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Joschka Fischer on Vision

by Migeru Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 01:42:54 AM EST

Tageszeitung has an interview with Joschka Fischer this [Nov 1st..Ed] weekend: ,,Der erste Schritt ist eine Vision" (the first step is a vision, 31 October 2014) on the occasion of his new book advocating a United States of Europe. To the charge that he's being unrealistic in that, he answers with

Woran die EU gegenwärtig krankt, sieht man in allen drei großen aktuellen Krisen: Sowohl in den Sicherheitskrisen in Osteuropa, im Nahen und Mittleren Osten als auch in der Finanzkrise fehlt Europa die politische Kraft, der feste politische Rahmen. Die EU als Staatenverbund reicht dafür nicht mehr aus! Und wie immer in Europa ist der erste Schritt der Realpolitik eine Vision. Wenn ich Frau Merkel etwas vorwerfen muss, ist das ihre visionslose Kleine-Schritte-Politik. Ich habe nichts gegen kleine Schritte, im Gegenteil. Aber man muss wissen, wo das Ziel ist.
We see the present sickness of the EU in all three major current crises: in the security crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East as well as in the financial crisis, Europe lacks political power or a strong political framework. The EU as a union of states no longer suffices! And as always in Europe, the first step of Realpolitik is a vision. If I have to accuse Mrs. Merkel of something it is her visionless baby-step politics. I have nothing against baby steps, on the contrary. But you have to know what the goal is.
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promoted by afew


As TAZ concern-trolls further that Hollande or Merkel would go to electoral defeat on such a platform, he delivers a further blow against Merkel's petty politics:

Angela Merkel ist Gefangene von Verhältnissen, die sie selbst in den vergangenen Jahren produziert hat.
Angela Merkel ist a prisoner of conditions she has produced herself in past years.
Interestingly, Fischer uses the word "Verhältnisse" which is the same as Merkel uses when she says "we have been living above our means" (über unsere Verhältnisse). I suppose we have been building a united Europe above Merkel's means. The "conditions" Merkel has created include the rise of the eurosceptic AfD, by the way.

Fischer denies that austerity is a German obsession, he attributes it to the CDU/CSU or conservatives in general, and takes the view that embarking on "structural reforms" takes precedence over balancing the budget:

Jedenfalls die [Obsession] der Union. Die CDU/CSU ist der Meinung, sparen sei die Remedur des Doktor Eisenbart und helfe für alles wie in frühmodernen Zeiten – wenn da jemand ernsthaft krank war, wurde er grundsätzlich erst mal zur Ader gelassen. Im Ausland kann niemand die deutsche Haltung nachvollziehen. Ich habe neulich einen klugen Kommentar gelesen, in dem es hieß, dass sparen die letzte Fahne ist, die den Konservativen zur Selbstidentifikation noch blieb. Man kann aber bei einer schrumpfenden Wirtschaft nicht Schuldenabbau betreiben und zugleich Strukturreformen durchführen. Als wir mit Rot-Grün 2003 die Hartz-Reformen angingen, war es unsere bewusste Entscheidung, die Maastricht-Kriterien zu verletzen. Unsere Devise war: Strukturreformen zuerst!
In any case it's that [osbession] of the CDU/CSU who believe [austerity] is a panacea(*) as in early modern times - if someone was seriously ill, he was basically bled. Abroad no one can understand the German attitude. I recently read a clever comment stating that austerity is the last flag of conservative self-identification. However, in a shrinking aconomy one can not at the same time undertake structural reforms and debt reduction. When we tackled the Hartz reforms with Red-Green in 2003, it was our conscious decision to violate the Maastricht criteria. Our motto was: structural reforms first!
(*) I translated "the remedy of Doctor Eisenbart" as "a panacea". See wikipedia on the origin of Fischer's amusing turn of phase. And now, after this linguistics break, we return to our regularly scheduled politics.

The TAZ interviewe then confronts Fischer with the "Keynesian" charge that the Hartz reforms caused the European crisis by improving German export competitiveness, to which Fischer answers "nonsense" (Quatsch!) and defends the Hartz reforms on the need to reduce unemployment. Of course, the question is Quatsch, as the argument is a bit more complicated. The argument is not that the export competitiveness is responsible for the imbalances that led to the Euro crisis. The problem is the measurement of "export competitiveness" in terms of balance of trade and above all the depression of German domestic demand, wages and investment. Fischer frames the Hartz reforms as fighting unemployment, not as reducing wages. But it was his Chancellor Gerhard Schröder that boasted of having "one of the best low-wage sectors in the world".

