Don’t be afraid of Germans, president tells Europe allies
German president Gauck reassures Europeans they have nothing to fear from Berlin’s dominant role on the continent and urges closer integration. AA PhotoGermany’s president reassured Europeans on Feb. 22 they had nothing to fear from Berlin’s dominant role on the continent and said closer integration would lead to a more European Germany rather than a Europe forced into Germany’s image.
In a keynote speech billed as setting out his vision for the continent, Joachim Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor and human rights activist from the former German Democratic Republic, urged people to look beyond the eurozone crisis and political upheavals and to view Europe as a union of shared values.
“It worries me when the role of Germany in Europe apparently causes skepticism and suspicion in some countries. ... I was shocked at how quickly perceptions could become warped, as if today’s Germany stood in a long tradition of German power politics,” Gauck said, referring to criticisms directed at Chancellor Angela Merkel in which she has been blamed for austerity-led policies while acknowledging that Germany has “created much fear” since its 1990 reunification to become Europe’s biggest economy.
German society “has shown itself to be rational and mature” by avoiding any populist anti-European groundswell, he said.
“But I assure all citizens in neighboring countries; I see nobody among the German political class who wants to push a German diktat,” he said. “From my own deep conviction I can say: more Europe does not mean in Germany a German Europe. Rather it means for us a European Germany.”
The president said the eurozone crisis had brought Europe to a crossroads, raising questions that go beyond the economy to encompass the future direction of the continent.
Gauck also appealed to Britain not to turn its back on the European Union, while voicing understanding for its frustration with the EU. Gauck said only a more united Europe could be a global player. That prospect is unappealing to many in Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a future referendum on whether to leave the EU.
“We need your traditions, your soberness and your courage,” Gauck said of Britons. “More Europe should not mean ’without you.’”
The president in Germany wields little political power but has symbolic moral influence.