25 years have passed since the Maastricht Treaty came into force. What on November 1, 1993 seemed only like a progression of the established European Communities was in reality a change of quality. Until then, the member states of the ‘European Community’ had had a rather loose relationship with each other. In fact, there was not even one ‘European Community’ in the singular, but several supranational communities in the plural, which had been continuously refined: The European Coal and Steel Community, originally from 1951, as well as the European Atomic Energy Community and the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, both originally from 1957. In many intermediate steps, the EEC became the EC and then the EU. Like a wandering dune, the growing construct continued to crunch its way across the continent: slowly, but steadily, ever higher, ever wider, ever more inflexible.
It is well known that the essential characteristic of the organisation of a community is that the individual community members pursue their own goals. This, for example, is the reason why we speak of a ‘condominium owners' community’ elsewhere. All co-owners live in one house, but they live their lives independently according to their own ideas. Each individual can come home if and when they like, each has his or her own refrigerator with different contents, and each sleeps in his or her own bed. The individual budgets also remain separate; there is a common liability, but only for the common hallway, the foundation slab and the roof.
The change in quality from Community to Union therefore lies – to stay with the metaphor – in the standardisation of living conditions. The EC did not force anyone to open their own wardrobe to neighbors. In the Union of condominium owners, however, all the sofas in the house will soon be owned and distributed by the administrators. The once solely rudimentary house rules are morphing into an order regulating our whole way of life. Suddenly, attendance obligations and pressure to act arise, all savings and incomes are socialized (“to ensure continued peace in the building”). The over-indebted Greek on the ground floor receives credit from the residents on the third floor, but is only allowed to cook what they allow him to. The Italian on the first floor has to relinquish his wallet, and all those involved are to place more beds in their bedrooms because a domineering German woman in the house has invited countless guests to a party.
What is obvious and has by now been described countless times is that, in the long run, humans are not created for such a centralized coexistence based on foreign commands. All promises of happiness and comfort are no longer worth anything, as soon as it becomes clear to those involved how little autonomous room for manoeuvre they have left in day-to-day life. At a certain point the unloved central administration is blamed – whether justifiably or not – for all life’s problems it can’t solve, and thereby loses its own basis of existence.
Now, in the 26th year of the Maastricht Union, Europe is increasingly feeling those strikingly obvious and unmistakable centrifugal forces, which (some) more lucid minds had foretold about the supranational construct. The raving in the other apartments, the displeasure in the hallways and the furious protests in the garden inevitably influence the mood in the German rooms as well. The original Federal Republic power structure of two parliamentary blocks with a liberal corrective holding the balance has been broken. The Christian faith in God had long since been replaced by the increasing belief in the ‘Green Nature and Environment’ religion. After reunification, a proportion of the social democratic part of the population was absorbed by hard-line communists. And all these protagonists were united by a lack of insight into the dangers of the qualitative change from a European desire to cooperate to a continental compulsion to cooperate. This was the moment of birth for the conservative alternatives to the CDU/CSU.
At the end of the 25th Maastricht year the former large people’s parties are eroding in Germany. The central political axis of conflict no longer runs between conservative bourgeois Christians here and aspiring socialist redistributors over there, but between open-border, climate-protecting internationalists in revolutionary mode on the one hand, and order-loving, value-conscious citizens with a scientific-technical view of the world on the other. These tentative movements by huge numbers of voters mean that the old people’s parties are caving in. What is needed are clear messages for the two new camps on either side of the fault line, instead of diffuse promises of all-round happiness.
As the CDU now dismantles its chancellor and sends into the race for power Friedrich Merz, a figure still familiar to the older population, the coming scenario on the horizon takes shape: a chancellor without party chairmanship will no longer be able to assert herself politically after Christmas 2018. She must resign sometime before May 2019, appropriately staged as a signal for the EU Parliament elections. The coalition with the SPD will then collapse, but nevertheless there will be no new elections. This is because, if the pack were to be reshuffled, all the established parties, apart from the Greens, could only lose in the foreseeable future. As a result, a ‘Jamaica’ coalition of CDU (black), FDP (yellow) and Greens with a new CDU leader, elected to leadership via a constructive vote of no confidence, will give the Social Democrats two years to regenerate in opposition. Friedrich Merz will continue to intensify his contradictory European messages about more economic common sense and more integration, in the hope of gaining support from uncritical pensioners. Since Jens Spahn will have lost the power struggle in the CDU, we will see a Green Minister of Health competing with the civil servants of his house for the creation of a citizens’ insurance.
What happens then in the German apartment of the European house will not be decided in Berlin, but in Brussels, Rome, Athens and Marrakech. Imagine that the industrious Germans no longer drive their diesel to work every day in a traffic jam on pot-holed roads to generate the necessary transfer billions for Europe, but instead search for electricity for their houses and electric cars, after the collapse of the power supply due to the ‘Energiewende’. At the same time, they negotiate their existence on a daily basis with UN migrants, whom they have to integrate into their welfare systems and together with whom they plan a new currency, after it was no longer possible to ‘save’ the euro, not even with the craziest of algorithms. For crowd psychologists and media mood creators, a golden age will dawn, when it will be necessary to spin admiring glances at a prospering Brexit island as undemocratic populism.
When my grandfather, whose family came from near the border, close to the Dutch city of Maastricht, went hungry in 1945, he got on a bicycle and rode into Holland to get potatoes. He knew that people still cooperate, even when major political experiments have failed.
Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on 17th November 2018.