EDITORIAL: Between the East and the West

Almost one hundred years ago, in his Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man (1918), Thomas Mann wrote about the “German loneliness between the East and the West” and claimed that the principles of Western democracy could not be reconciled with Germanness. He changed his mind after the lost war; he broke with the myth of German uniqueness and during World War II, he became an icon and hope for the Germany which wanted to be— and remained—part of the West.

Contemporary German Federal Republic is a direct heir of this tradition. The evident rise of the political and economic importance of this country is both a challenge and an opportunity for 82 million Germans and half a billion Europeans. Today it seems certain that the Eurozone will turn into a federal state in a few years—or cease to exist. This places a particular responsibility on Germany, the largest member state of the European Union.

We will soon discover whether the German elites and society are ready to relinquish the attributes of the nation state and make a decisive step towards building a European empire—for the planned fiscal and banking unions are just that. Why would the Germans do it, especially today when they are at the peak of their post-war power, while the Union is undergoing the deepest identity and financial crisis in its entire existence? And are the elites and societies of the other Eurozone states ready for that? Or, in a longer term, of Poland and the Czech Republic?

Talking to Aspen Review, Prime Minister Petr Nečas speaks with approval about multispeed Europe, with the common market remaining its foundation and the member states deciding for themselves about their progress towards greater integration. In Poland such a view is perceived as a recipe for second class membership. One thing is certain: without Germany the European federation will remain in the realm of dreams. Or, if you prefer, nightmares.

Aleksander Kaczorowski

Aleksander Kaczorowski is an editor-in-chief of Aspen Review Central Europe, former deputy editor-in-chief of Newsweek Polska and chief editor of the Op-ed section of Gazeta Wyborcza. His recent books include biographies of Václav Havel or Bohumil Hrabal. He won the Václav Burian Prize for cultural contribution to the Central European dialogue (2016).

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