Interview with Radu Golban: Romania should not rush into ambitious projects to build a Europe following on from the idea of a Reich
Traian Băsescu may have qualified for membership of the Eurosceptic club by asserting on Saturday that Romania is paying for the recapitalization of banks in the Eurozone through very high interest rates. In reality, the president is focusing merely on the effects and not the causes of the crisis. What are the foundations of the deficient structure of the modern-day EU? Why has the Romanian president only just discovered this? Why has the president expressed a willingness to hand over part of our national sovereignty to set up a new economic government for Europe, the United States of Europe?
Radu Golban, the Romanian economist based in Switzerland who uncovered Germany’s historic debt to Romania, claims that the plan for a Union of European States is in line with the European policy that Germany has always had and that under cover of ideals of European unity, Germany is reverting to its old hegemonic policy, dubbed the “Fourth Reich” by Dinu Patriciu. Golban believes that Romania should not rush into ambitious projects to build a Europe following on from the idea of a Reich. Romania would do better to define its precise position and policies as regards the USA, Russia, China, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Arab world and the rest of the world. By virtue of its geographic and cultural situation, Romania could acquire regional political weight and replace its usual image as a country on Europe’s periphery with that of a gateway between East and West.
Some time ago, the President of Romania talked about the United States of Europe as a possible future political project for our continent. On the other hand, at a meeting between Sarkozy and Merkel held at around the same time, the French president spoke of the need for a “new economic government” for Europe, without giving details about its formation or how it would operate. Where does the idea of the United States of Europe in the modern era actually come from?
The idea of the United States of Europe, which is an old one, is the outcome of efforts to find a political solution to get us out of an economic crisis. The peripheral states of the European Union are hesitant about it, however, as they would lose some of their sovereignty. The Nazi plan for a Union of European States was in line with Germany’s European policy of old, which came into being even before the creation of the unified German state and was developed under Bismarck, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, divided Germany and reunified Germany. First of all, the extent to which an economic government for the Eurozone established merely by Germany and France could be truly European is questionable, because there is a danger that they will look to their own economic interests. Both history-writers and illustrious institutes of European studies have thus far ignored Nazi Germany’s plans for a united Europe, dogmatically asserting that the Union was founded after the war in 1951.
The idea of European unity was a cornerstone of Nazi propaganda. Werner Daitz, a Nazi economist, recommended in 1940 that Germany should exercise caution and avoid calling a spade a spade: “We must speak only of Europe, because its leadership by Germany is self-evident from the latter’s political, economic, cultural and technical weight and geographical location.” This general recommendation from the darkest period in German history exemplifies the need for discretion in the way in which its hegemonic ambitions were presented despite the country’s dominant position in the war. Plans and various integration methods were then put together at ministerial level by working groups. One of the most complex was the document establishing the “European Confederation” drawn up in 1943 by Joachim von Ribbentrop, the last foreign minister of the Reich. In a memorandum of 31 May 1940, Werner Daitz discussed aspects of “the establishment of an economic commissariat for the great European area” and explained that German leadership “is essential” for this area. This expert’s publications also included the “European Charter” of 1943 and the plan for “German-French Cooperation and European Cooperation” of the same year. Since technical matters and experts’ opinions on European unification prevailed over mere Nazi propaganda of a hostile nature, I do not believe that we can understand Europe today without also knowing the mechanism of its integration, over and above the earliest aspirations for unification.
President Băsescu spoke of the “handover of part of our national sovereignty” with regard to the creation of the United States of Europe. Ribbentrop’s plan mentions the existence and preservation of that sovereignty, but more detailed analysis reveals that many of the ideals in the plan entailed the de-facto renunciation by certain states – except Germany, naturally – of their sovereignty. In fact, one clause says that one reason for such mega-state entities would be to allay the fears of Germany’s allies that they would find themselves under German military control at the end of the war.
