced with the question of what to do about the crisis. I see four possible answers.

The first is that we continue to deny that these redistributive effects exist. This is exactly what the German government did until March 2010, by insisting that we do not need any kind of common economic government.

The second option is that we create a union of regulation. This union, the political foster−child of German economics, does not seek to actively dictate to countries what they should do, but simply what they should not do. But this approach also failed, because it wasn't Ireland and Spain that broke the stability pact, but Germany and France. Today it is the very two countries that broke the rules that are helping out the rest of the eurozone and that perceive themselves as anchors of stability.

There is a third approach. This one says, to put it crudely, that we jack the whole thing in. This is absolutely a legitimate view, and I quite agree with you, Joschka Fischer, when you say that we have to go on the offensive far more in this debate, with Eurosceptics too. But we also have to make the costs clear. You have already mentioned this: it would be economically fatal, legally impossible, politically disastrous and socially foolish to end the euro project. We would be faced with far greater costs if we abandoned this euro, rather than fighting for it and investing in it.

To give an example: the entire European financial market is designed so that we can no longer distinguish between what on a balance sheet would have been an asset or liability under the former deutschmark and what an asset or liability under the former drachma. How can a national currency be reintroduced without causing the collapse of the entire system? We would be taken to court millions of times over if we were to reintroduce the national currencies. In short: it's not going to happen. But if it's not, then we're left only with the fourth solution.

Full steam ahead as only solution

And the fourth solution is to go full steam ahead. So that we don't misunderstand each other: this is not an emotional plea for Europe as idealistic daydream, but simply a matter of functional logic. If we want to maintain the eurozone then the only option we have is more Europe. But it is precisely this that European economic policy, particularly in Germany, cannot acknowledge. It talks with sibylline forked tongue about how marvellous Europe is, but at the same time refuses to pay for it. We have to free ourselves of this problem by creating European institutions that legitimize the transfer union that we already have in place.

Here we reach the issue of "input legitimacy" that is lacking on the European level. The European Parliament indeed has to be involved, as Jürgen Habermas suggests −− and other parliaments too. And yet we are not having this discussion in Europe, but instead getting diverted by debates that by comparison are a mere sideshow. The European pact, for all its announcements about standardization, is meaningless for two crucial reasons: first, everything has to be decided unanimously; and second, nation states can decide independently what to enact, and what not to! If a European document contains both these mutually exclusive aspects, it is worthless.

Furthermore, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) that we have now set up tackles the wrong problem. We will never resolve it as long as we don't resolve the central issue: what do we do about the heavily indebted nations on the so−called periphery? The ESM is introducing new borrowing agreements that will be valid until 2020 or 2030, parallel to the current borrowing agreements. Can we really wait until 2020 until we overcome the crisis? That's absurd. At the same time there is a simple reason for us to drag the crisis out: the desperate state of the German banking system. We won't find a solution as long as we fail to publicize the well−kept secret −− which Joschka Fischer has unfortunately just let out of the bag −− that the problem of the debt crisis on the periphery is in fact a problem of German banking.

The form of the European Union

Ulrike Guérot: Perhaps this is indeed the key question in the euro debate: what would happen if everything crashed, even the German banks? But first, a question to you, Christian Calliess. Clearly, Europe is still lacking the proper legitimacy somewhere along the line; as Jürgen Habermas and Joschka Fischer have said, a whole range of decision−making processes and mandates have yet be legitimized. This was also the judgement of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany on the Lisbon treaty in 2009[i] What do you see as the central problem in this verdict?

