J. Habermas: Strong criticism on Germany undermining the EU

Jurgen Habermas: Strong criticism on Germany

84-year-old philosopher and sociologist warned that Germany is driving the European Union in the opposite direction and made SPD politicians quite uncomfortable.

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German philosopher Jürgen Habermas in an address to the Social Democratic Party (SPD), he criticised the party for supporting – both in opposition and now in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel – the “drastic treatment” she forced on crisis countries. He stated that the German analysis of the euro-crisis undermined the European Union form within.

“Merkel’s “investor-friendly” approach was deeply damaging to democracy, he warned, and had “unspeakable” social consequences in crisis countries and had sparked a new wave of nationalism across Europe”, the Irish Times report.

Merkel's investor-friendly approach was damaging to democracy

“It is not in our national interest to fall back into the hegemonic position that paved the way to two World Wars and was only overcome through European unification,” said Prof Habermas.

The 84-year-old philosopher and sociologist, considered one of Germany’s foremost intellectuals, has long been an advocate of closer European integration. Thus his warning that the EU’s largest member is driving the bloc in the opposite direction made for uncomfortable listening for SPD politicians.
In his 30-minute address, Prof Habermas took aim at Germany’s framing of recent turbulence as a “sovereign debt crisis” in euro periphery countries. After gorging on cheap money before the crisis, so this mainstream German reading of the crisis contends, drastic fiscal diets and social reforms were demanded as a precondition for financial solidarity from the euro zone core lead by Germany.

Berlin used its economic might to ram through rescue measures appropriate on its own traditions

Prof Habermas said, Berlin used its economic and political might to ram through rescue measures appropriate to its own – but no one else’s – economic traditions. This, he said, took place not via traditional EU decision-making channels, the so-called “community method”, but via the “self-empowerment” of the European Council – where EU leaders meet.

Finally, having secured reform treaties and rescue structures outside EU law, Prof Habermas said Berlin disowned the “consequences of one-sided austerity politics” it demanded.

Looking ahead, he warned that Berlin’s technocratic, intergovernmental approach – which “treated national governments and citizens like underage children” – had diminished the appetite for closer European integration.

It was essential to work against this, he argued, by shifting away from austerity politics towards stimulus measures. Prof Habermas dismissed German concerns that the pace of reform would slow in crisis countries as a result.

He said there were good reasons to demand greater European integration, but that citizens in member states would always reject this without being presented with greater democratic control. Berlin’s “closed-door . . . technocratic” approach in the crisis had increased Germany’s influence in the EU, he said, but also built up huge resistance against Berlin. “The federal government has played out a hegemonic position in Europe and . . . has created an explosive situation,” he said.

Separately a new study has dismissed as a myth the claim that decade-old German economic and social reforms, held up as a model for crisis countries, were behind Germany’s own rapid recovery.

The study, to be published next week by the Journal of Economic Perspectives, said the reforms “were not central or essential in the process of improving the competitiveness of German industry”.

The report warns against using Germany’s reforms as a template in countries with often very different structures. Instead the economists recommend following Germany’s example in “de-centralising bargaining to the firm level” to improve wage flexibility and ensure that “employees benefit again when economic conditions improve”.

Source: Irish Times

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