The Maastricht Treaty restored the German sovereignty within a broader federal European framework, accepted by its neighbors. Maastricht was the treaty of German reunification and the first version of « federal » Europe “.
Although from the same root resulting from the split of the empire of Charlemagne in 843, France and Germany took divergent paths leading to opposite nature and destiny, and above all, opposite views on Europe.
Germany is a federal state with a late unification in history, recently reclaimed. Its current composition into different Länder originates from a long history of territorial fragmentation. Its history and its geography shows the inverted image of what France has become over the centuries. France has build up a centralised state within a unified and delimited territory, the "hexagon", which has become its second name.
The idea of Europe was never a fundamental one for France. It was in history the extension of a well established and unified state, an outside territory of conquests. Basically, France did not need Europe to exist. Built from inside “through iron and blood” (4) throughout regimes and revolutions, France until Vichy never lost its sovereignty, be it kingdom, empire or republic. De Gaulle shamelessly claimed such a vision: "Europe is the mean for France to become again what it has ceased to be since Waterloo: the first in world. »
For Germany, on the contrary, the idea of Europe will precisely take shape, lately, from the need to emerge from the disorder and chaos left behind by the collapse of the successive Reichs and devastating wars. From this historical course will result for Germany the absolute need of a political and federal Europe. Europe os for Germany the exclusive way by which it could peacefully reconstitute itself as a state. (1)
At the fall of the Berlin Wall, the European Maastricht Treaty was in fact the treaty of the German reunification. Monetary union and the single currency were the driver for its re-unification, absorbing the East German mark into the Europeanized Deutschmark. The Maastricht Treaty would restore German sovereignty within an accepted, European, broader and federal framework. Maastricht was the first version of a federal Europe as German has always been.
Germany needs Europe more than any other European country, historically, politically and economically. The Nazi period, when Hitler tried to create a Europe dominated by Germans, is far from being forgotten. This historic guilt explains why the Germans are currently the most European minded in Europe.
Although the primary objective of the German reunification was not the building up of the Europe Union, it clearly fostered it. A major historical event which saw the rebirth of a dominant continental power in the heartland of Europe, found its peaceful outcome into a significant advance of the European construction. This proves Raymond Aron right, as he wrote in 1948 that, if the European construction is not the result of a great integration plan enforced above the nations wills, it turns out to be over the decades "an unavoidable historical necessity" (2).
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The Holy Roman Germanic Empire (Source 1)
The year 800 saw the advent of Charlemagne's empire, which would then be split between the heirs in 3 vast territories at the Treaty of Verdun in 843. To the West, "Francia Occidentalis", the future France which from Philippe le Bel will begin to establish itself as a sovereign state, to the East, Francia "Orientalis", or « Germania », the future core of the Germanic Roman Empire. The central part will quickly disappear, belonging alternately to one or the other. "This treaty of chance determined the whole destiny of Europe" (5)
Despite the founding of the Holy Roman Empire in 962, Germany could never constitute itself as a unified state within fixed borders. The German people did even migrate during the Middle Ages to central and eastern Europe well beyond the limits of the Empire. This Empire, which never was one , was never more than an aggregate of hundreds of kingdoms and principalities having in common neither institutions nor currency, only a Catholic religion. Its emperor was never able to exercise a strong power over his subjects. After the short-lived reforms of Napoleon and then Bismarck, who achieved some German unity through "iron and blood" (4) while allowing powerful local particularisms to persist, after the forced centralization of the Weimar Republic, the federal structure and democracy imposed by the allies at the creation of the GDR after the Second World War, did fit the Germans regional organisation. In addition, Germans wanted to prevent any centralized system allowing a dictatorial regime, but also with any model aimed at erasing regional specificities in the name of national unification.
The General De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer reconciled the two peoples but they both held to their respective conceptions of two distinct historical logics. De Gaulle wanted Europe in order to allow France a diplomatic game independent of the East and the West, in order to preserve its singularity and its freedom. Adenauer knew that the Federal Republic of Germany was totally dependent on American support and could not exist outside the framework of an integrated Atlantic alliance.
In the 1950s, Walter Hallstein, German President of the European Commission and a staunch supra-nationalist, saw in Europe the framework where his country could regain the respectability and equal rights that the fanaticism and the defeat of Hitler had made it lose.Within the European framework, Germany could eventually regain the preponderant weight that it would doubtless have thanks to its economic capacity, and finally obtain that the dispute over its borders and its unity be assumed by a powerful European entity.
After the fall of communism in the 1990s, and the multiple transformations of the international system that resulted from it, the fundamental questions arose again, and the historical logic resurfaced. In order to be able to reunify Germany, it was necessary to convince the former enemies and winners of yesterday, who were still formally occupying the country as a whole. Neither the east nor the west had to be frightened, a middle way had to be found for successful reunification. This middle way will be that of Europe whose future architecture would refer to the "common house". The Germany Chancellor H. Kohl reaffirmed that the evolution of Germany towards unity will go hand in hand with that of Europe. In order to escape Moscow, while being accepted in the West by being framed in a larger Western whole, the German question was treated as a founding brick in an architecture of the whole of Europe and in the east-west relations.
