Nineteen ninety-three, with its single market and its important steps toward monetary and political union, was to have been Europe’s momentous A 1 year. But crumbling walls alter perspectives and timetables. With Chancellor Helmut Kohl successfully rushing the Germans into reunification, the size, shape and future of Europe are being determined now. At first, the eastward drive of the Federal Republic, its new Drang nach Osten, raised the question of whether it might find the framework of the European Economic Community too narrow and constraining. Those fears were then superseded by a much larger concern: Would a reunited Germany dominate the community as the mark already dominates the currencies of Western Europe? Or to put it another way, can Germany play the same role in the Common Market that Prussia used to play in the German Zollverein–that of a unifier, a federator?
These problems now come to the surface because of the dramatic shift in the balance of forces in Europe. The Warsaw Pact, though not yet disbanded, is vanishing. With the huge arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union, the smaller ones of Britain and France, and so many weapons still in the pipeline, it is inaccurate to talk of the end of the cold war, at least in military terms. But the ideological contest, for the time being, is over; Russia no longer claims to be forging an alternative, a radically different kind of society. The political climate has altered beyond recognition, and only the pundits of the Western left, like mandarins still protected by a mental wall, act as if they are unaware of the upheaval, the risks involved and the opportunities offered.
No Repeat of Rapallo
Whenever Germany turns its attention eastward, Western commentators revive the ghost of Rapallo. But the international context today is entirely different from that of 1922, when the Soviet Union and Germany surprised the world by announcing their economic and military pact. Then, the two countries were the outsiders of the postwar settlement, the outcasts of Versailles. Now, the Soviet Union is staging a historic return–not a very triumphant one, despite Gorbachev’s great diplomatic skills–into the capitalist concert of nations. And Germany, far from being an outcast, is the pillar of the Western establishment. The past nine months have confirmed the obvious fact that this economic giant will not remain a political dwarf for very long. Indeed, they have revealed spectacularly how dominant a position Germany occupies in Europe.
For a brief spell late last year, the bullying Kohl seemed to be getting too big for his boots. When he produced his ten-point reunification plan without consulting anybody and stubbornly refused to recognize the Oder-Neisse Line as Germany’s permanent frontier, both Paris and London showed signs of impatience. At the beginning of this year, Washington came to the rescue. Did the Germans give some guarantees about the U.S. economic and military presence in Europe after 1993? Or did Bush simply decide to back the likely winner? Whatever the deal. the United States gave Kohl its wholehearted support, which allowed him to go on dictating the pace of events unperturbed by the objections of his European allies.
In fact, he could even afford to spare their finer feelings. Having dragged his feet long enough to prove his “nationalism” for domestic electoral purposes, Kohl could now follow the advice of his Foreign Minister and resign himself to the inevitable recognition of the Oder-Neisse frontier. Second, since the French were arguing that German reunification should be coupled with a more rapid integration of the European Community, the Chancellor was ready, even eager, to oblige. It was under pressure from Kohl and French President François Mitterrand that the community decided to hold two major intergovernmental conferences in Rome this December: one devoted to economic and monetary union and another, still rather vague, dealing with political unity and a new Constitution for the community. The Twelve will then have a couple of years to work out a blueprint for a future federation.