European Parliament/Flickr

The Return of the Ugly German

During the long night of negotiations over Greece on July 12-13, something fundamental to the European Union cracked. Since then, Europeans have lived in a different kind of EU, with Germany’s pursuit of national interest set to provoke conflict with France and Italy.

BERLIN – During the long night of negotiations over Greece on July 12-13, something fundamental to the European Union cracked. Since then, Europeans have been living in a different kind of EU.

What changed that night was the Germany that Europeans have known since the end of World War II. On the surface, the negotiations were about averting a Greek exit from the eurozone (or “Grexit”) and the dire consequences that would follow for Greece and the monetary union. At a deeper level, however, what was at stake was the role in Europe of its most populous and economically most powerful country.

Germany’s resurgence after World War II, and its re-establishment of the world’s trust (culminating in consent to German re-unification four and a half decades later), was built on sturdy domestic and foreign-policy pillars. At home, a stable democracy based on the rule of law quickly emerged. The economic success of Germany’s welfare state proved a model for Europe. And Germans’ willingness to face up to the Nazis’ crimes, without reservation, sustained a deep-rooted skepticism toward all things military.

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