Monday, September 24, 2012


Photo: Carl-Johan Sveningsson
In a special section of the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs pithily titled “Eurodammerung,” Timothy Garton Ash has brought his great erudition to bear upon the prospects of the EU. In the article, “The Crisis of Europe, "Ash talks about the political legacy of the Second World War, as informing the drive for an economically united Europe. There are some precious vignettes like the one in which Ash is talking to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl who asks, “Do you realize that you are sitting opposite the direct successor to Adolph Hitler?” He quotes Milan Kundera about “the kidnapped West,” describing the inertial force driving the inhabitants of former Iron Curtain countries. He invokes Gabriel Garcia Marquez when he describes the ensuing invention of the Euro as “Chronicle of a Crisis Foretold,” and in discussing how the scales of economic justice would be upset by the juggernaut of a united Germany, he quotes Thomas Mann, “Not a German Europe but a European Germany” and goes on to remark “What we see today, however, is a European Germany in a German Europe.” For Ash the collective memory which inspired the idea of unification and common currency has been lost. “There is a new dividing line across Europe, not between east and west but between north and south,” Ash soberly concludes. “Now, and probably for years to come it will be a very different experience to be a young German or a young Spaniard, a young Pole or a young Greek.” The cold war was a battle between two ideologies: capitalism and Marxism—both ideas, products of the Enlightenment. Now, if we are to read Ash correctly, European unity is threatened by something far more regressive, the return to a kind of tribalism in which to quote Jerry Butler, the sixties soul singer known as “The Iceman,” Only the Strong Survive.

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