EDITORIAL: Between the East and the West

Almost one hundred years ago, in his Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man (1918), Thomas Mann wrote about the “German loneliness between the East and the West” and claimed that the principles of Western democracy could not be reconciled with Germanness. He changed his mind after the lost war; he broke with the myth of German uniqueness and during World War II, he became an icon and hope for the Germany which wanted to be— and remained—part of the West.

Contemporary German Federal Republic is a direct heir of this tradition. The evident rise of the political and economic importance of this country is both a challenge and an opportunity for 82 million Germans and half a billion Europeans. Today it seems certain that the Eurozone will turn into a federal state in a few years—or cease to exist. This places a particular responsibility on Germany, the largest member state of the European Union.

We will soon discover whether the German elites and society are ready to relinquish the attributes of the nation state and make a decisive step towards building a European empire—for the planned fiscal and banking unions are just that. Why would the Germans do it, especially today when they are at the peak of their post-war power, while the Union is undergoing the deepest identity and financial crisis in its entire existence? And are the elites and societies of the other Eurozone states ready for that? Or, in a longer term, of Poland and the Czech Republic?

Talking to Aspen Review, Prime Minister Petr Nečas speaks with approval about multispeed Europe, with the common market remaining its foundation and the member states deciding for themselves about their progress towards greater integration. In Poland such a view is perceived as a recipe for second class membership. One thing is certain: without Germany the European federation will remain in the realm of dreams. Or, if you prefer, nightmares.

Aleksander Kaczorowski

Aleksander Kaczorowski is an editor-in-chief of Aspen Review Central Europe, a Polish bohemist, journalist and author. His recent books include biographies of Václav Havel, Bohumil Hrabal, Ota Pavel and Isaac Babel. He won the Václav Burian Prize for cultural contribution to the Central European dialogue (2016).

Share this on social media

Support Aspen Institute

The support of our corporate partners, individual members and donors is critical to sustaining our work. We encourage you to join us at our roundtable discussions, forums, symposia, and special event dinners.

These web pages use cookies to provide their services. You get more information about the cookies after clicking on the button “Detailed setting”. You can set the cookies which we will be able to use, or you can give us your consent to use all the cookies by clicking on the button “Allow all”. You can change the setting of cookies at any time in the footer of our web pages.
Cookies are small files saved in your terminal equipment, into which certain settings and data are saved, which you exchange with our pages by means of your browser. The contents of these files are shared between your browser and our servers or the servers of our partners. We need some of the cookies so that our web page could function properly, we need others for analytical and marketing purposes.