There is no need to lay particular propagandistic emphasis on the conclusions that may be drawn from the current crisis for the formation of the future Europe. The more public opinion in the various countries can be influenced to draw its own conclusions, the better.
As Ribbentrop concluded, propagandistic interaction at the European level clearly favoured a model based on appearances according to which European countries would make proposals for unification to Germany, which could not refuse them.
While Germany has knocked Brussels off its European pedestal by setting up a seat of power over the continent in Berlin, the request to promote a united Europe can only come from the periphery.
Even when the continent was occupied by Germany, the latter sought a model that would make states appear credible to the rest of the world when they handed over their sovereignty. A temporary military victory on its own would not have been sufficient to unite Europe. During a time of crisis, there was a need for a whole set of strategies for unification, such as the use of elements suggestive of a virtual entity to guarantee a high level of acceptance in not only the USA and Great Britain, but also among the inhabitants of the occupied countries.
In Ribbentrop’s view, the art of statesmanship lay in projecting an image of sovereignty just as it was handed over when the document establishing Europe was signed amid celebrations. Such a strategy would dispel suspicions that states would be run by a German military administration after the war. Another advantage was that policy would be obstructed at an internal level in the USA and Great Britain through the teaching of slogans such as “What is possible in North America – the creation of the USA – cannot be denied to Europe” to opposition groups.
How was Ribbentrop’s plan followed up? Was there any continuation of the thinking behind it and Germany’s political and economic strategy after the war ended? Do you think there is any connection between the more or less public plans of modern-day Germany and what Ribbentrop advocated in 1943? What role do you think Romania would have played in the political entity envisaged by Ribbentrop, and what role do you think would be given to it in a future unified European state?
We cannot speculate as to whether there has been any specific continuation of this plan, but we can analyse the list of advantages of such a union established at a time of crisis by means of propagandistic tools, comparing the arguments relied on then with those relied on today. Anyone, therefore, can judge the extent to which EU strategy can be compared with the plan devised by Ribbentrop’s propaganda office, which was headed by Karl Megerle.
As for the creation of an image of Germany as a country that promotes social solidarity in a tolerant and united Europe in order to transcend national particularism and is willing to give each nation its proper place in the European family, all sense of time is lost.
The question is why such noble aims should turn into a propaganda device at a time of crisis and why they cannot be a real political objective without serving the purpose of establishing a nefarious hegemony. Ribbentrop mentioned, in particular, that such a plan for unification should not give specific details of its political and administrative operation, and the officials appointed to negotiate on Germany’s behalf should limit themselves to general expressions, because the propagandistic transformation of Europe entailed a handover of sovereignty without political guarantees. Ribbentrop was convinced of the need for the assertion of Romania’s sovereignty to appear outwardly credible and regarded it as indispensable for accession to the Union of European States.
Martin Bormann, the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, contended in a report entitled “Setting Nationalist Objectives in Eastern Europe” (16 July 1941) that Germany’s policy on Romania should, first and foremost, avoid stirring up any enmity and suggest to the countries of eastern Europe that Germany merely had a mandate to fulfil. At the same time, he warned that German policy should not dance to Romania’s tune. In principle, Bormann explained, “the huge cake must be sliced up in such a way that we will firstly control, then administer, and thirdly exploit.” And even if it was necessary for some pieces of territory to be amputated, Germany, Bormann suggested, should appear “in the eyes of the population to be the one who is protecting the rule of law and the population.”
How should Romania behave in Europe today?
We might be tempted to believe that Romania’s role in Europe has always been decided over time by the major European powers (England, France, Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey) without the country making a contribution of its own. Modern-day Romania in the European Union is autistic and ineffective, and forever lacking in specific ideas and plans. In particular, Romania should promote its national interests and develop plans relating to central and south-eastern Europe, the Danube area, the Black Sea area, the Republic of Moldova and the Ukraine.
