Friday, April 26, 2013

Habermas's lecture on European Union (Leuven, April 2013)

On April 26, 2013, Jürgen Habermas talked in Leuven, Belgium, on the European Crisis. The lecture is available here:

"Democracy, Solidarity, and the European Crisis"

"....the German government holds the key to the fate of the European Union in its hand. If there is one government among the member states capable of taking the initiative to revise the treaties then it is the German government. [.....] In the wake of the shock of the defeat of 1945 and the moral catastrophe of the Holocaust, prudential reasons of regaining the international reputation destroyed by its own actions already made it imperative for the Federal Republic of Germany to promote an alliance with France and to pursue European unification. In addition, being embedded in a context of neighboring European countries under the hegemonic protection of the United States provided the context in which the German population at large could develop a liberal self-understanding for the first time. This arduous transformation of a political mentality, which in the old Federal Republic remained captive to fateful continuities for decades, can not be taken for granted. That shift in mindset occurred in tandem with a cautiously cooperative promotion of European unification. Moreover, the success of this policy was an important precondition for solving a more long-standing historical problem that I am concerned with in the first place.
After the foundation of the German Empire in 1871, Germany assumed a fatal “semi-hegemonic status” in Europe — in Ludwig Dehios’s words, it was “too weak to dominate the continent, but too strong to bring itself into line”. It is in Germany's interest to avoid a revival of this dilemma that was overcome only thanks to European unification. This is why the European question, which has been intensified by the crisis, also involves a domestic political challenge for Germans. The leadership role that falls to Germany today for demographic and economic reasons is not only awakening historical ghosts all around us but also tempts us to choose a unilateral national course, or even to succumb to power fantasies of a “German Europe” instead of a “Germany in Europe”. We Germans should have learned from the catastrophes of the first half of the twentieth century that it is in our national interest to avoid permanently the dilemma of a semi-hegemonic status that can hardly held up without sliding into conflicts. Helmut Kohl’s achievement is not the reunification and the reestablishment of a certain national normality per se, but the fact that this happy event was coupled with the consistent promotion of a policy that binds Germany tightly into Europe."

See my previous post on the event here.

See also Herman Van Rompuy's introductory speech to Habermas.

See a short video from the event here.

And a video of Van Rompuy's introduction and Jürgen Habermas's lecture here.

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