Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Speech Helmut Schmidt SPD at party convention on Dec. 4th 2011 part one


Speech Helmut Schmidt SPD (Socialdemocratic party) at party convention on Dec. 4th 2011

“Germany in and with Europe” by Helmut Schmidt

My friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

let me start with a personal note. When Sigmar Gabriel, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and my party asked me to contribute once more I remembered with delight how Loki* and I kneeled on the floor painting invitation signs for the SPD in Hamburg-Neugraben some 65 years ago. But I have to admit right away: In regard of party politics because of my age I am beyond any competition today. Since a long time my first and second priority are the tasks and the role of out nation in the obliged framework of the European Union.

At once I am happy about the fact that I can share the speakers desk with our Norwegian neighbor Jens Stoltenberg who gave us and all Europeans in the midst of a deep impacting tragedy a shining example of a not distracted constitutional liberal and democratic leadership.

As a meanwhile very old man one thinks naturally in long time spans – both backwards in history as also forward in the desired and targeted future.
Nevertheless couldn't I give an unique answer to a very simple question a few days ago. Wolfgang Thierse asked me: “When will Germany finally be a normal country?” and I answered: In the foreseeable future Germany will not be a “normal” country. Because against that stands our unbelievable but unique historic liability. And besides that our demographic and economic over weighted central position in the middle of our very small but diversely organized continent of nations.


Here am I immediately in the complex theme of my speech: Germany in and with Europe.

Motives and roots of European integration.

Even when in a few of the roundabout 40 states of Europe the national awareness has developed only lately – as in Italy, Greece and Germany – bloody wars have emerged everywhere and always. One could also understand this European history – seen from the middle of Europe – as a an almost never ending string of struggle between periphery and center and vice verse between center and periphery. The center always remained always again the decisive battleground.

Whenever the states or peoples in the midst of Europe were weak its neighbors entered from the periphery to the weak center. The biggest devastation and the greatest loss of life occurred during the 30 year war 1618-1648 which mostly took part on German soil. Germany was back then only a geographical expression vaguely defined only by the German language area. Later the French under Louis the XIV arrived and once more under Napoleon. The Swedish did not come once again but the British and the Russians did. The last time by Stalin.

But when the dynasties or the states in the center of Europe were strong- or when they felt strong – then they conquered the periphery. That already happened under the crusades which were also conquests. Not only in Asia minor and Jerusalem but also in the direction of Eastern Prussia and all three Baltic states. In the new age it was the war against Napoleon and it also applied for the wars of 1864, 1866, 1870/71.

The same with the second thirty year war from 1914 to 1945. The more it applied for Hitlers advances up to the North Cape, the Caucasus, down to Greek Crete, to southern France, and even to Tobruk near the Libyan Egyptian border. The catastrophe of Europe , provoked by Germany, included the catastrophe of the European Jews and the one of the German national state.
Before the Poles, the Baltic nations, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Slovenians and the Croats shared the fate of the Germans, as far as all have suffered for centuries from their geopolitical center position in this small European continent. Or to put it this way: we Germans have made others suffer under our central power position.

Nowadays are those struggling territorial demands, the language and border conflicts which played a major role in the conscience of nations in the first half the 20th century have become de facto meaningless. At least for us Germans.
As in the conscience of public opinion and in the published opinion in the nations of Europe the knowledge and the recollection of the wars of the medieval times have vastly diminished the memorial of the two world wars of the 20th century and on the German occupation are still playing a subtle dominant role.

For us Germans it seems decisive to me that almost all neighbors of Germany – and almost all Jews on the globe – are remembering the Holocaust and the atrocities which happened during the time of occupation of the peripheral countries. We Germans are not sufficiently aware of the fact that almost all our neighbors are still having suspicions against us for many generations to come.
Also the German generations born afterwards have to live with this historic burden. And the present ones must not forget: It was the suspicion towards the future development of Germany which established in 1950 the beginning of European integration.

