cal fear of being encircled should never return into the public sphere of a country and society that has been blessed with the enormous luck of a second chance by history after 1945. The alternative is as bad: to bury one’s head into the sand when confronted with the headwinds of the real world. Political wisdom at home and good partnerships abroad may prevent such a drama from unfolding in Germany. But for the time being, nothing seems to be predictable and certain any more in German politics — except for two things: The Germans want protection from the realities of this world, and they want change only on the basis of an overly consensual political culture. Some call this dreamland a big Switzerland, which, its critics say, is a mountain in search of a purpose. Germany has always acted best when it is a reliable and proactive partner in Europe and of the United States without letting the mountains cloud its vision. Only as an engine of further European integration, as a partner of the United States in global affairs and, most importantly, as a defender of universal human rights can Germany engineer a good future for its people.
Germany had found again its language of (morally, others would say self-righteously) leading the way for the world. The nuclear exit strategy is a logical expression of this trend. In bits and pieces, the contemporary German mindset has penetrated most issues of relevance for the future of mankind. This is about an exit from history in order to live a peaceful and green life. Neither the freedom fighters in Libya nor the nuclear construction planners in Poland or Brazil were impressed. But Germany, with about 1% of mankind’s population, has come to find its restful soul. Since the days of Goethe and his Faust, the world has been accustomed to the fact that two souls are dwelling in those German chests. The biggest struggle over the current state of mind is still to be fought out: continuously committing the country to European solidarity and its implications — or giving way to those who suggest retrenching from the benefits and costs of true, solid and lasting political EU integration. The debate about the bailout necessities for indebted EU partner countries and, more generally, on the future of the euro, has taken a highly uncomfortable turn in Germany. The issue is no longer Greece and convergence criteria which, of course, must be adhered to strictly by every EU member state (including Germany). The unspoken issue for many Germans is unfortunately this: Shouldn’t one think of ways to exit from the EU to escape the evil history others produce and impose on Germany? So far, it is, and was, consensus in Germany that the histori-
* Ludger Kühnhardt is a professor of political science and director of the Center for European Integration Studies (ZEI) at the University of Bonn, Germany, positions he has held since 1997. Before that, he taught at Freiburg University, where he was also dean of the faculty.
European Business Review (EBR) magazine, issue May - August 2011