Year XXVI, 1984, Number 3 - Page 269
A LETTER FROM ROSARIO ROMEO ON GERMAN RE-UNIFICATION *
in the July issue of The Federalist of this year Sergio Pistone gave his reflections on ‘German re-unification and European unification’. I would like to ask your permission to intervene with a few comments. This is not so much because the author does me honour of a short polemical reference on page 53 note 2 of his essay (where moreover the bibliographical reference needs to be corrected inasmuch as the essay by Dino Cofrancesco appeared in “Storia contemporanea”, 1983, n. 2, and was followed in the same publication pp. 281-86 by a short reply I made which surely would not be impossible to quote). Rather the reason for my intervention is that in this essay positions are taken which are certainly old in the federalist movement but which in my opinion are far from useful in the struggle for European integration.
Pistone refers to, approves of, and indeed strengthens with new arguments, the thesis put forward by Eberhard Schulz, Die deutsche Nation in Europa (1982) which calls on the Bonn government to abandon German re-unification completely. This policy, says Schulz, repeating what many had said before him, gives rise to fears and suspicions on the other side of the Elba, plays havoc with the practical, concrete results of the Ostpolitik and is seen with resolute aversion by the Western allies of the Federal Republic, France being the first but not last of these. Re-unification would in fact mean German hegemony in Europe, which would be unacceptable to the other members of the European Community and would even mean potential re-discussion of the Oder-Neisse line, with all the related dangers of war and nuclear extermination.
Essentially the Germans are asked (1) to give up half their territory that the treaty of Versailles recognised as German national territory; (2) to abandon 17 million fellow Germans in the GDR to their own fate, in the expectation and hope (so well-founded!) that the USSR will decide to give them democratic rights, without, however, this meaning the dissolution of the GDR in a much wider national structure. What would ever bring the USSR to grant such a concession, which would cause a crisis in the current political system in all the Eastern-block countries from the Soviet Union onwards, is neither clear nor comprehensible. And if all this ended up in the GDR’s membership of the European Community, as the author hopes, the thesis becomes even less plausible if the Community is seen as a political entity, while it has no sense if the discussion remains at the economic level, since the GDR to a large extent already enjoys many of the advantages that EEC members have.
Renunciations like this are never asked of any of the other states or countries who belong to the Community. If we believe that they can be asked of Germans, this depends on two prior assumptions. One tacit assumption is that the historical responsibility rests with Germany, in the name of which a permanent international minority, or so it would seem, is justified. A second assumption, openly avowed, is that Germany is too strong, demographically and economically (and therefore, potentially, militarily and politically) for other European countries, who still have sufficiently vivid memories of the past, to contemplate with no concern the danger of renewed German hegemony which would be born from complete re-integration of the country in its pre-war form.
The meaning and content of the "pro-European" proposals in the line of thinking that Pistone supports clearly require the West German public and political class to accept an integration into Europe designed to act as a kind of bed of contention for Germany, guaranteeing its perpetual national disablement and mutilation, preventing the German national community from expressing all the energies it is capable of expressing, to avoid it disturbing France’s and other allied countries’ sleep. This is a proposal which in its internal justification completely overthrows the logic of the pro-European proposal which is directed towards those who live in our continent and which is based on the assumption that, with union, energies would not be discouraged and humiliated, but exalted and strengthened and that Europe means a bigger and worthier future for all social forces, individually and collectively, making up the European scene.
I have said on another occasion, and I will repeat it here, that approaches of this type are shot through with a total lack of reality and by an equally serious lack of pro-European coherence. With the huge power of the Soviet Union camped on the Elba all fear of renewed German hegemony of a military and political type is only a pretext to justify on the one hand the continental supremacy acquired with the Second World War by the Soviet Union and on the other hand the tendency within the European Community for France, and to a certain extent Britain, to hog the limelight. Moreover, if the suspicion relates to the energies that Germany shows she still has economically and organisationally, any desire to crush them would be tantamount to repressing the expansive force of French culture, British technology and Italian creative spirit. And this is truly a type of Europeanism that nobody wants to have. Europeans must hope that Germany, like all other nations, will give Europe all she can give. They would do well to direct their fear of renewed hegemonic temptations where they actually are and not to where they once were and have not existed for forty years.
