The shadow of German imperialism in the EU

Radu Golban, the researcher and economist who uncovered Berlin’s historic debt to Romania, has advanced a shocking hypothesis: under the cover of European policies, Germany has in fact reverted to its old hegemonic philosophy, which was responsible for the outbreak of two world wars. Or perhaps it never abandoned it…

While Europe is the geographical name of the continent, the European Union is the result of its members’ common policies. To gain a better understanding of this political entity, an objective discussion about the European policy of the largest and most powerful state in the EU, Germany, is called for.

One way in which it influences the political environment in other European states is through the work of the various German foundations, which receive generous funding from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and operate in the name of various universal values, but penetrate the policy of their host states more effectively than diplomacy. With regard to the involvement and role of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in relation to Teodor Baconschi’s newly-established Fundaţia Creştin-Democrată, I have come across a name that rings a historic bell: Holger Dix, the head of the Romanian and Moldovan office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS).

Dix shares his name with a leading figure in German geopolitics, Arthur Dix (1875-1935). This analysis of Germany’s European policy is entirely justified in the current political context as there could be a continuity that predates West Germany’s post-war efforts to create a united Europe. Could it be that other German ambitions lie hidden behind Germany’s EU policy? Is there also a typically German aspect to EU integration in today’s Europe that could be to the detriment of other European nations?

The father of geopolitics is considered to be Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904), the German geographer and zoologist who authored the famous “Politische Geographie” (1897). Ratzel and his epigones, who included Arthur Dix, propounded a so-called “geographic determinism” according to which the status and development of a nation must be defined according to geographical factors: climate, soil configuration, location on the map and so on. The geographic area, with all of its characteristics, is important (or so geopoliticians believed) for the policy of a state, its history and ultimately the destiny of its people.

Geopolitics views states as being subject to biological laws. Geopolitical concepts thus came to be imbued with racist, Social Darwinist theories like Malthusian demographic policy. Such arguments were relied on by German imperialism, which spawned both world wars, to justify all armed attacks, annexationism and expansionism as being backed up by “scientific” evidence from German “researchers”.

Friedrich Ratzel’s “Politische Geographie” was used to validate the ideology that underpinned German expansion. The name of this “science” was changed to “geopolitics” after 1914. From the 1920s onwards, geopolitics was systematically propagated by Arthur Dix and his followers and became a “discipline of scientific study” in German universities. The proponents of these theories laid the foundations for German expansion in south-east Europe and relied on geopolitical arguments. Germany’s “geographic destiny”, they believed, was to usher in a “New European Order” by creating a “Central European Confederation” under German hegemony.

A “geopolitical” argument was also advanced by the historian Hermann Oncken, who asserted in 1917 that Germany had a “moral right” to enhance its “central position” by expanding towards eastern and south-eastern Europe. As Oncken said, this “extension of Weltpolitik” would enable Germany to broaden its sphere of economic and cultural influence. Oncken proposed that the “new Central Europe” should include the states that had been allied during the First World War, namely Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, and that Romania, Serbia and Montenegro should be annexed after the war, with the whole entity to take the form of a “Colonial Empire”.

How serious would a century of continuity in German foreign policy in south-eastern Europe be? Inevitably, the reader will discern a terrible resemblance between the proposal of Werner Daitz, the head of the Foreign Trade Department of the NSDAP in 1940, to establish a European economic government and Germany’s latest proposals regarding the Eurosystem crisis.

Daitz suggested that instead of referring to Germany’s ambitions in Europe by name, only Europe should be mentioned: “In principle, for reasons of foreign policy, we must not call this continental economy under German leadership a German economic area (…) We must only ever speak of Europe, because its German leadership will be self-evident because of Germany’s cultural impact, technical dominance and geographical position.”

The same German-European enthusiasm may be read into the words of the former German foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel. In 1993, in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (19/3/1993), he remarked that in its imminent eastward expansion, Germany had reached the point at which it had twice stopped previously. Numerous EU integration research institutes have thus far been unable to analyse the typically German aspects of integration within the Community area, and have presented them especially in this “veiled” form to a sizeable crowd of EU enthusiasts.

The interpretation of both world wars as a German endeavour to bring about European integration, as Kinkel suggested with regard to Germany’s role in Europe – on account of not only the country’s central geographic location, but also its language and culture – harks back to dark times in the continent’s history. The discovery of a role that dovetails with Germany’s aspirations and potential, as the former German foreign minister underlined, is impressive proof of Germany’s recurring ambitions.