Christian Calliess: With the character and the legitimacy of the EU you have touched upon two very complex questions. My answer, as just one voice among the many constitutional and European legal specialists, is that the European Union can only be understood as a federal association. It is a kind of federation, but as such it is something genuinely new. We cannot classify it using traditional concepts of statehood or of international law. If you think of a river, the EU is, metaphorically speaking, somewhere between the one shore of being an international organization, which it has long since left behind, and the other shore of statehood, which it has neither reached, nor −− according to the classical definition of statehood at least −− will ever reach. The EU started out as an international organization with an international constitutional treaty −− although there were certain peculiarities as a result of the supranational elements there from the start. Among these was especially its directly enforceable law, which can be applied to citizens without being mediated through national law. This was worked out and developed by the dispensation of the European Court of Justice. Over the course of time, the European Union gradually moved further and further away from this international concept and now, to return to the metaphor, it is somewhere in the middle of the river. But we have no category for this new concept, and it is this very unclassifiability, this process of searching, that is currently causing us all sorts of problems.

Even the German Constitutional Court found no answer to these problems in its Lisbon verdict. Or to put it differently: it made the answer too easy for itself by solely considering traditional categories of international and state law, treating the European Union more or less in terms of international law. That is my main criticism of the verdict.

The advantage of the Constitutional Court's approach is that we can understand it, since we are used to thinking in the categories of international law and sovereign statehood. The problem we have is precisely that of defining and characterizing this new category, this federal association. What is it exactly? This is what we need to discuss; this is what the discourse is all about, though the court failed to take it into account. As a result it came to a rather simplistic verdict, particularly in its response to the question of democratic legitimacy.

The democratic model of dual legitimacy

Yet it is precisely this aspect of the verdict that was overwhelmingly reflected in the media: should the issue of European democracy be resolved as it is in international law, where legitimacy can ultimately only be endowed through national parliaments? This is the classical way. The challenges of globalization on an international level −− for example the question of democratic legitimacy when governments negotiate in the G20 −− can indeed be tackled only through national parliaments, which need to internationalize themselves in this respect. But that doesn't work for the European Union, being a federal construct.

This is because at the European level the democratic principle has been specifically shaped by a model of dual legitimacy, which is also explicitly anchored in article 10, paragraph 2 EUV of the Lisbon treaty, but not pursued further by the German Constitutional Court. In this model, the representatives of the national governments provide democratic legitimacy in the European Council, and are monitored by their respective national governments. This nationally endowed strand of legitimacy is supplemented by the European Parliament, which is directly elected by us, the citizens of the EU, and which carries the same weight of decision−making power. The strong role of the European Parliament was not sufficiently appreciated by the German Constitutional Court. A problem certainly does exist in elections to the European Parliament as regards the equality of voting, a problem that has been addressed by the court: the vote of a citizen of Luxembourg has ten times the weight in proportional terms as the vote of a German citizen. And yet this is due to the principle of equality between states: smaller member states would otherwise have only half or a quarter of a representative each, and they need to be allowed a fair hearing in the European Parliament. This problem of so−called "regressive proportionality" has been considered by the German Constitutional Court, and is the reason for its denial of the right of the European Parliament to represent the European people.

This assessment, though, is born out of thinking in the categories of national and international law. If we understand the EU as a federal association, we need to see how the democratic deficit that results from the lack of voting equality can be offset. And at this point the other strand of legitimacy comes into play: the European Council, which is monitored by the national parliaments. The German Constitutional Court wants, quite rightly, to assign a more active role to the Council, in the name of accountability in the process of integration.

But in this process the European Parliament becomes an irrelevance. Rather than setting both strands alongside each other with due proportions of legitimacy, the German Constitutional Court continues to insist that a true democratic process can only take place via the national parliaments. In this sense it is almost tragic to see how the court is now choosing to make an example of the very organization that, unlike classical international bodies such as the UN and the World Trade Organization, actually has a parliament, moreover one that is directly elected by its citizens and vested with far−reaching decision−making and decision−checking powers. Here we see a major problem with the verdict, all the more so given that the court does not ultimately even offer any answer to the question of what the European Parliament can still become. Could it become a real parliament that elects a European government −− i.e. the Commission −− on a genuine scale? Can we have fully−fledged, representative democracy on a European scale? In this respect, the influence and decision−making powers of the parliament −− which it already possesses −− have not been sufficiently appreciated. Ultimately, all German Constitutional Court says is that if the democratic deficits that still exist were resolved, the European Parliament would indeed be a parliament of the kind we find only in a fully−fledged state, i.e. a nation state. The further reinforcement of the parliament's democratic legitimacy is thus inextricably linked to the foundation of a European federal state. But since the European Union is no such thing and doesn't seek to become one either, integration ends up being suspended.

