As UK Moves Toward EU Exit, Envisioning A New Northern European Union

The dawn of a new world power?
The dawn of a new world power?
Gunnar Heinsohn

BERLIN - Europeans are in a virtual state of paralysis about the future, frozen by a fear that – were they to turn away from Brussels – the result would be a rise of reactionary nationalism.

Not surprisingly, these new chauvinisms are perfectly suited for some political agendas – on all sides of the ideological spectrum. Still, some thoughtful observers are beginning to flirt with the idea of moving away from Brussels, and weighing the new turns the Continent could take with an eventual exit of London from the EU, particularly in terms of the economic consequences for both Europe and the UK.

A decisive step on the part of the British could actually give new impetus, and new energy. Many countries that have perceived themselves as too small to act on their own could begin to see the constraints of collective debt and Brussels bureaucracy.

This renewed sense of possibility would in turn widen the horizons of British strategists. The UK's move would thus no longer be about the pros and cons of departure, but rather about seeking more suitable alliances.

Would the Dutch still feel the same way about the EU if there was no North-South divide anymore? How much better things would look in Flanders if the issue wasn’t Wallonia but a more viable Union... Scottish independence would also lose its escapist flavor because everybody from Belfast to Cardiff would be part of a new alliance of states.

A federation of northern countries – Iceland, Scandinavian nations, Belgium, the Netherlands, the British Isles, Ireland – would almost certainly entice the German states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, whose dowry would be the Kiel Canal. After all, Altona lived comfortably with Denmark for some 200 years.

And the idea that this would somehow be a return to a Teutonic past doesn’t hold water: in such a large alliance, the northern Germans would constitute a minority that none need fear. There are historical precedents – one thinks of the German citizens of the Hansa cities of Danzig, Elbing and Thorn, which in 1454, and then for nearly 350 years, linked up with the Polish Rzeczpospolita to protect themselves from the murderous attacks and plunder by fellow Germans, the Teutonic Knights.

Most Germans would wish the northern Germans well, follow the development with interest rather than the disparagement that often accompanies separatism, sensing how profoundly anti-chauvinistic their secession was. This would be a match for the nonchalance about the independence of Scotland, which is being left free to decide its own future.

A new world power?

Imagine: a territory of over 3.8 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles), number four in terms of global economy, with 120 million inhabitants, ten languages but with nearly everyone able to understand English – a new and culturally rich space with guaranteed free trade inside its borders, and ever open to the world beyond.

As all members of this northern federation – with the exception of Sweden – are already NATO members, they would have the know-how to organize themselves as a military alliance as well, with British nuclear potential to back it up. Self-sufficient in terms of energy, with plenty of oil, gas, hydropower, shale gas, it could also play a role in reducing energy-related conflict.

The regime in Brussels would not be able to stave off its death throes for long after the creation of such a federation: minus Great Britain, the Netherlands, Flanders-Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein, it would lose some 7 billion euros a year.

The rebels could finance their trim joint bureaucracy with a fraction of what they saved and use the rest for what has become a bitter necessity – seeing to a secure future. Whoever stuck by Brussels would either be asking for even more money or – like Germany, for example – take its leave from further cost overload.

The result would be that, finally, the undemocratic hyper-apparatus that is Brussels would no longer have the financing it needs to continue.

Such a federation could also inspire others. Some like the southern Germans, Austrians, Swiss and northern Italians might forge their own federation. Countries excluded from all this would be left striving to achieve eligibility to the club. This could ultimately mean that a significant chunk of Europe teams up again – only this time not to be run by a moldy bureaucracy, but rather to become an alliance of free nations.

Europe will have learned that the counterweight to yesterday’s ethnic over-independence doesn’t have to be “Europe Above All” – something that Switzerland, with its four languages and cultures, has understood for centuries.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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