European Germany, or a German Europe?

Date of event:

The Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations of the CEVRO Institute (PCTR) in cooperation with Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung (HSS) organized a public lecture “European Germany, or a German Europe?”. The lecture took place on Thursday, April 11, 2019 from 5:00 until 7:00 pm, in the atrium of the CEVRO Institute (Jungmannova 17, Prague 1).

Cambridge Professor Simms held a lecture about Germany's role in Europe, the causes of the weakness of the EU and his alternative Vision of a European superstate. 

“European Germany, or a German Europe?”, was the leading question of Prof. Simms lecture. He started it with a look back on a European map of the year 1550. During this time Germany was united in the Holy Roman Empire of German nation. A federal system with weak central power and divided into its member states, regions, kingdoms and possessions. Even though it had an important geopolitical position in the heart of Europe and its members had a huge potential for power, it was not able to defend its borders or solve its inner problems, caused by a lack of central power. During this time the parole was, "who controls Germany controls Europe". Then he asked the question whether it could be a hegemony by itself. Germany of 1871 and 1939 had been a centralised country with an ability to dominate Europe which leads to imbalances that lead to World War I and II. To describe the situations of this years he quoted Henry Kissinger: "Germany is too big for Europe but too small for the world." He described the tragic of Germany in Europe for Europe that if its too weak its weakness makes it impossible to use its strengths against enemies like the Ottomans in the 17th century and its inner problems lead to conflicts also outside the German borders. If it is too strong it resulted in the mentioned power imbalances. After World War II the victorious West-Europeans decided then for the thought to embody Germany in multilateral projects like the EU and NATO.

Germany establishes a new Holy Roman Empire

Prof Simms described this as one of the birth defects of the EU. The economical strong Germany now used its power to shape the EU institutions in a model like we saw 1550. The key problem he described is that there is no centralisation of power but diffusion of it. Competencies are given to a European level, without creating institutions that can deal the connected tasks. That is why decisions cannot be made on an EU level by EU institutions and still rely on the interests of the member states. That divides Europe in Simms opinion. And it creates the problem that Europe lacks at the moment to deal with its financial problems, to stop irregular migration or to create a coherent foreign policy.

Alternative European superstate

As good contra examples, he mentioned the UK and the US. Simms said, that their member states stopped to exist and that they centralised their foreign policy, financial and military power in a reasonable way in new institutions able to deal with these tasks. In this template, he sees a model for Europe. In the vital discussion, he answered the question about the when for this change with, “It would be best now or any other moment, because the current situation is not sustainable.” The contra point about Europe's lack of a European demos he responded that he does not see there an alternative to a European superstate. Not everybody shared his view what he responded diplomatically: “I am not here to make friends, I just say what I know and I think is indispensable.”. That did not stop many to let him sign their books at the end of a really interesting evening at the Cevro Institute.

Thank you all for your visit and we look forward to seeing you again soon.