Here I come to another very important point not only as regards this particular verdict, but the whole debate. If we follow the judgement of the German Constitutional Court and freeze integration, we end up in a trap: for democratic reasons, we can't move forward and assume more competencies. For that we need full legitimacy in the European Parliament, but that would mean a step towards a federal state −− which the court, on the basis of our constitution at least, has just ruled out. But the federal state is not something anyone wants, not even in the Lisbon treaty. Joschka Fischer has just said it too: we are seeking something new, something of our own, this federal association, if I may call it that; we are not seeking a European federal state in the classical sense. The Constitutional Court should have been open−minded about this perspective, especially given the question of democratic legitimacy. This is at least what the experts on Europe who have developed initial theories about an association would have wanted. This aspect of the verdict of the Constitutional Court has therefore been heavily criticized by the vast majority for choosing a model that, because it is too state−centred, leads us down a blind alley.

Yet there is a second aspect behind the verdict that greatly concerns me: Why is the Constitutional Court suspending the process of European integration? Is this really a renationalization, a new unilateralism? I don't think so. I don't think that Germany is renationalizing itself in this sense −− or if so, not consciously. And this has something to do with the fatigue with Europe, which is being expressed in everyone feeling overburdened, be they citizens or politicians. Even in European academic studies you can sense this fatigue.

"Europe fatigue" and the democratic dilemma

The European Union is indeed so complex that even judges can feel the need for a breather and for that reason want to suspend the process of European integration. They do this not by arguing for a return to the nation state or renationalization, but by tying the traditional concept of state sovereignty to the issue of democracy. What we thus get is an approach that many leftwing liberals can share, based as it is not on the nation state but on democratic legitimacy. The deficiencies in this area compel us to suspend the process of European integration −− so the argument goes. But there is a danger that, with this attitude, European integration and democracy get played off against each other −− and that is not constructive.

Which brings us back to the EU's democratic dilemma. What causes it? I think one reason is that in Germany we have failed to discuss the finality of the European Union at a deeper level. Joschka Fischer, in your Humboldt speech in 2000 you took a step in this direction, but unfortunately you didn't pursue it further, if I may say so. Of course, you did so in the form of the constitutional treaty, but that has now failed because of the referendums in France and the Netherlands. Since the failure of the constitutional treaty you have talked more and more about a topic that doesn't actually sit very well with your blueprint of a United States of Europe −− namely the further enlargement of the EU. As foreign minister, you saw Europe as a global strategic expansionist project −− the need to include unstable states such as in the Balkans, and Turkey too −− while at the same time, with your objective of a United States of Europe, you pushed for a further deepening of integration. But can both go hand in hand? I don't think most citizens believe so. EU citizens feel that closer union and enlargement stand in irreconcilable conflict. The question is entirely unresolved on a European level, too. For example, is it possible, with 27 different cultures and legal systems and very differing conditions among the member states, to establish a European domestic policy where such a thing exists as a common European arrest warrant?

That's why I think that the German Constitutional Court's Lisbon verdict in 2009 was already implied in its judgement on the European arrest warrant in 2005. The judges couldn't imagine a German citizen being extradited to Romania, and with some justification. This is where the heterogeneity of Europe brings with it challenges that European politics haven't yet met. There is a disjunction between expansion and closer union −− and precisely because of this we get the present uneasiness about how to handle issues of economic governance and European solidarity. The writer Léon de Winter has called for a return to the EEC. This in my view is a very dangerous demand, and absolutely the wrong way to go, since such a perspective would be a contradiction of our concept of a free market economy flanked by social and environmental guarantees. Still, we have to discuss this option, since unfortunately it is the view of many citizens.