Romania should not rush into ambitious plans to build a Europe following on from the idea of a Reich, as Dinu Patriciu put it. Romania would do better to define its precise position and policies as regards the USA, Russia, China, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Arab world and the rest of the world.
By virtue of its geographical and cultural situation, Romania could acquire regional political weight and replace its usual image as a country on Europe’s periphery with that of a gateway between East and West.
Promoting regional integration in line with the Swiss model, which is based precisely on preserving the sovereignty of cantons within the confederation and understanding between peoples based on the principle of direct democracy, would guarantee stability and the preservation of Romania’s statehood. 134 years after Romania declared its independence, its foreign policy doctrine has remained reliant upon archaic ideas, being firmly anchored in the suzerainty model, and has always favoured foreign leadership instead of true sovereignty. How pointless were the deaths of millions of victims in the struggle for independence and freedom when the president’s office appears to be so open-handed with the most valuable of political assets – sovereignty?
Recently, President Băsescu may have qualified for membership of the Eurosceptic club with his assertion a few days ago that Romania is paying for the recapitalization of banks in the Eurozone through very high interest rates. The president’s comment was aimed more at the effects than the causes of the crisis, however. But what might be the foundations of this deficient modern-day EU structure, which the Romanian head of state has finally mentioned?
Herbert Martini, from the Reich Ministry of the Economy, put the Third Reich’s monetary plans into effect. Countries had to retain their national monetary institutions, which meant that they could continue to have different interest rates, but control over loan and monetary base policy was exercised by Germany.
According to a 1940 analysis by German experts, in the occupied countries, Germany needed to pursue a policy of increasing loans and the money supply during the initial phase in order to boost consumption and guarantee popularity. It seems that Romania was drugged with loans when it joined the EU according to a well-considered plan.
High prices would be beneficial for German exports and an important means of deindustrializing the occupied countries. What did Germany do in the past, and what did it learn from the war? After the Reichsmark was introduced in occupied Poland, the Reichsbank noted that this monetary policy had led to an inflationary backflow in Germany and decided to withdraw the Reichsmark from Poland and replace it with a new zloty administered by Germany. This meant that an increase in loans and the money supply in Poland would affect only Poland’s economy and not Germany’s. The division of a monetary area and the creation of an economic model that elegantly separated the free movement of goods from the movement of capital represented a key development in European monetary cooperation.
According to the expert’s recommendation, the retention of a national bank would demonstrate a degree of independence in the foreign policy of countries, even through in reality they would be so closely bound up with Germany that they would be unable to exit the clearing system. The novel aspect here was the fact that an exchange rate between the Reichsmark and the currencies of the countries in the clearing mechanism would be set at a level that would boost German exports and, at the same time, make the economies of the countries concerned less competitive.
Since the leu appears to be pegged to the euro and the BNR’s currency reserves are being sacrificed in order to maintain an overvalued exchange rate vis-à-vis the euro, and the interest rate ceiling has reached an unacceptable level, there is nothing to stop us analysing the structure of the Eurosystem with more scepticism.
A European trade system that provided raw materials for German industry and a sizeable outlet for sales without tapping into Germany’s currency reserves formed the basis of the new trade and currency model within the Berlin clearing union. The current architecture of the Eurosystem is likewise based on a system of national central banks operating according to the principle of decentralized operations, known by the politically-correct term “branches of the ECB”, and the non-implementation of uniform interest rates.
How did Germany react, while the war was still ongoing, to the clearing-based trade debt crisis?
On 23 July 1944, Walther Funk, the governor of the Reichsbank, proposed the issue of a bond for Germany’s clearing debts which would be issued to the countries to which Germany owed money. The countries that had sustained losses also had to finance this debt bailout fund. Today, too, the benefits derived by Germany and German banks from the EU’s Eurozone bailout fund outweigh their contributions to this fund. The political discussions about the monarchy in recent weeks have probably aroused the president’s curiosity about history and European issues.