Whatever the merits of Cameron’s stand over the appointment of J-C Junker, what is plain for all to see is that, not for the first time, Britain stands alone (well, nearly – thanks Hungary) in opposition to the forces ranged against it from the continent of Europe. In the aftermath of the pre-determined decision there were benevolent expressions of sympathy and a desire for future co-operation. But the more one listens the more it is apparent that, either directly or indirectly, Germany is the powerhouse and a major factor behind many of the decisions made by the various governmental heads. Exposed is the fiction that the EU is a collection of individual nation states. Laid bare is the illusion that Cameron can renegotiate anything meaningful and thus vacuous is his proposal for an in-out referendum.
As a citizen of the country once termed the workshop of the world, I am a little envious, but credit where it’s due. German engineering is world-renowned and people want to buy what they make. Their society runs smoothly by virtue of Deutsche ordnung. Politically they have a Germany first, party second attitude, unlike the reverse situation here. Any annoyance I feel is prompted by a sense of injustice, real or imagined, at how things have worked out so well for Germany.
The nation we know today is a relative newcomer to the family of sovereign states. The German Empire was triumphantly declared in The Hall of Mirrors in Versailles on 18th January 1871 after the Prussian-led victory over the French. Among the provisions of the Treaty of Frankfurt, signed 10th May 1871, France relinquished most of its traditionally German regions of Alsace and the German-speaking part of Lorraine (a sore that would fester in the French consciousness as ‘revanchism’) and was required to pay an indemnity, calculated (on the basis of population) as the precise equivalent of the indemnity that Napoleon Bonaparte imposed on Prussia in 1807. Revenge, it is said, is a dish best served cold but to the surprise of Germany the French honoured this quickly.
In this centenary year commemorating the start of The Great War I can’t help wondering what the British dead of that conflict would say if they could stand with us today to discuss how our history unfolded. The idea was to save Europe from a dominant Germany, whose navy challenged our supremacy at sea and whose territorial ambitions were not in our national interest. At great cost in blood and treasure we were on the winning side…. apparently.
But we failed to moderate the punitive, often unrealisable and sometimes unfair terms forced on Germany by a vengeful France in the Treaty of Versailles. The resultant turmoil and sense of grievance gave rise to World War Two in which the German genius for systems and engineering were devoted to total war and the industrial slaughter of large sections of humanity. Massive destruction, unrivalled brutality, huge loss of life. Again, at great cost in blood and treasure we were on the winning side… apparently.
Given Germany’s complicity in two global conflicts the 1944 Morgenthau Plan was formulated to partition the country into two, strip it of its manufacturing capacity and reduce it to a nation of farmers. German knowledge of this is blamed for its prolonged resistance after D-Day. But in the early post-war period Europe stagnated and it became clear that the continent could only reconstruct and prosper if German capacity was rekindled. There was also the increasing threat from Soviet communism. The 1948 Marshall Plan, officially The European Recovery Plan, provided 13 billion dollars (about 150 billion equivalent in 2014) in support to help rebuild European economies and eventually stimulated what became known as the German economic miracle.
After this you may think me anti-German but you’d be wrong. I’m just bewliderd at how things work out sometimes and wonder whether doing the right thing, being on the right side, playing by the rules, is all it’s cracked up to be. So what would those men, who rushed to the colours in 1914, say about their sacrifice? Give us back our once proud and noble country, perhaps?
Photo credit: Arun With a View