The reciprocal opening up of national public spheres

Ulrike Guérot: Jürgen Habermas, is the trap posed by integration discussed by all three previous speakers not also a discursive trap: namely that we need to want more, be it closer union or more expansion, but don't say what? Does this perhaps have to do with the underestimated complexity of Europe, which we are also seeing in the euro crisis in the economic sphere −− i.e. the heterogeneity of economic models and concepts that aren't applicable to France or to Greece in the same way?

Jürgen Habermas: I don't want to overload a discussion that's already overflowing with different issues, but it's true that the euro crisis has yet again made us aware of the cunning of economic reason. First of all, problems arise in our common eurozone that need to be jointly resolved. This could in turn lead to developments favouring a two−speed Europe. What I mean is that, politically, we are faced with systemic constraints that first of all compel us to take the next step towards political integration within our own nations.

The statements of my three colleagues all converge on one point, namely that, whether we like it or not, we are faced with a choice between jeopardizing the degree of monetary union that we have already reached or, at the very least, setting out the institutional preconditions for closer cooperation between member states.

The first step on this rocky road has to involve making this choice clear in the public sphere, indeed dramatizing it, so that a broad discussion is initiated. If, as you say, we have no choice but to move forward, then we should at least know what we're doing and not let ourselves get sucked into a vortex of creeping disintegration.

This debate could also be a step towards the permanent creation of a European public sphere. Such a thing always emerges when, as with the emergency rescue fund for the euro, we are faced with issues that affect the populations of all participating member states −− issues that are viewed as relevant across national borders. My idea is quite simple: we don't need any changes at all to the infrastructure of the national public spheres. From the quality press through television to the tabloid press, we have all we need to create a European public sphere.

The real problem is the opening up of national public spheres to one another, so that in Germany, for example, we are informed about the most important discussions in Spain, Greece, Italy, France or Poland −− and vice versa. The national media in all countries are not in the habit of debating major European decisions −− not even ones that already today are voted on in the European Parliament −− let alone punctually, i.e. before they've been nodded through by the national parliaments. Despite mass tourism, national public spheres are so shut off from one another that we aren't even kept sufficiently informed about the varying moods and opinions in other countries. I get the impression that in Germany, when it comes to the resentments that have built up elsewhere against "German diktats" in economic policy, we live in a state of blissful ignorance.

There can only be a process of pan−European opinion−formation and majority−building if the national media cover relevant opinions and attitudes on common interests in other, foreign, national media. And it's a sad sign that despite the establishment of European elections we haven't even managed to a introduce a common European electoral law.

Let me go into one more point. Eurosceptics object that the narrative that motivated the founding fathers of the EU has had its day. It's true that we need no further deepening of the European Union in order to prevent new wars being fought within Europe. But the globalization of markets and electronically accelerated communication have become so advanced that a systemically integrated and highly interdependent global society has evolved that entails not only shifts in political powers but also the emergence of entirely new political dimensions. These globalizing trends have imposed quite different imperatives on Europe. A new narrative for European unity doesn't therefore need to be far−fetched. Three key concepts come to mind: self−assertion, constructive participation in enabling the creation of a common global policy, and maintaining the diversity of the cultural spheres in which we live.

Europe: A continent of pluralism

I don't want to say much about the political self−assertion of Europe in a changing world. Compared to the USA and the BRIC countries, our nation states have shrunk to the status of minor principalities. Even Germany's economic power is going to be of less and less account. As can be seen from every international conflict of the last twenty years, it's simply foolish to assume that Europe's voice will still count for anything if we don't learn to speak with one voice. Joschka Fischer continues to provide us with many cogent arguments for Europe's self−assertion in global politics. I can understand that this approach isn't to everyone's taste; but even those of us averse to power politics would be ill−advised to ignore it.

Secondly, the issue is also one of normative ideas about how to solve the problems that the international community cannot escape: How should we handle the need to regulate market−driven capitalism, climate change and the global risks of nuclear technology, or develop a non−selective human rights policy? Should Europe have no interest in influencing the institutions of a future world order so that they achieve democratic legitimacy and meet standards of social justice?

