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Joachim Gauck in Brussels – pragmatic euro enthusiast

Published on May 25, 2012 by: in: Politics

‘My visit is a signal that German people unconditionally say ‘yes’ to Europe’ – said Joachim Gauck during his first visit in Brussels. While  skeptical voices towards the European Union arise in Europe,  Joachim Gauck presents himself as a staunch euro enthusiast. At the same time he emphasizes that such an attitude implies a serious commitment of Germans to  the European Union. His approval of fiscal pact is clear.  As Berlin was to a big extent its co-author, it has to support the pledges of financial discipline that are included in the pact. As the biggest economy of the EU and one of the richest countries of this organization, Germany is morally obliged to solidarity with other member states. So what has been said by Joachim Gauck in Brussels is not only addressed at the president of the European Commission Jose Barroso, but also at the  German public opinion. Obviously, the Gauck’s stand backs up the policy conducted by Angela Merkel.

picture: Das blaue Sofa

What is remarkable is also the fact that Gauck perceives the present crisis in a broader perspective than one determined by economic categories. ‘We are ready to say ‘yes’ to solidarity and credibility’ – he said. According to him, what counts is not the economic calculation alone, but the sense of political community that the European Union is supposed to be. Gauck seems to get this message across to all citizens of EU, above the heads of the politicians from Brussels.

At the same time it should be noted that his euro enthusiasm is not flawed by naivety. When asked if he supports further integration of the EU aiming at the construction of the ‘United States of Europe’, he replies: ‘No, it is not this stage yet’.  His euro enthusiasm is motivated by pure pragmatism. ‘We are strong as Europe, but we lack power when reduced to single nation states’. Gauck does not question the usefulness or the importance of nation states, but he advocates strengthening the ties between them. According to him, the European integration is not an idealistic postulate, but a political necessity for all the member states. ‘National identity still prevails, but our interests make us understand that we should opt for the increase of Europe’s  area of decision-making from a rational point of view. In this context Gauck appealed for more ‘coordination, cooperation and competence’ in Brussels.

The main motive of Gauck’s visit in Poland has appeared in his speeches in the EU’s capital. His assertion that he had lived through the “period of dictatorship” in East Germany and that his vision of the EU stems  from that experience, was telling. Likewise, his further words are also meaningful: ‘together with many Europeans from Eastern Europe I share the vision of Europe as combined with the exercise of freedom (…) this vision of Europe is at times perceived in a more serious way on the boundaries of Europe than in its centre.

In his appearances, apart from euro enthusiasm, a  polemical verve is to be noticed.  Gauck’s words can be seen as a clear criticism  towards European Left, currently lost. The fiscal pact and the policy of savings are perceived by the European Left as the imposition of restrictions on social policy.   Gauck said earlier that he could not imagine the possibility that Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe would ban approval the fiscal pact by Bundestag. This was the motion addressed to Federal Constitutional Court by MP Herta Däubler-Gmelin from SPD. The decision is expected in May. However, similar attitude is presented not only by German social democracy  but also by Spanish and Greek Left as well.

If we consider Gauck’s words as a polemic,  another addressee of them can be London. Isolated in the issue of the fiscal pact and menaced by further isolation in European politics London promotes the diminution of the importance of EU’s agendas  and conducts the policy of getting together all eurosceptics. It is known that the propositions and incentives to join this policy are directed by London to Warsaw.

The German President also argues against the widespread spirit of defeatism regarding the European crisis. He has recalled that the experience of dictatorship  had taught him that the fear deprives one of the ability to consider things the way they really are; it is the reason why ‘we see the fraction of reality and it makes our hearts small’. However – he has affirmed – ‘we should not let the fear or the temptation to go back and abandon the European project  drive us’.

As far as Gauck’s visit in Brussels is concerned, it should be also mentioned that he met there the president of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen. What is typical is that Gauck did not publicly condemn the NATO’s military intervention in Afghanistan, the criticism of which has already become a ritual. Yet, he listened to Rasmussen’s praises of German soldiers who serve in this mission.

Let’s remind that on March 26, 2012 German President visited Poland. Unfortunately, this visit received too little attention, though Gauck seems likely to become one of the  stronger personalities of the European politics. A visit in Poland was inspired by his ‘heart’, but also a common experience of the fight against  communism. It was evident that Gauck would carry out the visit in Brussels due to the importance of the European policy for Berlin. However, if taking in consideration his public statements, he wants to be an advocate of the former Soviet bloc not only in Brussels, but in the whole West.

Translation – Katarzyna Laprus

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About Kazimierz Woycicki

Graduate of Philosophy faculty at the University of Lublin and of Political Science and History faculty in Germany as the Adenauer Foundation's scholar, PhD at the University of Wrocław. Between 1986 and 1987 journalist of BBC, between 1990 and 1993 editor-in-chief of Życie Warszawy, between 1996 and 1999 president of the Polish Institute in Dusseldorf and between 2000 and 2004 in Leipzig. Currently sernior fellow in the International Relations Centre in Warsaw and academic at the University of Warsaw.

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