After a discussion of Ukraine and Syria, the interview turns to the Green Party and the political landscape in Germany. Fischer would still like to see Red-Green coalitions with the Social Democrats, but as those are not possible the options are Black-Green with the CDU/CSU and Red-Red-Green with SPD and Linke, as just happened in the Thuringia state government. While refusing to give "advice", he does give his "analysis" which is favourable to Black-Green:

... Und ich bin überzeugt davon, dass zum Beispiel bei einer Steuerpolitik mit der Linkspartei und der SPD zusammen die Leute auch in Zukunft schreiend davonrennen werden. Dasselbe gilt für die Außenpolitik. Wie soll das mit der Linkspartei denn gehen?

...

... Ich glaube, dass die Austeritätspolitik nicht mehr bis zur nächsten Bundestagswahl bleiben wird. Da werden europäische Notwendigkeiten früher zu Kurskorrekturen führen.

... And I am convinced that, for example, people would in the future run away screaming from a tax policy with the Left Party and the SPD together. The same is true for foreign policy. How will that work with the Left Party?

...

... I believe that austerity will not last until the next federal election, since European necessities will sooner lead to a change of course.

So, Fischer's ideological dislike for the Left party forces him to (wishfully?) think that the Christian Democrats will abandon austerity. However, balanced budgets and debt reduction are written into the German constitution and, despite Fischer's protestations to the contrary, from outside Germany it does seem the SPD and the Greens are also in favour of balancing the books.

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I put the other, truncated version of this diary out of sight.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2014 at 01:29:07 PM EST
The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, but Germany is still divided

Any other vision from Joschka for the whole ES?

by das monde on Sat Nov 1st, 2014 at 08:59:47 PM EST
Interesting stuff.

I'm reminded again that we're probably seeing a massive concentration of people across Europe in some main areas. The remainder areas are emptying out.

I'm not sure either our current economic or democratic systems are well organised for this kind of change.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 04:05:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a center-periphery dynamic which can be managed within nation states with the use of, wait for it, fiscal transfers. But the EU leads to, on the one hand, cross-border flows, and on the other the prevention of cross-border fiscal transfers (and the weakening of the fiscal policy of member states due to austerity).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 04:11:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the US, the dynamic has been "managed" by propelling it, especially since WW2.  Policies have made it virtually impossible to live in rural areas, and the population drain is extreme.  I grew up in a very small town, but in the quarter-century since I finally left, it has shrunk by a third, and the countryside around has depopulated even more drastically.  I remember talking to my grandfather during the 70s recession.  He had run our farm during the Depression and ever since and so had some perspective.  He said the Depression was bad but that at least most people could raise their own food because either they were on land or has access to land.  He was concerned that things would be worse this time because people had lost access to land and had no way to feed themselves.  It is my in-no-way-humble opinion that this result has not been accidental.
by rifek on Sat Nov 8th, 2014 at 11:58:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Banana republic dynamics... respectable living in big urban centers only...

Or some might see here a twilight of the whole civilization.

by das monde on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 05:14:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The twilight of the whole civilization you can see from the state of scientific research - publish or perish, the incorporation of "profitabiity" and "competitiveness" metrics to research funding, and so on, will ensure that the culture slowly withers.

As to living in urban centers only... with productivity increasing as it is, only a small proportion of the population is needed in rural areas, and even the industrial sector is shrinking. The EU is fighting the previous war when it talks of "reindustralization" as if you could shift 5% more of GDP back to manufacturing. What they need to do is set the conditions for high-value-added employment in services.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 06:25:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
What they need to do is set the conditions for high-value-added employment in services.

Energise actions that cut back carbon emissions? Retrofitting housing, PV rollout, organic agriculture?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2014 at 03:56:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The limit is your imagination when it comes to a government job guarantee program.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2014 at 04:35:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not just banana republics. The concentration of population into urban centers is about the most consistent trend there is. I mean, if you told me that in 2 centuries more or less the entirety of humanity are all going to be living in a single city in the middle of the canadian shield, all 9 billion of them, I would be only mildly surprised.
by Thomas on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 02:06:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The urbanization (or rather, province depopulation) is pretty astounding in the Eastern Europe since the 90s, for example. As resource flows to province are cut by a "regime change", the "urbanization" takes on other speed.