And, if you will excuse the sentimentality, the third point is ultimately a historical view, arising out of a very different kind of self−assertion. This Europe is a collection of former empires and ultimately of nation states that not only bear responsibility for the dark and criminal flipside of social modernization, but that have also undergone a decline in their own political significance and have had to digest the loss of their imperial power. This Europe, fortunately now domesticated and more civil, has inherited, thanks to its difficult history, an incomparably pluralistic culture. That may sound Eurocentric and indeed it is. But if one knows that among the plurality of voices one only has one, then one can speak from the first−person perspective. What Brecht said about his own country −− "Let our land seem dearest to us just as others' seem dearest to them" −− we can say about "our" countries as a whole.

Every journey through Europe −− be it geographical or historical −− leaves the impression, not only on us Europeans, that we have here an incredible diversity stemming from the historical origins of this single continent. This, it seems to me, is worth preserving at all costs. But the irony of history is that we won't succeed in preserving this diversity, developed over the course of the centuries, if Europe doesn't stick together, and instead carves itself up into its small, self−contemplating nations.

Ulrike Guérot: Thank you very much, Jürgen Habermas, for these powerful and emotional words. At the moment there seems to be an increasing kind of autism in Germany and a sense of national complacency about how we are viewed abroad. I wonder where the break in this narrative comes? Is it with the post−'89 generation, which seems to have lost its connection to Europe?

Joschka Fischer: I agree entirely with Jürgen Habermas: our knowledge of −− and interest in −− one another is experiencing a rapid decline. But it's even worse than that: if you listen carefully to what's being said over here about Nicolas Sarkozy −− in such an endearingly innocent, pacifist yet nationalistic tone, such as I last heard from the grandfather of a friend who insisted that our French arch−enemy was the root of all evil −− and if you look at what is being said about Germany in Parisian intellectual and journalistic, i.e. political circles, then we're quite a bit further down the road of renationalization than we thought. What's currently happening between Germany and France is very destructive. It's still the case that if Germany and France are in conflict with each other, then nothing will move forward in the European Union: quite the opposite, things will only go backwards.

There is no pause from history

As for the question of feeling overburdened, I have to disagree: in politics one cannot simply take a pause from history. Besides, who are we to feel overburdened, compared to our parents' generation? They had to cope with Nazism, the Second World War, expulsion, captivity, moral ruin, individual guilt for crimes Germany had been involved in, then the division of Germany, the threat of nuclear destruction, and so on. As we speak, people are writing again about the starvation in the winter of 1946−47 and the admission of 12 to 14 million refugees. And we feel overburdened? I don't think so.

The first step towards expansion took place on 3 October 1990, when 17 million East Germans became citizens of the EU in the course of reunification. It would have been absurd to tell the Poles and all the others that "the East Germans are allowed in, but you must stay out". The same goes for Yugoslavia. Remember the terrible consequences of the civil war in Yugoslavia: 250 000 refugees from Bosnia alone taken in by Germany. Without the European perspective we would still be where we were back then in the Balkans. So you can't take time out from the strategic interests of a country or a federal association like the EU.

Where would we be today without the expansion of the EU? We'd have a newly strengthened Russia and a central Europe still obeying the logic of national sovereignty, driven by the nightmares of nationalism. That's why there's no alternative to expansion. Yes, we'll have to consolidate our relationships, and that can't be done by going back to the drawing board. At the same time, we'll have to attend to our strategic interests; there's no way round that either. Such is the complexity of reality.

One final point: I think that the Chancellor's big mistake was to allow European policy to be set by the two most Eurosceptic institutions in the German state, namely the Federal Bank and the Federal Constitutional Court. In the past, neither has exactly been a driving force for integration. So I see the Euro Plus Pact adopted in March 2011 as a step in the right direction, as a way to finally get some suggestions on the table, with all the shortcomings you have mentioned.

