German dominance over the EU may or may not be “intentional”, but it is very real in the eyes of many.
Bill Collier- Roman Prodi, who was President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, had been warning people for some time that the European Union was either an alliance of equal, democratic powers, or it is nothing.
From its inception, the EU was a constellation of states revolving around Britain, France, and Russia. But the dynamics inside the EU have changed. First, the was Britain’s withdrawal from active participation in the EU. As the EU is forging more integration between member states, Britain has resisted those changes, including rejecting adopting the Euro. Second, France has become an economic basket case and has fallen behind Germany and Britain economically. Third, with the inclusion of Eastern European states into the EU, the Germans have utilized their physical proximity and their dominance as a trade partner to great effect.
The emergence of German predominance in the EU means now that the greatest weight in terms of actual EU direction and policy rests in Berlin, not Brussels. The push for “asuterity” among EU members with economic woes (including Spain, Italy, and Greece) has come straight from Berlin. Angela Merkel’s diplomacy in Minsk with Russia over the Ukraine crisis is the deciding factor in EU policy.
The German state is, by American political standards, a secular and left-leaning political entity that pursues both a social libertarianism and an economic program rooted in social democracy. The most “conservative” German political parties of any popularity would be considered center-left by American standard. Stating that you believe there is only one way to get to heaven, questioning whether homosexuality is natural, or even showing much pride and patriotism for your country are offensive to mainstream German culture. The German state reflects secular, libertine social democracy to its core and, as Germany has become the prime move in the EU, that is becoming the policy of the EU itself.
This German tendency to reject “hard lines” about morality, patriotism, or religion even may stem from the German assessment of its own history, not least World War Two, and so talk of any kind of German dominance over the EU is not something most Germans would be proud of. At most, Germans might speak of Germany as the reluctant “hegemon” (dominating power) over the EU by virtue of its geographical position, population, economic strength, and what some call its “political stewardship.”
American policy may be simplified to a certain degree by this development: it is easier to deal with only one power and not go through Brussels. But the Germans, despite their professions, are, by nature, aggressive and not prone much to taking a lesser role given the opportunity. The days of the US being looked to for leadership in Europe and NATO are over. The reluctant hegemon is not going to simply go along with what the US wants, as we see with the Ukraine where the Germans seem to be influenced by their own prior history- they seem determined to avoid a clash with Russia there even if that means Russia achieves all of its goals in Ukraine.
The German culture and mindset is, one might argue, tainted and poisoned by its rejection of the past- they seem to be determined to “prove” they are the opposite of every stereotype. Today’s Germany is not the Germany of the days before Hitler’s rise to power, and whatever one might find worthy of historical German values and culture, for the Germans, those values belong in the past. Today’s Germany is in fact a reluctant hegemon, a left-tilted, internationalist, libertine, and yet greatly centralized state with a very narrow center-left political spectrum that is (reluctantly, some claim) gaining as much dominance over Europe as a power that might have conquered those states by force.
A center-left political reality seems to be working for the Germans. Their economy is strong, it is not soaring, but Germans today value stability over everything else. As one German businessman who is taxed at 56% of his income said, he’d rather pay high taxes and cover free university and health care for all “then be a rich man in a poor country.” For the Germans, the lure of “something better” is not enough to change this sentiment- even if more economic freedom might produce better overall results, it would not, they fear, necessarily produce those results for all or even most people.
So German monetary policy in the EU, and therefore the policy of the EU, is colored by this sentiment, and real pressures are being brought to bear on member states to adopt a similar approach, albeit in a rational and measured manner.
If the Germans, and therefore the EU, are rarely concerned about Christian persecution, this is at least colored by their aversion of any kind of dogma, where one preaches their religion and their God as the only way to heaven. When Christians are persecuted for sharing their faith, a mandate many Christians feel comes from the Bible, they are violating a modern German cultural tradition which makes religion private and which rejects any kind of dogma.
German dogmas do, however, exist. They are dogmatic about the need for degrees and certification as proof of your skill and qualification, almost to the point of absurdity by American standards. They have a school system that determines your future career path by age 13. Unless you are accepted into “gymnasium” at age 13 you are unlikely to be allowed to attend university after you graduate from one of the other two main school types (a fourth, Sonderschule, is for special education). German cultural mores that have nothing to do with morality, such as eating etiquette and always using last names unless invited to use first names, reflect a staunch traditionalism, but where Christian or religious virtues are concerned, the German culture (but not all Germans) leans toward a libertinism.
It may be that the Germans have adopted libertinism, social democracy, and internationalism as an unconscious and reactionary defense against their own aggressive nature. But for all that, German dominance and the emergence of the “German” European Union are all happening seemingly of their own accord.