When complex systems are declining, performance tends to diminish from the bottom up: the weekest circuits get abandoned, while the largest get even stronger for a while.

by das monde on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 06:37:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a comment to a column I published a couple of years ago, a German talked with equal contempt of the European "mezzogiorno" and the East German states. As we can expect less intra-European solidarity than intra-German solidarity, yeah, we're pretty much fucked. I would take the vote share of the AfD party as a measure of the fuckedness.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 04:30:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Maybe eastern Germany and western Poland should join each other in a Germano-Polish NeoPrussia? =)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 03:34:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is remarkable - the Soviet effect is nill. What do those colors mean?

The real Prussia is the upper-east white bounded corner.

by das monde on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 03:45:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I posted on this a while ago. The colours are who voted for the left-wing parties, which turns out to be ex-Germany and Warsaw. The interesting thing is that it's not the same people, but people who were moved there by the Soviet Union.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 03:56:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some political parties chose to be really active only in the "German" (or the other) part, for fun? :-)
by das monde on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 01:09:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly moved. in greater polonia and parts of upper silesia, there are natives.
by IM on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 03:52:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any idea if there is a breakdown of how the natives voted?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 04:05:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I very much doubt that the polnish state keeps statistics about original inhabitants annd settlers in say upper silesia. For obvious reasons. Also: inter-marriage, descendants etc.

But if we look at the map at the middle: That is greater polonia. Same voting pattern

by IM on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 05:31:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Empire Is Dead, Long Live the Empire! Long-Run Persistence of Trust and Corruption in the Bureaucracy (March 2011)
Do empires affect attitudes towards the state long after their demise? We hypothesize that the Habsburg Empire with its localized and well-respected administration increased citizens' trust in local public services. In several Eastern European countries, communities on both sides of the long-gone Habsburg border have been sharing common formal institutions for a century now. Identifying from individuals living within a restricted band around the former border, we find that historical Habsburg affiliation increases current trust and reduces corruption in courts and police. Falsification tests of spuriously moved borders, geographic and pre-existing differences, and interpersonal trust corroborate a genuine Habsburg effect.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 04:51:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are a number of amusing turns of phrase that Fischer uses in the German original. The first is in the diary: die remedur des Doktor Eisenbart which is a mixture of snake oil and panacea, to refer to conservatives' love of austerity.

The other come when he discusses the internal debates in the Green party at the time of the Red-Green coalition in connection with the question of who the Green party should govern with:

Aber Sie können sich das heute gar nicht mehr vorstellen, dass Rot-Grün, das heute alle wollen, ein Jahrzehnt lang der Gottseibeiuns war. Man konnte auf Parteitagen das Gefühl haben, dort sei Graf Dracula unterwegs, so flogen da die rhetorischen Knoblauchzehen durch den Raum.
Gottseibeiuns is apparently a euphemism for the devil, presumably referring to what god-fearing people would say whenever the devil was mentioned. And then there is the metaphor that allying with the Social Democrats was "as if Count Dracula were on the way", which led to "rhetorical garlic cloves flying across the room".

So that was an amusing read, all things considered.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 04:09:12 AM EST
There is a song: Ich bin der Doktor Eisenbart kurier die Leut meine Art. (I am the doctor Eisenbart I cure the people in my own way.)

A historical person, by the way:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Andreas_Eisenbarth

by IM on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 09:08:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany's dark future  Francis Coppola
Inflation is falling fast in Germany. Today's figures show a fall in annualised CPI growth to 0.7%. And this is in the supposedly powerful core of the Eurozone. Out in the periphery, things are much worse.

But whereas disinflation or even outright deflation in periphery countries has little effect on Eurozone aggregate inflation, German disinflation is an entirely different matter. Thomson Reuters has helpfully produced a chart showing the relationship between German and Eurozone inflation:

Nicely correlated. In fact it is so well correlated that it is probably fair to say that ECB monetary policy is really determined by inflation expectations in Germany.


Why worry? it hasn't turned negative yet.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 02:06:04 PM EST
The rest of Coppola's graphs are equally inspiring.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2014 at 02:07:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent post, but minor quibble: Frances Coppola is not an American film director.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 01:40:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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