Churchill had two motives in 1946 when he called the French in his great speech of Zurich to reconcile with the Germans and establish the Unites States of Europe together with them: First of all the common defense of the threatening appearing Soviet Union but secondly the weaving in of Germany in a greater western Union. Because Churchill foresaw wisely the re empowerment of Germany.

As 1950 four years after Churchills speech, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet came forward with the Schuman -planCharles de Gaulle who ten years later offered his hand reconciliation to Konrad Adenauer acted out of the same motive.

All of that happened out of realistic insight in a regarded possible and similarly feared future development of German power. Neither the idealism of Victor Hugo who 1849 called for the unification of Europe nor any other idealism was 1950/52 at the beginning of the then only limited to western Europe European integration. The then leading statesmen in Europe and in America (I name George Marshall, Eisenhower, also Kennedy but most of all Churchill, Jean Monet, Adenauer and de Gaulle or also de Gaspari and Henri Spaak) did not act out of Europe-idealism but out of knowledge of European history. They acted out of realistic insight in the necessity of preventing the continuation of struggle between the periphery and the German core. Who didn't understand that root motive of European integration which is still the fundamental element is lacking a most valuable prerequisite for the solution of the current most dangerous crisis of Europe.
The more during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the then existing Federal Republic of Germany gained weight economically , militarily and politically the more in the eyes of western European statesmen European integration was an insurance against a thinkable power political corruptibility of the Germans. The initial resistance of e.g. Margareth Thatcher or Mitterand or Andreotti 1989/1990 against a unification of both German after war states was clearly fueled by a worry of a powerful Germany in the center of this little European continent.

At this point I allow myself a little excursion. I listened to Jean Monnet when I participated at Monnets committee “pour les États-Unis d’Europe“. That was 1955. For me Jean Monnet remained one of the most forward minded French which I encountered in my life – on the subject of integration by the way also out of his concept of small step approach to European integration.
Since then out of insight of the strategical interest of the German nation not out of idealism I was and I remained a fan of European integration a fan of the integration of Germany. (That was the reason for a in the eyes of Kurt Schumacher utterly unimportant, but for me as a just 30 year old returning POW, very important controversy with the highly esteemed party leader then) It guided me in the 1950s to the endorsement of the plans of the then polish foreign minister Rapacki. At the beginning of the 1960s I wrote a book against the official western strategy of the nuclear strategic retaliation which was then threatened to the soviet union by the NATO side in which we were attached to back then and nowadays.

The European Union is necessary

De Gaulle and Pompidou have continued the European integration in the 1960s and early 1970s to weave in Germany – but they were not to commit their own state whatsoever. After that the good relationship between Giscard d’Estaing and me led to a period of Franco-German cooperation. A period which was continued successfully after the spring of 1990 between Mitterand and Kohl. Meanwhile the European community has grown between 1950/52 and 1991 step by step from six to twelve member states.

Thanks to the preparing initial work of Jacques Delors (then president of the European commission) Mitterand and Kohl have brought 1991 in Maastricht the common European currency to life which then in 2001 , ten years later became reality. Based on another French worry of a over mighty Germany – or more precise: of a over mighty D-Mark.

Meanwhile the Euro has become the second important currency of the global economy. The European currency is to its interior as in its outer relation so far more stable as the American dollar – and more stable as the D-Mark in its last 10 years. All talk and writing of a so called „crisis of the Euro“ is loose gossip of media, journalists and politicians.

Since Maastricht 1991/1992 the world has changed significantly. We experienced the liberation of eastern European nations and the implosion of the soviet union. We encountered the phenomenal rise of China , India, Brazil and other „developing countries“ which were called earlier „third world“. The real economies of largest parts of the world have become „globalized“ at the same time. To put it simply: Almost all states of the world are dependent on each other. Most of all the players on the globalized financial markets have meanwhile gained uncontrolled power.


But at once – almost unnoticed – mankind has grown explosion like to 7 bn people. When i was born it was merely 2 bn. All these fundamental changes have enormous consequences on the peoples of Europe , of their states and their well being.


