Finally a Horizon

von Maximilian Steinbeis

„Wir wollen die Vereinigten Staaten von Europa. Nous voulons les États-Unis d’Europe. We want the United States of Europe“: There he is at last, the ardent European Martin Schulz, making a commitment of considerable magnitude to get the European Union back on track as his party gets ready to enter another, yet diminished Grand Coalition to govern Germany for the next four years. One wonders who “we” might exactly be, whether Schulz himself in the form of pluralis maiestatis, or Germany’s Social Democrats, or the global community of the well-meaning, but that is not what matters. The most important addressee of Schulz’s message is Emmanuel Macron. He needs a partner in Berlin to deliver what he so courageously promised back in September. All those weeks the line to Berlin was busy. Finally, so it seems, someone picks up the phone.

Schulz backed up his tweet with a few rather radical-sounding phrases in his speech before the SPD national convention this week: He envisions the Union to be based on a new constitutional treaty until 2025 and each of its 27 member states to face a “in or out” option – join if you like it, quit if you don’t. The realism of this message aside, its intention is certainly to signal that Germany is back, Europe-wise. And that is good news in itself. The emerging Grand Coalition will have a Grand Project that gives its purpose and direction and, if successful, will pay off politically for both partners in a way the social justice issues its predecessor undertook didn’t. Berlin will be a locomotive again and not a wagon. We are, to quote Macron, talking about horizons again instead of red lines. That alone is a reason for confidence. (I do feel kind of sorry for the Greens, though, who were very much the party of common sense in the last months, not just in EU policy, and as a reward will now wither in some shadowy recess of parliamentary opposition for another legislative term at least ...

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