Remember that book by Matthias Matussek we fisked some time ago? Well, a telling quote from it was that Weltverbesserungsmassnahmen – measures to improve the world – were supposedly a very German notion. I’m not sure about this – I suspect they are more a (very broadly) left-wing notion, although one that must include the Whig tradition. Anyway, Matussek might have a point.

Germany took over the EU Presidency on the 1st of January, which puts Angela Merkel in the chair of the Committee of all the Committees, a position I’ve said before she is ideally suited to. And what an agenda she brings with her. Apparently, the European Constitution is coming out of its closet in order to…wait for it…”give Europe a soul”.

Of course, what makes up this soul will be dependent on how much of the original treaty will pass the French and Dutch parliaments, not to mention a British political landscape almost impossible to predict. That, in turn, suggests – as do Merkel’s own justifications for the revival – that the revived treaty will be a catalogue of minimal consensus. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

What seems more dubious is how this will add up to a soul. That suggests a lot of windbaggery and propositions likely to be logic-chopped in different and wrong ways in every language and national context involved. I’m tempted to suggest that, by contrast to the US Constitution, that for the EU shouldn’t have a preamble – it only encourages them.

Merkel is also out for improved economic relations with the US, which will depend heavily on the fag-end of the Bush administration’s psychology. (You might usefully ask if an effort at a multilateral fix for the dollar imbalances could be included in here. Perhaps the trade side could be a useful side payment?) She has also announced keenness to reduce the use of Russian natural gas, though nothing more. And her sidekick, Wolfgang Schäuble, seems to want a “dialogue” with Muslims. Well, the sort of dialogue CDU politicians usually like – where one party says “yes” a lot. I thought this might be interesting, but in fact it’s just the usual stuff about the Enlightenment, “burkas” (he probably doesn’t mean them, because nobody wears them here, but the signifier is what counts) and such.

All of which means: CDU and CSU, Wolfi’s still available… Not that this would improve the world very much.

4 thoughts on “Weltverbesserungsmassnahmen

  1. I’ve been meditating a bit on Merkel’s plan to revive the constitution. I re-read it while composing a critique for a letter to a friend in Germany (I am in the USA), and in retrospect believe the problem with it is that it attempts to enshrine many political decisions that a society has to be continuously making.

    For example, the draft constitution includes a provision that the budget will always be balanced. It assumes monetary policy will eternally be hard, regardless of future ideas as to the real purpose of monetary policy. It is pretty hostile to any future economic leftism, and seems to assume that Europe’s half-century dalliance with social democratic policies is over forever.

    It seems to me that the other big mistake is the perversely Hegelian notion of federalism, in the sense that the object is to establish a rigid structure of uniform rights and responsibilities. In a country riven by extreme sectional divisions like the USA, this was necessary: there was one sectional division, and naturally this single sectional division was explosive and held down by measures to impose an artificial parity among the states.

    But Europe c.2007 doesn’t have an explosive sectional division. It has many minor ones, all of which are manageable. The EU could avail itself of a cooperative union model, rather than attempt to replicate itself as a sort of USA 2.0. I would argue that many of the causes of state failure in the USA (e.g., the unmanagable imperial ambitions of our elites) arise from the Hegelian character of the federal union, and far-sighted EU administrators might be able to avoid a trajectory of hegemony-hubris-catastrophe that seems to be afflicting us.

  2. If the damn EU is 50 years old as we are currently being told, it either has a soul by now it is devil spawn. I go for the second option.

    (no, I know it bloody well ISN’T 50 years old. That was the Treaty of Rome and the EEC)

  3. “Weltverbesserungsmassnahmen – measures to improve the world – were supposedly a very German notion”

    If you get a chance, you should definitely see the mokumentary “Weltverbesserungsmassnahmen”

    “An episodic film for a slow workout of the “utopian muscle”. With a gentle yet critical eye and a satirical manner, this film shows what happens when Germans try to change the world. Even the ideas which appear the strangest and most far-fetched are given a chance at becoming a reality.”

    One of those measures is that shorter folks should wear shoes with high heels. The shorter you are the higher the heels should be. This would lead to more equality since we then can look eye-to-eye.

    In German: http://www.zeit.de/2004/32/Weltverbesserer


    ”give Europe a soul”

    I guess Merkel has spend too much time with Bush, who saw Merkel’s soul:

  4. I am not quite sure what you mean by

    “the usual stuff about the Enlightenment, “burkas” (he probably doesn’t mean them, because nobody wears them here, but the signifier is what counts) and such.”

    My guess is that someone from the Brussels press corps asked Schaeuble about his position concerning the Burka. There was a big debate about the Burqua in Britain caused by Straw, but not in Germany.

    I am not a CDU supporter, but I think you are not quite fair to Schaeuble in your comments about “the sort of dialogue CDU politicians usually like – where one party says “yes” a lot.”

    Germany has neglected the integration of immigrants for decades. We as a society have made many mistakes. We were not interested in integrating immigrants, but treated them as Guestworkers. We have a lot to catch up. And our politicians need to do a lot as well.
    Asking some Muslim groups and representatives some tough questions about integration is justified.
    A fair dialogue is necessary. Not the kind of dialogue were one party just says “yes.” I don’t know much about the first Islam conference we had recently, but I think it was better received than you suggest.
    Schaeuble is the first Minister of the Interior to organize this high-level dialogue and he should get credit for it, I believe.

    Here is the Work programme of the German Conference on Islam. As you see, it is not just about burkas. I guess Schaeuble wants to see a similar debate on the EU level.

    (1) The German social system and German values

    * Equality between men and women
    * Developing an informed political opinion
    * Family/education/self-determination of young people
    * Accepting the diversity of democratic cultures
    * Secularisation (international comparison of criteria and trends)

    (2) Religious issues and the German understanding of constitution

    * Separation of the state and church as a basic principle
    * Dealing with religious symbols
    * Mosque-building
    * Islamic religious instruction in German and under state control of the Länder
    * Providing/expressing the intention to take German lessons (policy of give and take); pre-school instruction/models at Länder level
    * Equality of girls and boys, co-education (physical education and swimming lessons, school trips, sex education, attitude of Muslim boys to non-Muslim girls of their own age, etc.)
    * Training of imams/chairs for Islamic studies (universities/colleges)

    (3) The private sector and the media as bridge-builders

    * Young people on the job market (e.g. training)
    * Recruitment policy in the private sector and public sector/self-employment
    * Information policy to overcome prejudices in the Turkish media
    * Information policy to overcome prejudices in the German media
    * Religious and cultural identity of select personalities/role models
    * Secular forms of Islam

    (4) Security and Islamism

    * Additional issues of internal security, Islamist activities against the free democratic basic order and the prevention and exposing of Islamist acts of violence will be debated in a discussion group assigned to the Conference.

    More information in English:

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