Are the Germans still European?

Sunday 30 October, 9.45am until 10.30am, Students' Union Breakfast Banter

Germans seem to have lost their enthusiasm for the European project. Chancellor Angela Merkel has notoriously accused southern Europeans of taking too much vacation time and called on them to work harder. This was widely seen as a response to a growing Euro-scepticism among the electorate. While Germany doesn`t have an anti-EU party like those in Denmark or Finland, opinion polls show the European project is increasingly associated with a sense of failure and confusion. Perhaps most significantly, as Merkel’s comments imply, people are beginning to ask whether it is really in Germany’s national interest to shoulder the costs of the European project. In the past, most Germans viewed European integration as crucial to bringing about peace and social stability. Now, Berlin seems to be solely preoccupied with calculating the cost of integration. And Martin Blessing, CEO of Commerzbank and one of the country`s most respected managers, recently said it could no longer be taken for granted even that leading businesspeople in Germany are staunch Europeans and supporters of the euro.

Most commentators see the weakness of the Eurozone and the bailing out of Greece, Ireland and Portugal as the cause of the crisis. But are the problems really confined to the domain of economics? Why is the European Union, once hailed by influential thinkers Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens as the ‘most original and successful experiment in political institution-building’ losing legitimacy so quickly? Is it conceivable that Germany, once at the very heart of the integration process, could abandon the Eurozone? Or will Germans get back behind the European project, even if it means reconciling themselves to bailing out their neighbours?

Dr Marcus Fedder
former head of SPD London; managing partner, Agora Microfinance Partners LLP

Barbara Klimke
UK and Ireland correspondent, Berliner Zeitung

Kai Rogusch
member, editorial board, NovoArgumente

Marcus Theurer
UK and Ireland correspondent, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36

Produced by
Sabine Beppler-Spahl chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36
Recommended readings
Germany’s euro question

Nobody knows the answer, especially not the Germans themselves

Economist, 10 September 2011

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