There’s no match for Angela ‘Merkiavelli’

Learning from Machiavelli that the successful ruler is both loved and feared,
but that, if you have to choose, it is better to be feared, Mrs Merkel has
devised a brilliant strategy. She is loved at home (because she is seen to
fight for German interests) and feared abroad (for the same reason). Like a
one-woman hard cop/soft cop routine, she says yes and no to eurozone
integration at the same time. She is a tough nationalist and a good
European. No other eurozone leader has a chance against this.

Besides, Mrs Merkel’s power is grounded in the strength of the German economy
and is therefore very mobile. This is much more effective than the
old-fashioned German military power which proved so expensive for all
concerned twice in the 20th century. As Professor Beck puts it, Germany “has
no need to invade, and yet it is ubiquitous”. This too was originally a
Ridley point, considered grossly offensive at the time he used it.

On top of this, Merkiavelli has not merely issued orders to the other member
states, she has ensured that the German culture of “stability” in economic
affairs is the orthodoxy of the age. True, there is not, as yet, a single
example of German-style austerity policies actually working in the southern
countries on whom it has been inflicted, but that hardly seems to matter in
the terms of power politics. So strong is the idea of German financial
rectitude, says Prof Beck, that Germans largely avoid being painted as the
ruthless masters of Europe by being seen as “the schoolmasters of Europe”.
As their youth unemployment rises to over 50 per cent, countries such as
Spain and Greece can be cowed by the Merkel teaching that it is all their
fault for their indiscipline and learn that they must be more “correct”. The
German Europe is therefore a reality not only of power, but of official
ideology. No previous German leader has achieved that.

And because modern, united, prosperous, democratic Germany is now “the best
Germany we have ever had”, it is also jettisoning all the old “never again”,
guilt-ridden stuff which Germans are so fed up with. It gives them
permission to be proud once again – “we hear the sigh of a new ‘never
again’: never again should they [the Germans] have to appear as penitents”.

All this upsets Prof Beck very much, because his beloved EU has become a
German-led hierarchy instead of the equality he seeks. Yet how could it be
otherwise? He cannot see this, because he refuses to accept the fact that
the nation-state, especially for a country of Germany’s size, remains the
strongest organising principle and focus of loyalty. Mrs Merkel has a
democratic mandate in the way that the EU institutions could never have.
When they spoke of “Europe”, the Germans, benign though they had become,
were always thinking of themselves. So they have come out on top. Unlike
Prof Beck, I say, good on them for that – why shouldn’t they? I just wish
the European elites had recognised this a generation earlier. It might have
saved us the impoverishment of half a continent.

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