Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We've Waited Too Long for Europe

Every comedian has a routine in which he asks members of the audience where they’re from. When a comedian in Paris got the answer, “I’m from Europe,” he knew immediately what that meant: “You’re from Germany!”

That was then. Ten years ago, to be precise. I was a correspondent in France for German television at the time and my country was still in the “we are not Germans, we are Europeans” mode.

These days, with Germany hesitant to help bail out an insolvent Greece, fellow Europeans and Americans alike are voicing concern that we are abandoning our European enthusiasm for crude nationalism.

I think it is the other way around: It is the others who have never agreed to a full Europe, and now they are astonished that our resources are running out.

Let me explain. Germany is probably still the most ardent believer in Europe. We are not becoming more nationalistic, just more realistic. For decades we have shouldered the challenges of the European project. We paid the lion’s share into all the budgets and grand schemes the European Union ever conceived. We gave our national interests second row.

Shell-shocked and ashamed after World War II, we yearned for a new identity. We wanted to be Europeans more than we wanted to be Germans. That was our state of mind throughout the Cold War. It was true even for a long time after the Wall came down.

After Paris, I went to Washington in 2002 to head our bureau there, and I shared this view with a French diplomat. “We are not just flirting with France,” I told him. “We are serious: We want to marry. We always wanted to. But that window is closing.”

Not abruptly, I told him. We were slowly coming to terms with ourselves. We were becoming a normal nation — as much as possible, anyway.

To read more:

VERY INTERESTING article to read, really worth to be read completely.

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