Philosopher André Glucksmann A Dark Vision of the Future of Europe
Part 2: Franco-German Relations
SPIEGEL: Do European failures always start with a failure of the Franco-German partnership?
Glucksmann: It was typified by the symbolic insignificance of the celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of German-French reconciliation in Reims Cathedral at the beginning of July. Madame Merkel and Monsieur Hollande had almost nothing to say to each other, aside from a few insipid jokes about the bad weather, which often seems to coincide with their encounters. It fell short of all intellectual, historical, philosophical and political standards!
SPIEGEL: The pathos and historical significance of the encounter between former French President Charles de Gaulle and former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in the same place 50 years ago cannot be recreated. Has the relationship simply become trivialized?
Glucksmann: It's become abbreviated. Our political elites suffer from the intellectual illness of shortsightedness. Adenauer and de Gaulle thought in completely different terms. They looked back on three German-French wars, including the two world wars, and they looked forward to the democratic unification of the Continent and to surmounting the division of power in Europe that was agree upon at the Yalta Conference in 1945. That was the major driving force behind German-French reconciliation.
SPIEGEL: And it was fulfilled in 1990, after the fall or the Berlin Wall. Did the elimination of the threat and division also lead to the dissolution of internal cohesion? Former French President François Mitterrand and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl wanted the monetary union to become the new cement.
Glucksmann: Which is now, in an irony of history, releasing divisive forces. But the problem is more deep-seated than that. In 1990, the end of history seemed to have arrived and, with it, the end of threats, trials, ideologies and the great struggles and debates. This is called the postmodern age. Merkel and Hollande are swimming in the instantaneousness of postmodernism, in which the "great stories," with their overarching claim to legitimacy, are abandoned, as the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard said. Today's European leaders think and act in the rhythm of election schedules and opinion polls.
SPIEGEL: The two are in constant contact, and the German-French relationship is like the routine of an old couple. Isn't being liberated from the burdens of history also an advantage?
Glucksmann: One cannot liberate oneself from history. It always has new burdens waiting on the horizon. If the German-French couple wants to go into retirement, it should say so. But if Europe doesn't move forward, it will fall behind.
SPIEGEL: During the meeting in Reims, German graves were desecrated at a World War I military cemetery. Could the euro crisis reawaken the demons of the past?
Glucksmann: I don't really think so. The days of spiked helmet cartoons in France are over. The aversion to (former) President Nicolas Sarkozy that became apparent in the French election campaign could also have triggered anti-German resentment because Sarkozy was supposedly so submissive to Merkel. But that was hardly the case. The reawakening of old hostilities is not Europe's problem; passivity is. People want to be left alone. And those that want to be left alone are not about to pick fights. Instead, they simply do nothing. This is true of France, of Germany and of everyone else.
SPIEGEL: Complaints about the loss of vitality, decadence and downfall have been a recurring theme in European history. Fortunately, we are living in an unusually long period of peace and prosperity. If nothing else, this is a German-French achievement.
Glucksmann: Of course, we are no longer constantly living on the brink of a global political and ideological catastrophe, as we did in the 20th century. But disconcerting shifts are underway along Europe's margins, such as an ominous encounter between Stalinism and old European nationalism in Hungary and Romania. And there is the special case of Greece. The country is an isolated case of sorts, with a horribly chaotic history since independence in 1830 as well as after 1945, complete with civil war and military dictatorship. In many ways, Greece is at odds with Europe, being anti-German, pro-Serbian and often pro-Russian.