The political result of Pistone’s position is before everybody’s eyes. The pretext of considering national values null and void is everywhere, and particularly in the strongest and most advanced nations, strengthening resistance which is related to an awareness of the different identity of various countries. In particular, in Germany by this means much of general public’s initial enthusiasm for the European cause has been destroyed and very worrying neutralist tendencies have been fuelled. And indeed how can those in the Federal Republic be contested when, faced by allies who are no less hostile and no less fearful of Germany than the Soviet Union is, they believe that a reasonable policy is to seek agreement with the adversary who, at the very least, could ensure improved relationships with the GDR that the West seems incapable of giving, and which in particular could protect the country against the risks of war that alliance with the West inevitably brings about? Seen in this light, the cause of Europeanism accumulates in its path enormous and unnecessary obstacles, bringing against it the hostility of all those (and there are many) who are not at all persuaded that the elimination from history of national identities is such an easy operation as some people claim.
What then? the line to be taken is the one which Adenauer and other fathers of Europeanism indicated in their day, to be understood in its truest form and in the meaning that it had in reality, and not in the fantasies of certain interpreters. Adenauer wanted Western Germany in free Europe because this both saved the freedom of part of the country and at the same time left open the possibility that in the future re-unification would arise on the basis of freedom, and not on the basis of subjection to Stalinism. Adenauer’s Europeanism counted for this reason on the force of civil and economic pressures that a united Europe would have in time on the Soviet Empire. And in view of the mounting superiority of Western solutions and the crisis manifested by much of the Communist world this prospect seems not so distant from reality. This should not of course mean military initiatives and nuclear wars, unless there are acts of aggression which certainly will not come from the west. Those who argue that all this is utopian ought to demonstrate many things which are in fact very hard to demonstrate. First of all they ought to make credible the thesis that we can expect the spontaneous dissolution of the two blocks as a result of detente, without resistance from the Soviets. If, on the other hand, we maintain that the two blocks can be done away with only on the common ground of democracy, and hence political freedom, how can we avoid the possibility that on that very day the East Germans will opt for national unity? Will we then ask the West Germans to join in with the Soviets in their repression against their fellow citizens?
I know that there are many, very many who find such positions unattainable since they can still remember the atrocities perpetrated by the German armies in the Second World War. Here too, we may ask what Europe we wish to create if behind one of the major partners we are willing to see the shadow of the torturer and gaoler rise up at every second. But, finally, each of us has the right to his own memory. I only wonder how the Germans could not be aware of this and hence I wonder what Europe can it be that we wish to construct on such equivocal bases shot through with such serious mental reservations? How can we hope that the Germans in the prosperous West Germany will be ready to consider that poverty and economic delay in Southern Italy, where I come from, belong to them as well, when we say that the problems of those who have left so many victims at the foot of the wall are problems which do not affect us and as a matter of fact we are in favour of the “status quo” i.e. the positions of the Soviets which at every moment reminds us of the “realities” traced by the sword and the right of conquest? Certainly there are people who think like this: but they are called Giulio Andreotti.
* In publishing this letter from our illustrious interlocutor we wish to clarify that he attributes to us beliefs that we maintain we do not hold. We do not think in terms of the “historical guilt” of Germany because we believe that the facts of German life (like those of other national lives) must be imputed, ultimately, not to the entity “German nationality” but to the entity “system of States”. In any case, we believe that, in practical terms, we must be open to any effective form of German unity (in a solid European framework) including what would arise merely from the fact of establishing the European federation with, from the (historical) perspective, one, or two or three (Austria) German States as Member States. By bringing down the barriers that exist between peoples, the federation unifies men without the need to make state and nation the same thing.