I think that it's high time to instigate a heated debate about European politics, to be open about it, to be tough and not to fear emotionalization from the other side. The thinking behind European integration has always had emotionalism as its lifeblood; we mustn't forget this. It's important to be rational, but rationality needs emotion to back it up. Europe won't proceed by pragmatism alone −− it will only go backwards.

Too big on the small things, too small on the big things?

Question from the audience: Isn't Europe too big on the small stage and far too small on the big stage? At the micro−level it swamps us with countless regulations which create a great deal of friction, and at the macro−level it doesn't solve the problems.

Andre Wilkens, Stiftung Mercator: When Germany gets stronger and uses its power, the issue of the "German question" resurfaces all over again. But the "German question" was actually a driving force behind the founding of the European Union −− which was in no small measure justified by the need to incorporate Germany. Are we now faced with a "new German question", and maybe also a new driving force for Europe?

Derek Scally, Irish Times: Joschka Fischer, you said at the beginning that a great deal of money was made for German banks "in the backrooms of Dublin". Do you believe that this has been deliberately or unintentionally withheld from the German debate in the question of support for Ireland?

Henrik Enderlein: Too big and too small: An economist will always tell you "Follow the money!" This is also the answer that you have to give to those who always say "Who cares whether it's a federal state or a confederation?" No, what counts is who holds the purse−strings. Europe has an economically non−existent budget and in this respect is indeed too small to solve the problems. But the German Constitutional Court actually says that sovereignty over the budget is the source of national democracy, the very source of legitimacy. What does this mean for the EU? I think that is the crucial question we all need to answer.

One more point on the German banks: of course the government has kept quiet about their role deliberately, although the banks were the key problem in this crisis from the start. The government knew perfectly well that if you create a problem with the regional banks, then you have a further problem with at least five federal state presidents in Germany, and if you have to involve German federalism in solving European problems, then you have a real problem.

Christian Calliess: On the question of whether Europe is too small on the one hand and too big on the other: for me, this question is closely connected to the creation of a European single market. As an economic project for European integration, this was viewed very critically in the 1990s because of its deregulatory effects −− and rightly so. That's why we insisted that a single market must be socially and environmentally compatible. This includes the European Union imposing regulations in the sphere of consumer rights and environmental protection −− yes, even the lightbulb. We can argue about whether this is politically right or wrong, but they are European decisions in a common market. I don't want to see an ungoverned market, and so I support these decisions that provide regulative flanking to the single market.

Joschka Fischer: There are some things that I just can't hear any more! Especially this argument about too small and too big. Consider for a moment how much regulation you consume on the single market every single day when you go shopping or whatever else, without even thinking about it, because it all works. Take the health standards over the entire EU area −− this wasn't always something we could take for granted, be it in food or veterinary products. That's why I can't read Hans Magnus Enzensberger any more −− his polemics against "Brussels bureaucracy" drive me crazy. To refuse to see what incredible progress European regulation has brought in citizens' daily lives is just mischievous. And for what it's worth, the bureaucracy of Brussels is smaller than the bureaucracy of Munich. Hardly anyone knows how much of it is the result of compromises in the European, where heads of state and government sit. For instance, the famous Bavarian tractor initiative that led to the standardization of tractor seats is the brainchild of Edmund Stoiber, and quintessentially Bavarian.

So when it comes to the prejudice that European bureaucracy intrudes everywhere into our daily lives, I can only say that our national government and the upper and lower parliaments are involved at every stage. The question of whether Europe is too big or too small therefore has, in my view, long been settled: because of the single market and other regulations, the majority of rulings take place at a European level. And that's how it should be, because we Germans would in turn be the biggest losers if everything were to be regulated individually. We shouldn't be under any illusions about that.