On the other hand all European nations are growing old and the numbers of its citizens diminish. In the mid of the 21st century some 9 bn people will be allegedly living on the planet as the European nations altogether will only contribute some 7 pct of world population. 7 pct out of 9 bn ! Up to the 1950s the Europeans were for two centuries more than 20 pct of the world population.
But since 50 years we Europeans are shrinking – not only in absolute numbers but mainly in relation to Asia, Africa and Latin America. As fast the European share of world GDP which means at the creation of value of all mankind is shrinking. It will until 2050 sink approximately to 10 pct; 1950 it was still at around 30 pct.

Every one of the European nations will make only a fraction of 1 pct out of world population. That means: If we want to have the hope that we Europeans will have some importance for the world we can only achieve that commonly. Because as individual states – no matter if France, Italy, Germany, or Poland, Holland or Denmark or Greece- at the end one can only measure us not in pct but just in promille.

Resulting from that the long term strategical interest of all European nations to its integral unification. This strategical interest for European integration will gain more importance. It is by now not widely recognized by those nations. It is not brought to conscience by their government.

But if the European Union will not come to a – even a limited - common power to act in the next couple of decades a self inflicted marginalization of single European states and the European civilization cannot be ruled out. As less a resurrection of fights of competition and prestige between the states of Europe can be ruled out. In such a case an integration of Germany would hardly work anymore. The old game between center and periphery could become reality once more.


The process of worldwide Enlightenment , the expansion of rights of individual humans and its dignity , the constitutions based on the rule of law and the democratization wouldn't get any working impulses from Europe. Under this aspects the European community will get to life necessity for the national states of our old continent. This necessity reaches beyond the the motives of Churchill and de Gaulles. It reaches also beyond the motives of Monnet and those of Adenauer. It roofs today also the motives of Ernst Reuter, Fritz Erler, Willy Brandt and also of Helmut Kohl.

I add: most certainly it will still be the subject of integration of Germany. Therefore we Germans must gain clearness about our own task , our role within the context of European integration.

Germany needs steadiness and reliability.

If we at the end of the year 2011 look at Germany from outside and with the eyes of our direct and indirect neighbors then Germany invokes unpleasantness since a decade – lately also political worry. In the very last years significant doubts about the steadiness of German politics arised. The trust in the reliability of German politics is damaged.

Those doubts and worries are based also on foreign policy mistakes of our German politicians and governments. The are based for another part on the for the world surprising economic strength of the unified Federal Republic. Our economy has developed – starting in the 1970s, back then still divided in two – to the biggest in Europe. It is technologically, it is fiscal political and social political today one of the most powerful economies of the world. Our economic strength and our comparably stable social peace since decades has invoked also envy – even when our unemployment rate and our debt rate are within international normality.


But it is not sufficiently recognized by us that our economy is integrated to a high degree in as well the European market as well as it is globalized and therefore dependent of the world economy. We will therefore experience next year that the German exports are not growing significantly anymore.

Meanwhile a very serious misformed development took place. Enduring enormous surpluses of our trading and balance of services. Those surpluses since years make up for about 5 pct of our GDP. It is approximately as big as the surpluses of China. This is not on our conscience because it is not expressed in DM surpluses anymore but in Euro. It is necessary however for our politicians to realize that fact. Because of our surpluses are in fact the deficits of others. The demands that we have towards others are their debts. It is an annoying breach of our „foreign economic balance“ which we once idealized. And when nowadays foreign mostly American voices can be heard – they come meanwhile from many sides – which demand from Germany a European leadership role so all of it together invokes additional suspicions by our neighbors. And it invokes bad memories.

                                    ** click here for part two **


* his deceased wife which he was married to since the war.



original german version:

If you have any suggestions, comments on possibly faulty translation or suggestions of better phrasing feel free leave a comment.

Important notice to media wanting to use this unauthorized translation: It is translated without any commercial intentions. Therefore i return all rights (=> of this translated version) to Mr Helmut Schmidt. If you want to publish it you have therefore to ask him for permission or terms! 
And please keep in mind that I'm not a professional translator and please regard this as something just a degree better then using Google translation service ;-)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment