Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Off the coast of Libya, May 14 2015 (photo credit: Reuters/MOAS/Jason Florio)

Off the coast of Libya, May 14 2015 (photo credit: Reuters/MOAS/Jason Florio)

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French polymath social scientist and physician Didier Fassin—who is based at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton—has an essay in The Nation dated April 5th, in case one missed it, “From Right to Favor,” on the refugee crisis in Europe—or the “so-called refugee crisis,” as he calls it—which he asserts is “a moral issue before it is a demographic one.” This is one of the best intellectual reflections I’ve come across on the subject, so I wholeheartedly recommend it. Didier Fassin is one of those incredibly smart and talented scholars, who is worth reading on any of the wide range of subjects he writes on.

On the (so-called) refugee crisis, Think Progress has a dispatch (May 2nd) by reporter Justin Salhani, “Refugees are rejuvenating dying Italian towns.” It concludes

Economic projections aside, the affect of repopulating dying villages has also had a profound affect on the people of these villages.

“Thank God they brought us these people,” Luigi Marotti, a 68-year-old who takes care of the Roman Catholic Church in Calabria’s town of Satriano, told Bloomberg in February. “Satriano was dead. Thanks to them it’s alive again. The village can start growing. If they leave, I don’t know where we can go.”

If any of the refugees don’t want to stay in Italy, they should come to small-town France, which could also use the shot in the arm—and Béziers in particular, which really does need it. If the mayor there is uncomfortable with the idea, he’ll come around…

UPDATE: Jean-Marie Guéhenno, president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, has a post (May 13th) on the Carnegie Europe web site, “Conflict is key to understanding migration.”

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The Brussels massacre


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Tenir bon. English translation: ‘hang in there’, or ‘remain steadfast’. I have nothing original to say about the Islamic State’s latest outrage except to express horror and the sentiment that people need to remain steadfast and not succumb to fear. And, obviously, hope that European states adopt effective strategies to smash the clandestine infrastructure of the Islamic State and kindred terrorist organizations. On this, I read one interesting article today, “What to do about Brussels” by freelance journalist Joshua Hersh in TNR. The lede: “Going to war won’t solve Europe’s homegrown terrorism problem.” See also the piece linked to in the article that the author published in BuzzFeed in December.

À suivre.

UPDATE: Historian and Morocco/Maghreb specialist Pierre Vermeren, who teaches at Université Paris 1, has had several illuminating op-eds and interviews of late on the Rifians—the Berbers of Morocco’s Rif region, who predominate in the North African Muslim immigrant population in Belgium (as well as the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in France and the Netherlands)—Rifians being the ethnic group of most of the terrorists implicated in the Paris and Brussels attacks: “Arrestation de Salah Abdeslam: Comment Molenbeek est devenu un État dans l’État,” in Le Figaro (March 18th, originally published in November 2015); “Pierre Vermeren: ‘La Belgique, foyer djihadiste et plaque tournante de la drogue’,” in Le Figaro (March 22nd); and “‘La Belgique est devenue un trou noir sécuritaire’,” in Le Monde (March 23rd).

2nd UPDATE: François Heisbourg, who chairs the council of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, has a typically smart commentary in Le Huffington Post (March 22nd), “Attentats de Paris-Bruxelles: Parler d’armée et de guerre concernant Daech, c’est se tromper de combat.”

3rd UPDATE: Malise Ruthven has an excellent review essay of three excellent-looking books in the April 7th issue of the NYRB, “Inside Obedient Islamic Minds.” The piece is in the comments thread below for those who can’t get behind the wall.

4th UPDATE: The Guardian’s Jason Burke says (March 23rd) that “It is no surprise siblings with past crimes carried out attacks on Brussels.” The lede: “The el-Bakraoui brothers highlight the links between terrorism and criminal records, and the strength of family in Islamic militancy.”

