Heeding Henry.

Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, may be coming out of the dog house – if only conceptually.

After even the left leaning German daily taz recently began publishing political obituaries for the man who more than anyone represents the political maturing (or not) of the generation of ’68 (following the affair about problematic political guidelines leading to criminal exploitation of German visa policies in Eastern Europe and in light of the looming federal election that will likely lead to a government without a Green party participation), Mr Fischer may have decided that it might be worthwhile to spend his remaining time in office not just by campaigning for a permanent German seat in the UN security council but by heeding Henry Farrell’s advice about the opportunities of a dieing European constitution and going back to his own foreign policy ‘roots’: In May 2000, he used a speech at Berlin’s Humboldt University to sketch out his ideas for ever closer union, “From Confederacy to Federation” (pdf available).

Yesterday evening, while invited to speak about the future of transatlantic relations at the American Academy in Berlin, according to Spiegel International, he used the opportunity to make the point that bold steps are needed now that the familiar way of doing politics in Europe has been apruptly (but perhaps not surprisingly) ended by the French (and the Dutch).

Two quotes (from Spiegel I haven’t found a full transcript yet) –

“In the mid-term perspective I’m quite optimistic. The big question is how can you fill the gap…. It must be filled by political structures…. The real positive and new experience in the French campaign was that it was a European campaign…. The French (referendum) campaign was the first time that I was really campaigning for Europe.

“And such a model (of campaigning for Europe) can work. This would mean that the next time the European Parliament is up for election, we have to raise issues not on a national level, but we have to form Europe-wide platforms created by European-wide parties. And we have to run with candidates representing not national programs, but European programs. I am not talking about a pie-in-the-sky European program with nice ideas that nobody is really interested in. But they have to have a substance. What about social justice in the European Union? What about the free market? What does it mean in France, in Germany, in Poland, in Lithuania, in Slovenia, in Portugal? And then (we have to) present candidates for the job for the president of the Commission and they must run for that position. Without that, I don’t believe we can really bridge the gap between the project of the elites and the reality of the people.”

Fortunately, he is also aware of the problems that have kept such bold steps from being realised already –

“We are talking about 1,000 years of European history. We are talking about different languages, different cultures. We are talking about over 500 million people. We are talking about very successful nation states and nation states with terrible histories like my own country. We are talking about the old European state system with its prejudices, fears, concerns, and very different traditions. To bring that together, you have to deal with the resistance of centuries….”

3 thoughts on “Heeding Henry.

  1. Typical Fischer. Good analysis, but no clue on how to implement it. “We have to …” is a little strong when it’s not even clear that your own party will listen to you after the election.

  2. I am not impressed. Europe-wide political parties have existed for ages: ELDR, PPE, PSE, Greens etc. They have also campaigned with European election manifestos before, at least in the past two EP elections. Nor is it a new ambition to have substantial ideas in those programmes either. Perhaps they have even succeeded already in that ambition – who knows? Certainly not the ordinary voter, or the ordinary political journalist.

    The only thing that could really have changed after the French and Dutch referenda, is indeed that campaigns will from now on be EU-wide instead of national. But that would not be because the politicians have changed, but because the media and the public have become more aware of their European context (which would be a good thing, of course).

  3. “you have to deal with the resistance of centuries?”

    Not all of them in the past, either.

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