French minister puts case for nation states
Jean-Pierre Chevénement, Frances outspoken interior minister, yesterday claimed Europe needed strong nation states to defend itseif from US-style globalisation, in a fresh rebuke to integration-ist calls by Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister.
Mr Chevénement caused a storm when he reacted to Mr Fischers speech two weeks ago, which called for the European Union to rise above its current institutional tinkering and revive a vision of a federal Europe, led if need be by Germany and other core states keen on faster integration.
The Frenob interior minister then had to apologise for criticising on television Germany for dreaming of recreating the Holy Roman Empire, and for failing to absorb its Nazi past. But it was inevitable that Mr Chevénement, who complained that television had overcompressed hts idiosynoratic train of thought, would return to the issue in print.
Writing in the Freuch weekly Nouvel Observateur, Mr Chevénement said the building of Europe needed a German nation, conscious of itseif and having fully mastered its past, rather than a Germany fleeing into the post-national 1
He paid partial tribute to Mr Fischer for realising that the road to greater democratic legitimacy for the EU lay through the nation state in possible new institutions such as a Senate of nations, a European gavernment emerging from the EU Council of Ministers or even a revival of the pre-1979 system for the European Parliament when Euro MPs were nominated by their national legislatures.
But Mr Chevénement insisted that Europe does not need any new fusionist or federalist élan. He said the dismantling of states can only lead to the triumph of globalisation, which the minister suggested could lead to Europe ending up as merely a rich suburb of the American empire.
Mr Chevénement leads a small leftwing party, and is a maverick in Frances proEurope, socialist-led government, as be was in 1991 when he was sacked as defence minister for refusing to order troops into the Gult war. But his reverence for a strong French state, which in his case sometimes manifests itseif in euro-scepticism, even xenophobia, is shared by others on the left, notably the communists, and some Gaullists on the right, even to some extent President Jacques Chirac.
Next weeks FrancoGerman summit is expected to see agreement on EU institutional reforms, much less far-reaching than those preached by Mr Fischer.
"There is a tendency in Germany to imagine a federal structure for Europe which fits in with its own model. Deep down, it is still dreaming of the Holy Roman Empire. It hasn't cured itself of its past derailment into Nazism." French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement has already had to apologize for saying Germans had still not buried the mindset that gave rise to Nazism. But even more telling in his much-discussed remark was the disdain he expressed for an even earlier past, the Holy Roman Empire.
Holy Ro·man Empire (Abbr. H.R.E.) A loosely federated European political entity that began with the papal coronation of the German king Otto I as the first emperor in 962 and lasted until Francis II's renunciation of the title at the instigation of Napoleon in 1806. The empire was troubled from the beginning by papal-secular squabbles over authority and after the 13th century by the rising ambitions of nationalistic states in Europe. By 1273 the empire consisted primarily of the Hapsburg domains in Austria and Spain.
Holy Roman Empire, designation for the political entity that originated at the coronation as emperor of German king Otto I in 962 and endured until the renunciation of the title by Francis II in 1806. It was the successor state to the empire founded in 800 by Charlemagne, who claimed legitimate succession to the Roman Empire. In theory, just as the pope was the vicar of God on earth in spiritual matters, so the emperor was God's temporal vicar; hence he claimed to be the supreme temporal ruler in Christendom. Actually, the power of the emperors never equaled their pretensions. Their suzerainty never included the East, and it ceased early over France, Denmark, Poland, and Hungary. Their control over England, Sweden, and Spain was never more than nominal, and their control over Italy was always in contention. The core of the empire was the various German principalities, plus Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia. Switzerland, the Netherlands, and parts of northern Italy were at times included. Its rulers were chosen by the princes of Germany until 1356, after which they were elected by a fixed number of electors. They elected the German king (later known as king of the Romans). He became emperor only when crowned by the pope in Rome. After 1562, however, emperors-elect dispensed with coronation by the pope and were crowned at Frankfurt. Emperors held immediate jurisdiction only over their hereditary family domains (e.g., the Saxon dynasty over Saxony) and over the imperial free cities. The rest of the empire they controlled only to the extent to which they influenced the imperial Diet. Important also was the relative power of the papacy at any given period. The conflict between pope and emperor was a never-ending one. A longtime dispute was over the right of investiture, an issue finally settled in the church's favor by the Concordat of Worms (1122). Political control of Italy was another source of conflict. In addition to being a spiritual leader, the pope was also a great temporal power there; and popes were generally jealous of efforts by the emperors to extend their political control over the various Italian states. The feud between the Guelphs and Ghibellines dramatized the conflict. Although the emperorship was technically an elective office, after 1438 the Hapsburg dynasty became permanently entrenched. Thereafter, the hereditary domains of the Hapsburgs were the primary concerns of the emperors. The domain of Charles V, for example, stretched around the globe, far beyond the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire. The empire was seriously weakened by the Reformation, which generally aligned the German Protestant princes against the emperors, who championed Roman Catholicism. The Thirty Years War ended with the virtual dissolution of the empire in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which recognized the sovereignty of all the states of the empire. Thereafter, the title was largely honorific; the Hapsburg emperors remained powerful monarchs, but because of their hereditary domains and not because of the empire. In the 18th cent. the prestige of the empire was further weakened by the military triumphs of Louis XIV of France, whom the emperors opposed. Also, the male Hapsburg line died out, creating a crisis that culminated in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War. In the end, the husband of Maria Theresa, heiress to the Hapsburg lands, became emperor as Francis I. Whatever power remained in the office, however, was exerted by Maria Theresa herself and her advisers. The empire ended in 1806 as the result of the triumphs of Napoleon I in the French Revolutionary Wars. Francis II, grandson of Maria Theresa and Francis I, renounced his title and styled himself Francis I, emperor of Austria. After the fall of Napoleon (1815), no attempt was made to resurrect the Holy Roman Empire. See Holy Roman Emperors for a table listing the Holy Roman emperors and the dates they reigned.