5th UPDATE: The Guardian’s Martin Chulov has an article (March 25th) on “How Isis laid out its plans to export chaos to Europe.” The lede: “Before the Paris attacks, leaders of the terror group gathered to hear its new strategy: spreading fear through European capitals.” And here’s a piece from the FT dated last November 19th on “Belgium’s arms bazaar.” The lede: “Black market in guns has made the country an operational centre for jihadis, but officials are cracking down.” Thankfully the NRA does not have a lobby in Brussels.

6th UPDATE: Joost Hilterman of the International Crisis Group has an absolutely must-read interview in the NYR Daily (March 24th) with Belgian terrorism researcher Didier Leroy, “Why Belgium?” This is one of the best analyses I’ve come across on the subject at hand.

7th UPDATE: Farhad Khosrokhavar of the EHESS in Paris, who knows the subject better than just about anyone, has a most important op-ed in Le Monde (March 25th), “Les profils pluriels du djihadisme européen.”

8th UPDATE: Washington Post foreign affairs writer Ishaan Tharoor has a piece (March 23rd) on “The Saudi origins of Belgium’s Islamist threat.”

9th UPDATE: The sharp, insightful British writer Kenan Malik has a sharp, insightful op-ed in the NYT (March 30th) on “The little we know about the jihadists in our midst.” The lede: “The more we learn about homegrown terrorism, the more our official explanations look like fiction.”

10th UPDATE: Julia Lynch, who teaches political science at the University of Pennsylvania, has an informative post in WaPo’s Monkey Cage blog (April 5th) on “why so many of Europe’s terrorist attacks come through this one Brussels neighborhood,” the neighborhood, of course, being Molenbeek.

11th UPDATE: The NYT has a lengthy article (April 11th) on “A Brussels mentor who taught ‘gangster Islam’ to the young and angry,” by reporters Andrew Higgins and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura.

Pierre Kroll_23032016




Bernard Mnich_22032016

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Cologne, December 31 2015 (Photo: Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

Cologne, December 31 2015 (Photo: Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

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This is the first post I’ve had on what happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, though I’ve been riveted to the story and its aftermath since it broke in the days following that calamitous evening. My immediate reaction—apart from indignation over the actions of the hordes of men—was that the perpetrators were most certainly not recently arrived Syrian refugees. This made no sense to me and for a variety of reasons (that need not be elaborated upon here). And my supposition was correct, as police and journalistic accounts have revealed that the men were mostly from the Maghreb and undocumented migrants, not refugees.

As for why the men behaved toward the women in the way they did, the link with religion, i.e. Islam, was prima facie nonsensical, as if a mob of several hundred drunken non-Muslim men would have behaved differently. Not that there are not specific issues with gender and women in public space in a number of Muslim (mainly Arab) societies. On this, one naturally thinks of the numerous incidents reported in Egypt over the past several years and of feature films on the general subject. As I wrote in a post on one of these some 3½ years back

The attack on [CBS reporter] Lara Logan [in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in February 2011] no doubt gave many Americans the unfortunate impression that Egyptian/Arab men are misogynistic a**holes and that there is something sick about those societies. Well, there are indeed such men in Egypt—as there are everywhere—and on the matter of gender relations there are some issues that are specific to that part of the world. But it has to be said that Egypt was not always this way. When I lived in Cairo in the mid 1980s it was absolutely one of the safest cities in the world, on a level with Tokyo, and that likely had less crime than even Oslo or Stockholm. One could leave one’s apartment door unlocked and walk about anywhere at any time of the day or night without the slightest worry. And this was also the case for women too (maybe not late at night, but then hardly anyone went out late in Cairo back then; the city was asleep by 11 PM). The situation has changed considerably over the years, with the worsening economic conditions for so much of the population, overwhelming population density, etc, etc. Egypt is incontestably a coarser, more violent place nowadays than it was in past decades.

In reading the polemics over Cologne, of the European and North American commentators who have tried to establish a link between the men and the fact they were from Muslim cultures, I was reminded of my visit with relatives in India some twenty-five years ago, where a 16-year-old cousin (a few degrees removed) told me that she avoided walking around the center of the city (Allahabad) even during midday, as she was constantly harassed by groups of men (whom she specified were mainly country bumpkins recently arrived in the city). And, as one knows, there have been numerous incidents (reported in the international media) of gang rape in Indian cities, which, until proof to the contrary, were not committed by Muslim men. Indian cities are not necessarily safe spaces for unaccompanied young women.