And finally the question of how far the German government deliberately kept quiet about the role of our regional banks in the Irish crisis. As so often in life, we shouldn't assume some kind of master plan behind this: it's not as if the German government was deliberately trying to damage Ireland. But reality is ignored to an extent. Ireland could have made things simple for itself if prime minister Brian Cowen and his cabinet had said: We'll take on the debts of the Irish banks, but the British, French and German banks' debts aren't our problem. The Irish national budget would now be in a much better state. And the truth about the German banks would have come to light over here pretty clearly.

Jürgen Habermas: Are we now seeing a new version of the same German question that led to the founding of the EU? I don't think so. Back then politicians had the Second World War and the mass crimes on their shoulders and were thinking in terms of the categories of the nineteenth century. The aim of stopping a colossus once again waging power politics at the heart of Europe by incorporating it was an important motive. I don't see a similar situation today. For some years now the Federal German Republic has been making an increasingly amorphous impression and seems to me to be characterized rather by the way it does not pursue any "power political" interests in the classical sense. The governments of this economically successful republic make themselves beholden to the twin imperatives that more or less every state must follow these days, namely trimming the economy to the interests of competitiveness, while making certain social concessions, so that output legitimacy forestalls any difficulties that might hinder domestic re−election. In this sense Germany is relatively weak, as far as its will to shape political structures is concerned. But accompanying this weakness I see a growing sense of national self−centredness; and consequently there arises the potential for disruption at the heart of Europe, which, under the present government, is for the first time seriously obstructing the unification of Europe.

This article was translated by Saul Lipetz; the translation has been provided by Eurozine


[i] The judgement raises several serious questions concerning the compatibility of the Lisbon Treaty (and it's accompanying laws) with the German constitution. A press release summarizing the judgment can be found here.


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Als vor 50 Jahren die Gründung der Europäischen Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft feierlich beschlossen wurde, stand die innenpolitische Frage der atomaren Ausrüstung der Bundeswehr weit mehr im Zentrum nicht nur meiner Aufmerksamkeit.

Die Bewährung Europas

Als Student habe ich oft vom anderen Rheinufer aus nach hier, auf den Sitz der vier Hohen Kommissare, hinübergeschaut. Heute betrete ich den Petersberg zum ersten Mal. Die historische Umgebung erinnert an die tiefen Wurzeln, die die alte Bundesrepublik in der Landschaft von Rhein und Ruhr geschlagen hat.

Ein avantgardistischer Spürsinn für Relevanzen

Als mir der Direktor des Karl-Renner-Instituts die erfreuliche Mitteilung machte, dass mir die Jury in diesem Jahr den Bruno-Kreisky-Preis verleihen wolle, hatte ich nicht nur Anlass, über den irritierenden Aspekt der glücklichen Situation nachzudenken, nach Jahrzehnten der Auseinandersetzung und des Genusses eines eher kontroversen Rufes nun soviel unverdiente Anerkennung zu finden.

Wege aus der Weltunordnung

In diesem Februar jährt sich der Todestag Immanuel Kants zum 200. Mal. Für die amerikanischen "Neokonservativen", die starken Einfluss auf die Bush- Administration ausüben, firmiert Kant als der idealistische Urvater eines europäischen Paradieses vom Ewigen Frieden, das jedoch stets von der Hobbesianischen Machtpolitik der amerikanischen Supermacht profitiere.

Fundamentalismus und Terror

Die Fragen, die Jürgen Habermas im folgenden beantwortet, formulierte Giovanna Borradori. Sie ist italienischer Herkunft, lebt in New York City und lehrt als Professorin für Philosophie am Vassar College. Sie hat einen bekannten, in mehrere Sprachen übersetzten Interview-Band „The American Philosopher“ herausgegeben.

Über den öffentlichen Gebrauch der Historie

Der Demokratiepreis, den zuletzt 1990 Bärbel Bohley und Wolfgang Ullmann für die Bürgerrechtler der DDR entgegengenommen haben, geht an den diesjährigen Preisträger mit der folgenden Begründung: Daniel Goldhagen habe "aufgrund der Eindringlichkeit und der moralischen Kraft seiner Darstellung dem öffentlichen Bewußtsein in der Bundesrepublik wesentli