During the Perestroika, Gorbachev's "common house" took up the idea of a confederation between the two Germanies, to prevent a real reunification by subjecting the GDR to an institutional dependence while maintaining it in a Soviet system. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl knew full well that the United States would never accept German duality, the direct consequence of which being the freezing of the GDR’s effective participation in NATO and in the European economic community. Anyway, the USSR quickly found itself in a state of decomposition, with the protest spreading within a few years to the other countries of the Eastern bloc. Moreover, its economy was in bad shape and it could no longer support the GDR financially. In exchange for financial loans, Russia accepted the German re-unification, also on the condition that there would no NATO troops on the former territory of the GDR.
France was confronted with its ancestral fear of a once again powerful Germany, which in the recent past had twice declared war on it. A reunified Germany meant a Germany dominating France politically, industrially and economically. Rather than opposing it again, it was better to lean on it, with all the other European states on its side. French President Mitterand demanded an increased role for France and for the European Union to deal with world affairs, as well as a single currency, which allowed access to a hard currency. Indeed, although less influential today, the Franco-German couple have had strong decision-making power.
Unlike the other allies, the United States did not really fear a united and strong Germany. In addition, it tilted the territory of the GDR to the west and therefore increased the protection of the allies by pushing Russia back to the borders further East.
England, whose Prime Minister Thatcher had lived through the war and the bombings, also feared a dominant Germany. But England itself had become an ancient fallen empire and no longer had much influence to oppose. She ends up accepting reunification.
It was a question of determining the configuration and the principles of the new Europe in which Germany would finally find its place, at its center, by organizing a future opening to the east. It wished with France, its privileged partner, to be able to complete the achievement of the constitution of a stable zone corresponding to its historical space. The single currency was the structuring element of its political area. The Maastricht Treaty would therefore be of a German inspiration. The Germanic unification would flow into a united European construction whose base should be the single currency. The Maastricht Treaty would restore German sovereignty, but within a broader and federal accepted framework. Maastricht was the treaty of German reunification and the first version of federal Europe. It was also the beginning of the inevitable economic imbalance in Europe to the benefit of Germany.
Helmut Kohl, the man of German reunification (Sources 3)
Helmut Kohl was the one who took matters into his own hands. He imposed on Germany the path of a monetary union, carried out at full speed. Against the Bundesbank, he who decided on the famous “one against one”, the replacement of the East German mark at parity with the strong Deutsche Mark. And snatch the accession of reunified Germany to the Atlantic Alliance from the Kremlin.
The truly titanic process of absorbing the five eastern Länders is closely linked to European construction. For the German Chancellor, the two projects are nothing more than « two sides of the same coin ». Without the second, the first would quite simply « never have seen the light of the day ». However, « Kohl will remain for me the man who knew how to take a stand. This will always remain in my eyes his historic merit, of having firmly inserted German reunification into European integration » wrote MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit. « He was the very essence of Europe », declared Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.
Helmut Kohl was a patriot. But not nationalist. He was a convinced European, who helped build the « Europe house », that of the single market and the Maastricht Treaty. « There is no alternative to European unification » he said. The man did not like the management of current affairs, nor the economy. And even if he imposed, against all odds, a single currency on a population viscerally attached to the mark, the European Union was not, in his eyes, a matter of deficits and controlling inflation. « Europe is a matter of war and peace in the 20th century. We Germans need Europe more than anyone else, so that we are not pushed again by a singular destiny. »
The Chancellor knew what he was talking about. One of his uncles was killed during the First World War, his older brother fell during the second. He himself was forced to take the oath to the Führer, at the age of fifteen, before wandering to find his parents in a country devastated by bombs. An experience of « death and destruction » which largely explains his desire to consolidate the French-German couple. His friendship with the socialist François Mitterrand did the rest. The image remains in everyone's memory: two men photographed from behind, hand in hand, in front of the Verdun war memorial. In sixteen years in power, Helmut Kohl has secured a place in the history books.
(1) Political Impostures, Marie-France Garaud, Plon 2010
(2) “The idea of Europe is fashionable. Less than three years after the end of the war, the theme of Europe, which played such a role in Hitler's propaganda, reappears in the propaganda of the United Nations. .. After all, it may be a way of paying homage to an unavoidable historical necessity. Raymond Aron, The Idea of Europe, The Federation, June 1948.
(3) Les Echos
(4) The speech of "Iron and Blood" delivered by the Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck on September 30, 1862 before the Prussian House of Representatives.
(5) René Grousset, 1946, French historian, specialist in Asia, and member of the French Academy