Kohl proves that a little self-knowledge is a dangerous thing

We’ve all said in the past things we’d rather others didn’t remember at present. Some of those things were silly, some ignorant, some reflected our understanding as it was then but no longer is now.

The ability to look back at one’s past pronouncements and either wince or smile self-deprecatingly is a good human trait. It reflects a capacity for unbiased self-analysis and therefore a potential for self-improvement.

Some people have more of this ability, some less, and some are Germans. I hope you won’t think me a bigot if I were to suggest that, among the many indisputably great talents the Germans possess, one for dispassionate self-assessment doesn’t figure very prominently. That’s why they’re eminently capable of saying mutually exclusive things a few years apart without even realising that’s what they are.

Helmut Kohl, Germany’s longest-serving post-war Chancellor, is a case in point. Commenting on the death of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s longest-serving post-war prime minister, he mournfully admitted they hadn’t been the best of friends.

Displaying both the grace and the self-awareness for which the Germans are so justly famous, Herr Kohl blamed that unfortunate situation on the deceased: ‘Margaret Thatcher was difficult, just as our relationship was difficult.’

Of course, not only was Lady Thatcher difficult as a person but, especially, she failed to see the blinding federalist light shining out of Herr Kohl’s various orifices: ‘[She] wanted Europe, but a different Europe from that wanted by most of her European colleagues and me. From our point of view, this antagonism characterises British policy on Europe to this day.’

It’s all Maggie’s fault then. I wonder if, before looking for a mote in Margaret Thatcher’s eye, Herr Kohl had ever pondered whether perhaps there was a log in his own. Probably not, considering both his personal and national traits.

However, another interview given by Kohl in 2002 but kept under wraps until this week could possibly throw some light on Maggie’s recalcitrance and also Britain’s antagonism to the European ‘project’.

‘I knew that I could never win a referendum in Germany,’ he said. ‘We would have lost a referendum on the introduction of the euro. That’s quite clear. I would have lost and by seven to three.’ That is why ‘In one case – the euro – I was like a dictator…,’ Kohl admitted, adding by way of self-vindication, ‘The euro is a synonym for Europe. Europe, for the first time, has no more war.’ Yugoslavia doesn’t count as part of Europe then.

That old chestnut about the EU being the reason, indeed even a reason, for peace in Europe is so stupid and mendacious that it’s hardly worth a comment. This isn’t so much an argument as an attempt to dupe the gullible, those who are unaware of the decisive role NATO, mainly the United States, played in the post-war balance of power.

What is worth a comment, however, is that Kohl felt justified in assuming dictatorial powers to abandon the hugely effective Deutschmark and push through the euro. We all know what a resounding success the single currency has been since, strangulating as it is Europe’s economies, especially those encompassing people who speak languages derived from Latin and Old Greek.

In passing it’s worth mentioning something that Herr Kohl modestly left unsaid: the euro project involved not only bossiness, his own and Germany’s, but also lies. Today’s federasts routinely admit to having cooked the books in order to make countries like Italy and especially Greece look as if they satisfied admission criteria. They – and the rest of Europe – are paying a steep price for that sleight of hand, and we haven’t seen anything yet.

Could it be that Kohl’s 2002 interview explains the laments he saw fit to voice this week? Could it be that ‘the different Europe’ Margaret Thatcher wanted was that of independent, sovereign states living in peace and trading with one another as equals? Could it be she was appalled by the prospect of yet another German dictator lording it over the continent?

No, surely not. She was just ‘difficult’.    



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