In Germany the recession is biting. GDP will stagnate or even shrink in this year’s last quarter and the government, increasingly fearful of the medium-term prospects for big industry, has embarked on a billion-dollar automotive aid package to switch to the electric car as soon as possible.
A new French-German divorce
But what keeps busy the German opinion columns and editorials, the debates between parties and even within the government, is the strategic-military orientation of the country and the EU.
Yesterday the Minister of Defense and former Merkel’s successor, AKK, showcased Germany’s priorities. As soon as the US election outcome began to shift towards Biden, she published an article in Politico with the not so subtle title of Europe still needs America. The article directly contradicted the Foreign Minister of his government, the Social Democrat Heiko Maas.
But above all, it gave a reply as late and as clear as possible to the French proposal to build a European army, offering access to the French nuclear arsenal. AKK’s positions were immediately echoed by Merkel, who announced the German willingness to invest in its relationship with the USA. On the Quai d’Orsay and the Elysée Palace they were already warned. In a desperate attempt to moderate the German position, Macron had published an interview on the eve of the official presentation of the German strategy, replying harshly to AKK’s article and inviting Merkel to amend it.
The question, to be clear, is the following: will the change in the American government make the Europeans become less vigilant? I totally disagree, for example, with the article published in Politico signed by the German Defense Minister. I think it shows an inappropriate understanding of history. Fortunately, the Chancellor is not following this line if I have understood her correctly. But the United States will only respect us as allies if we are serious about ourselves and if we are sovereign in our own defense. On the contrary, the change of U.S. administration is an opportunity to continue in a totally peaceful, calm manner, something that allies must understand from one another: we need to continue building our autonomy on our own, just as the United States and China do.Emmanuel Macron, 16/11/2020
An outstanding fact: for the first time, opinion articles in the German conservative press support Macron’s proposals. AKK and Merkel’s position is far from being consensual. The inevitable impression is that in Germany a part of the bourgeoisie, especially that articulated by the CDU and FDP, remained where all the European ruling classes were in 2018: waiting for the fall of Trump to return ubder the US’s fold. Another, basically around the SPD ministers (Economy, Foreign Affairs) and the leadership of the Greens, but also nourished by industrial capital, wants to take the path proposed by Macron.
The divorce within the German government, which has become a strategic Franco-German divorce, does not stir up the emotions in Beijing, where it is clear that both positions -which have not gone unnoticed by them at all- in the end revolve around two strategies to confront China. It is obvious: China is seen in Berlin as a systemic challenge as much as in Paris. But it misses an important element that has surely been decisive for the CDU’s hasty pro-bidenism: the signing of the Pacific Free Trade Agreement has been seen from Germany not only as a Chinese triumph but also as a threat to the EU’s power in the global market.
The increase in purchases of new military technologies and even the plans to bring the German navy to Asia were generally interpreted until now as part of the German effort to approach France in military terms. Balancing war forces meant balancing the weight of a future European army as well. Given the German position towards the U.S., it is most likely that we will see Germany trying to play a role on its own similar to that which Italy or Spain played in the great alliances that the U.S. organized through NATO to invade Afghanistan and on its own to invade Iraq: to become a mercenary country in other people’ s imperialist adventures in exchange for commercial generosity favoring its own imperialist interests.
Polish and Hungarian veto on recovery funds
However, the continent’s bourgeoisies are not only divided by differences over the imperialist orientation of the two main European states. Today, the European recovery funds are paralyzed by the veto of Poland and Hungary. The battle for the rule of law which is at the same time a symptom of the breakdown of the EU and of its member states internally.
Although this delay can be patched with credits, it is a demonstration of being able to put the EU budget itself in check and force a delay in the delivery of funds. The opinion expressed in the German media has been much more aggressive than in Italy or Spain. This is significant. German public television went so far as to qualify the leaders of both states as enemies and to point out EU’s own guilt – in reality Germany’s – in the authoritarian drift of its Eastern partners.
Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, has shown a forced optimism by announcing a round of meetings with the interested parties in order to seek an almost impossible conciliation. In reality, the tense diplomatic smile is another sign of the damage suffered by Berlin… and of its impotence in the face of the revolt of two of the countries most dependent on German capital in all of Europe.
Summarizing: The famous locomotives of the EU, France and Germany, are increasingly divided among themselves and opposed to the others countries. Their attempts to drive end up being counterproductive, separating sometimes the East, other times the South, but never generating consensus like in the past. Even the obedient Spain separates itself from the common migratory policy in retaliation for being excluded from the mini-summit on security.
At this point it is undeniable that both the pandemic and the recession have accelerated the process of implosion of the EU. And it does not give nor will it give any respite.