The one-hour speech of German Chancellor Angella Merkel addressing her fellow delegates of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Leipzig yesterday will possibly be remembered as historic in the future.
Pointing at the economic crisis in Europe, which brought the eurozone to the brink of dissolution, Merkel said, “Europe is facing one of its toughest, perhaps the toughest hour, since World War II.”
This is a critical sentence to use for any European politician when the continent is in such a crisis, where elected heads of democratic governments in countries assumed to give birth to European civilization like Greece and Italy leave their chairs to technocrats because they have failed to sustain their economies.
But when such a sentence is used by the German chancellor as the head of a nation that experienced defeats in two world wars in 1918 and 1945, you have to take it twice as seriously.
Because the idea of the European Union was to avoid having another war on the continent, the EU has been most successful in the peace and development project so far. And Merkel’s words yesterday give further meaning to her former words said to French President Nicholas Sarkozy in which she was trying to convince him to erase 50 percent of Greek debts for the sake of European peace.
Since yesterday, we have to think twice when we talk about peace and stability; we are not only talking about the Arab Spring alone, we have to consider the European Fall as well.
Today, if there are international bids to guess who is to fall next, whether it is Portugal, or Greek Cyprus, or Hungary, we can easily speak about a European Fall in 2011, in the same year of the Arab Spring.
It is not just the elections in Tunisia, not just the civil war that resulted in (or perhaps not yet) Libya after the murder of its former leader, not just the trial of the once-mighty leader of Egypt, not just the unrest in Syria, not just the nuclear program of Iran and Israel’s warnings of a military attack against it, not just the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India triangle of tension that pose a threat to world peace and stability anymore.
From Merkel’s Leipzig speech, it can be understood that the fragile state of the eurozone is also a threat to peace and stability.
“The hard part is that this crisis was not created overnight,” she said. “It is the result of decades of mistakes.” That includes mistakes by Germany, from the hasty enlargement of 2004, to abandoning Hungary in the crisis of 2008.
While underlining that Irish problems are Slovak and Greek problems and that Dutch and Spanish Problems are German ones, too, Merkel was also saying that European problems are also Russian and Turkish and Chinese and Brazilian and American problems in a globalized economy.
Merkel is right to say peace and stability in Europe is key for the rest of the world. In order to save it, the core powers of the EU can decide on some restructuring and bring about a multi-gear Europe, where some countries will be less European than others, as has been proposed for Turkey for some years now. It seems the concept of Europe has to be redefined after Merkel’s Leipzig speech