Whatever cultural variables one may isolate regarding the men in Cologne, the determinate ones were, I will venture, the mob and inebriation. On this, one recalls New York City’s Puerto Rican Day parade in June 2000, during which dozens of women were sexually assaulted by packs of men (e.g. here, here, here, and here). And none of the men arrested or otherwise identified were refugees and/or from Muslim cultures.

One thing Cologne and New York City in June 2000 had in common: the police were not present. The packs of alcohol-imbibed young men had free reign of public space.

What is prompting me to write about Cologne at this particular moment is a debate/polemic on the subject that has been raging this month, including this weekend, which was initiated by the now well-known Algerian writer and commentator Kamel Daoud, who published a full-page tribune in Le Monde dated February 5th, “Cologne, lieu de fantasmes,” in which he sought to establish a link between what happened on New Year’s Eve and Islamism, and which he followed up with an op-ed in The New York Times (February 14th) carrying the titre de chocThe sexual misery of the Arab world.”

Daoud’s linking of Cologne with Islamism and sexual pathologies in the Arab/Muslim world was too much for a certain number of readers. Nineteen MENA specialist academics of varying nationalities thus signed a tribune in Le Monde dated February 12th, “Nuit de Cologne: ‘Kamel Daoud recycle les clichés orientalistes les plus éculés’” (Kamel Daoud is recycling the most hackneyed Orientalist clichés), which was translated into English by the Jadaliyya webzine, under the title “The fantasies of Kamel Daoud.” A full-throttled polemical pushback, with no mincing of words. Disclosure: I know several of the 19 signatories personally and am personal friends with the tribune’s veritable authors.

My dear friend Adam Shatz, who published a profile of Kamel Daoud in the NYT Magazine last April—and with the two becoming good friends—had a few issues with the critique of Daoud, but was also disturbed by what he considered to be excesses by his friend. So he wrote him a letter/email several days ago and which prompted a response by Daoud, the two being published in Le Quotidien d’Oran this week (here and here) and then together in this weekend’s Le Monde, under the title “Kamel Daoud et les ‘fantasmes’ de Cologne, retour sur une polémique.” It’s a moving exchange between two friends, not to mention intellectuals.

On making sense of what happened in Cologne, the best analysis I’ve seen is a lengthy article that led Le Monde’s Culture & Idées supplement (February 6th), “Cologne: peut-on expliquer cette nuit de cauchemar?” by Frédéric Joignot. The lede: “Faut-il voir dans les agressions sexuelles massives de la Saint-Sylvester une conséquences des rapports compliqués qu’entretient le monde arabo-musulman avec les femmes et leurs corps? Plusieurs thèses s’affrontent.” Several major French MENA specialists weigh in. As the article is behind the wall, I’ve copied-and-pasted it in the comments thread below for non-subscribers.

While I’m at it, The New Yorker (February 8th-15th) has a must-read article by staff writer Elif Batuman, who’s Turkish-American, “Cover Story: The head scarf, modern Turkey, and me.” Don’t miss this one.

UPDATE: The Adam Shatz-Kamel Daoud email correspondence has been translated into English, by Elisabeth Zerofsky, and posted on the blog of the World Policy journal. (February 26th)

2nd UPDATE: The intellectual food fight debate over Kamel Daoud’s February 5th Le Monde tribune has continued into the second week of March, with all sorts of intellos, talking heads, and even politicians (qui ont perdu une bonne occasion de se taire) weighing in. As for contributions by the principal parties to the debate, Thomas Serres (one of the 19 signatories of the counter-tribune) launched a polemical salvo, “Autopsie d’une défaite et notes de combat pour la prochaine fois,” in the neo-anarchist Article 11 (March 2nd); Adam Shatz wrote a follow up, typically thoughtful essay on “The Daoud Affair” in the LRB Online (March 4th); Muriam Haleh Davis (one of the 19) has a post in the World Policy Blog (March 7th), “The ‘Daoud Affair’ sparks debate;” and Kamel Daoud penned a column entitled “Mes petites guerres de libération” in Le Quotidien d’Oran (March 7th).

