Some people are complaining that Germans are taking over these days. My first feelings towards the EU Presidency are somehow German and still so European: the shocking climate review has just been published and I have not seen a single TV news without talk about new ecological measures. Better late than never, I would say. But when you look at what actually happens inside the country holding the Presidency, you wonder what kind of world Merkel & Co live in.
Surely no other industry still plays such a symbolic role as the car industry inside Germany. At the same time no other industry sector (together with airlines) has been as blind on climate change as German car makers, which have consistently managed to gear up their fleets both in average engine power and CO2 emissions. But when the world and the European Commission finally start to take climate change seriously, we can see a very European pattern evolving. National champion industries (here: Germany’s car industry) send a big letter to the government – and all the EU has to stand still. How familiar, but how very European is this behaviour? – “All politics is local” they say.
Deutschland prefers secret Constitutional diplomacy
The take-over of another German, the new President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering, was followed by another interesting lesson about the Germans. Apart from his veteran experience and knowing-by-heart of the Parliament’s rules of the game, “HGP” could also convince chancellor Merkel to be more present in plenary during her Presidency than any other Prime Minister before. This will hopefully go along with further-reaching reforms of the EP, including making its debates livelier and also taking up the seat issue.
But my point really is Merkel’s first speech in the plenary. For most of her speech she recalled some good European common sense about our common house – in as boring a way as a German can be. Yes, the Constitution, but please nothing promised. Her answers to the MEPs comments were more revealing. Firstly, she has her Sherpa’s ready and according to her they are of course the best option to discuss the way forward with the Constitution. Parliaments should better not be involved in this. Secondly, there was one thing she did not even bother to comment on – the idea of a European referendum. If you want to twist it into a positive direction, you can say that she keeps options open by not excluding it from the start.
Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat – kommt Referendum Kampagne
Luckily JEF and UEF have decided that we will not wait until Merkel’s Sherpa’s will fail or succeed, because we have always argued that we need a process that derives from the citizens – and not from bureaucrats. Therefore I am happy to see that our referendum campaign is already launched when the 27 Heads of State and Government come together on March 25 to discuss the blabla – äh – Berlin Declaration.
On March 17 we will prove that we do have a good amount of activists to give our campaign a fresh and good start.
Collecting one million signatures is surely ambitious but as we know from the ‘oneseat’ campaign it is not impossible. But first of all this campaign is about reaching out to civil society and the citizens – and to involve these in the fight for a European Constitution.
Let us show the Germans that their attitude is wrong – and let us show them on home territory at the campaign presentation in March as well as the campaign launch in Munich on April 20-21 that we are many; at least so many as to pressure the Germans out of their elitist attitude towards constitutional diplomacy.
Ambition defines Constitution
It has always been ambition which defined European success for bold steps ahead. Once again we as the federalist organisations should lead with ambition. Let us show that European citizens do care about their Europe.
Involving them in the collection of one million signatures until summer 2008 is not an easy game. But if we do not try, we cannot fail. And if we do not gear up the pressure for European democracy, we will also get what we deserve. I would prefer Europe over Germany.