Actually, Mr. Chevenement has unwittingly hit on a bright idea. The Holy Roman Empire would not be the worst model for Europe. Of course, as Voltaire said, it was neither holy, nor Roman nor an empire. Charlemagne created it in 800 and, according to historian Norman Davies, "It may have appeared that a new centralized political order was in the making. In reality, local customs and leaders retained much of their force."
Such a structure ensured the empire the longevity of a millennium, a chunk of time the European Union, not yet a half century old, should not easily scoff at. It also, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, protected small states against "princely absolutism." Its loose structure "suited to some degree the cosmopolitan spirit of the 18th century."
The empire was finally brought down in 1806 by that ultimate European control freak, Napoleon. Europe's twin evils, centralism and nationalism, were emerging forces that shortly produced a militant (and militarized) Prussian-dominated unified Germany. A dejected Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, nearing the end of his life, was rightly frightened by unification and what it would do to reason, liberalism and culture. He mourned events in this manner:
"I do not fear that Germany will not be united; our excellent streets and future railroads will do their own. Germany is united in her patriotism and opposition to external enemies. She is united, because the German taler and groschen have the same value throughout the entire Empire, and because my suitcase can pass through all 36 states without being opened. It is united, because the municipal travel documents of a resident of Weimar are accepted everywhere on a par with the passports of the citizens of her mighty foreign neighbors. With regard to the German states, there is no longer any talk of domestic and foreign lands."
Ironically, Mr. Chevenement was reacting to German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's proposal last week for a federal structure for the European Union. Mr. Fischer's remarks have been widely interpreted as an attempt to rescue the French government from one of the bouts of malaise to which it seems prone. Well, we imagine that Mr. Fischer will now think twice before again coming to the aid of his neighbors. But in a way, Mr. Chevenement has added something to the debate.
EurOpinion: Chevenement Gives Euroskeptics New Ammo
By DAVID PEARSON A Dow Jones Newswires Column
Just when you think that Europe is starting to get its act together, along comes another troublemaker stirring up deep, dark memories and reviving distrust, suspicion and hostility among nations.
Today's culprit is Jean-Pierre Chevenement, the French interior minister who is better known for his outrageous outbursts than for his success in making France a safer place for children to grow up in.
According to Chevenement's skewed view of things, aired on nationwide TV Sunday, Germany has still to recover from the "derailment of Nazism" and "still dreams of the Holy Roman Empire."
All this because a week before German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had voiced his vision that closer European cooperation would eventually lead to a European constitution and ultimately a European federal state.
Chevenement has a history of being a loose cannon. During the Gulf War, when he was defense minister, he opposed France joining the multinational coalition against Iraq. He resigned when it was revealed that he was active in a France-Iraq friendship society, but only after some pushing.
He has never made any secret of his euroskepticism and he uses a populist party, the Citizen's Movement, to echo his anti-European, anti-American ideology.
Let's not forget what he said about the euro in April 1998, eight months before its creation. He compared the single currency plan to the Titanic, cruising full steam toward the iceberg, and predicted that the absence of exchange-rate flexibility to absorb asymetric shocks would eventually shake the euro zone apart.
All this while he was a minister in Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's government that had made the creation of the euro its main policy plank. Of course, he didn't resign then despite his opposition to government policy, and I suppose he'll still be around after his latest gaffe.
In a country where people hang on to their jobs until they hear the jailer's keys, Chevenementis an exception, having resigned from ministerial posts twice in his career. But he'll look even sillier if he does so again, especially in the light of his remark many years ago that "a government minister either shuts his trap or resigns."
What's really surprising is that Jospin should want to keep him in such a politically sensitive interior ministry, which is responsible for police, immigration and national security.
Chevenement's latest remarks are like manna from heaven for other anti-European politicians. Those on the right are saying "we told you so" because monetary fusion wasn't backed up by any0 move toward political integration. Those on the left are saying that the whole thing has gone too far, too quickly and that national sovereignty is in jeopardy.
So watch out for anti-Europeans of all political hues to really stir it up when the Danish referendum on the euro comes around in September.