European Germany, or German Europe?

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The Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations of the CEVRO Institute (PCTR) in cooperation with Hanns Seidel Stiftung held the public lecture „European Germany, or German Europe?” on May 25. The keynote speaker was Mr. Roland Tichy, a German publisher, journalist, political commentator and the CEO of Ludwig Erhard Foundation followed by a noticeable Polish journalist Mrs. Aleksandra Rybińska. The event was opened by the PCTR director Alexandr Vondra and moderated by Daniel Kaiser, journalist and editor of Echo weekly.

Roland Tichy opened his speech by describing Germany as a country with very successful economy and good reputation abroad. But only few years back it was not like that. Germans now want deepening of a European integration which is not in their interests because it raises the question of income distribution. Germany with its strong economy can afford a welfare state but redistribution among states is not possible. Important European issue is also the monetary union which was not favorable for Germany at first. But thanks to reforms that reduced the labor costs in Germany, this country profits from the Euro. The aim of the monetary union was to unite the European countries. However, the differences between the member states are deepening and therefore Euro undermines the unity rather than strengthen it.

 Aleksandra Rybińska compared current position of Germany to that in 19th century after the Unification. Germany today is again in the position of semi-hegemon that is too strong for Europe yet too weak to have power on global level. There is a paradox in German power because Germans cannot lead Europe and they are not able to take over the leadership position. According to Aleksandra Rybińska, the inability to settle European Union crisis is proof that Germany has no partners to push for the necessary reforms. She also added that the establishment of a political union should precede the enlargement process and that the monetary union was the agenda of France that was afraid of the strong German mark. However, as it has already been said, Germans profited the most from the Euro.

Debate with the event moderator and the audience followed. To a question regarding the future of the European Union, Roland Tichy said that there is no common vision where the EU should move. Germany then must realize that for other countries the idea of nation is more important than for German. Generally, no other discourse is welcome in the member states than the official European one. This is the reason for the negative view on the current governments in Hungary and Poland. Consensus of SPD and Green Party prevails in Germany’s politics and media but it is contradictory to citizens’ opinions. According to Aleksandra Rybińska, we can therefore say that the media coverage in Germany is not objective, especially in regards to Poland.

Roland Tichy said that EU enlargement is problematic because even the current EU has large divergence between member states’ opinions on economy or other topics. Because of the Euro, the states are force to increase competitiveness while they are not able to evaluate the currency. So instead of uniting the common currency diverge the countries and emphasize the difference between the center and periphery. There is no European Minister of Finance compiling a common European budget. Moreover, approving the budget is traditionally the most important right of national parliaments. Above that, different levels exist among EU member states so there is a room for tax optimization. According to Roland Tichy, tax unification would require really strong hegemon.

For the support of this event we would like to thank our partner Hanns Seidel Stiftung. Thanks are due also to our media partners: Civic institute, Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, Pravý Břeh and natoaktual.cz.

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