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Life goes on

Posted by Helen Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Well, it does in Germany anyway. The Christian Democrats, fresh from their various triumphs in länder elections, particularly that of North Rhine-Westphalia, are preparing for battle.

They, together with the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (their sister party), have elected Angela Merkel to be their leader in the forthcoming election that Chancellor Schröder has called for September.

The Social-Democrats are especially weak at the moment and this could be the Christian-Democrats’ chance to regain power and, perhaps, to introduce some genuine reforms in the German social and economic system.

There is no particular sign that the party has changed its attitude to the European project, as each German leader so far, no matter of what political allegiance, has been associated with European integration.

However, the times they are a’changin’. As the Second World War and its immediate aftermath slips further and further into history (this year’s anniversary is the last one at which any sizeable number of people who can remember what happened will be present) fewer and fewer Germans will accept that they are for ever to be branded as the evildoers of Europe.

With the East Europeans demanding more and more loudly that Communism should be seen in its proper light as an evil totalitarian tyranny, attention on the Nazism will be diluted.

The Germans will be able to say, as many of them do, that twelve years of horror do not invalidate the rest of history; that youngsters whose parents were not born till afterwards should not be punished for the sins of their grand and great-grand fathers; that life and history must go on.

The “beautiful moment” of post-war corporatism and French supremacy ought to have been abandoned with Chancellor Schröder, the first leader of the post-war generation. Unfortunately, his weak internal position meant that he continued to trail in the wake of President Chirac.

If Angela Merkel becomes the next Chancellor, she may well find herself in a position to assert German policy instead of feebly repeating the need for a European (for which read French) point of view. And that will be all to the good.