3rd UPDATE: Olivier Roy is interviewed in the April 7-13 issue of L’Obs on a variety of topics, one of which is Cologne and the controversy over Kamel Daoud’s position. Here’s the question and Roy’s reponse

A la suite de votre tribune «Cologne ou “le tartuffe féministe”», parue dans «Libération», on vous a reproché d’apporter votre caution au «procès en sorcellerie» intenté au romancier algérien Kamel Daoud pour ses propos sur les violences sexuelles en Allemagne. Vous dénonciez en effet l’analyse culturaliste des agressions du Nouvel An. Quelle était votre intention ?

J’avais précisément refusé de signer la tribune contre Kamel Daoud. Car ses signataires, dont beaucoup me sont proches, me l’ont évidemment proposé, et j’ai décliné, parce que, si je partage leurs idées, je ne partageais par leur indignation. Pour ma part, je n’attaque pas Kamel Daoud, qui en tant qu’écrivain a le droit d’écrire ce qu’il écrit et d’être excessif, de même que chacun a le droit de critiquer ses opinions.

Ce que j’attaque, c’est l’idée qui traîne désormais partout qu’un musulman harcèle parce qu’il est musulman, et qu’un Européen harcèle parce qu’il a une pathologie particulière. Je ne comprends pas cet essentialisme. Qu’on nous dise qu’il y a une culture musulmane machiste, oui ; que la société algérienne soit une société où les femmes ont beaucoup de mal à aller dans l’espace public, oui. Mais qu’ensuite on nous décrive les musulmans, où qu’ils aillent, comme se trimballant avec un petit logiciel culturel de violeur potentiel dans la tête, non.

A contrario, on dit que les Occidentaux respectent la femme. Mais quand Cécile Duflot se fait siffler à cause de sa jupe à l’Assemblée nationale, ce n’est pas le petit beur de banlieue qui siffle ! Nous sommes dans des sociétés où le féminisme est un combat permanent. Le machisme est certes prégnant en Méditerranée, dans des sociétés qui n’ont pas fait Mai-68, mais il n’est pas spécialement religieux et, surtout, c’est la chose la mieux partagée au monde. Regardez Donald Trump.

I agree with Roy, needless to say.

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David Cameron and the Brexit

David Cameron en boîte de nuit

So an accord a minima has been concluded in Brussels that will enable David Cameron to campaign for a yes vote to remain in the EU, in the mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly crazy, insane, and utterly unnecessary referendum he has pledged to hold on the Brexit. Quelle histoire lamentable. That a British prime minister would embark on a course of action that could have such deleterious consequences, for both his own country and Europe, defies belief. Cameron—along with France’s current president—has to be the most pathetic leader of a Western democracy. Of course one wants the UK to stay in the EU—as a Brexit would be calamitous for the future of Europe and most certainly lead to the breakup of the UK following the inevitable next referendum on Scottish independence—but one would, in a moment of pique, still like to tell the Brits to go sod off. In any case, the point of this post is not to offer my own analysis of the question—of which I have none apart from the above thoughts—but to link to this excellent, spot on commentary in The Guardian by columnist Polly Toynbee, “David Cameron deserves to come out of the EU referendum with no credit.” The lede: “Since becoming Conservative leader in 2005, Cameron has taken every opportunity to undermine Europe. He ought to be ashamed of his actions.” Mme Toynbee nails it, rien à dire.

Another comment: One reason to hope that the UK remains in the EU is that a Brexit would give satisfaction to these wankers.

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This piece by George Soros in Project Syndicate (February 10th) merits a blog post, not a mere tweet. It begins

The leaders of the United States and the European Union are making a grievous error in thinking that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a potential ally in the fight against the Islamic State. The evidence contradicts them. Putin’s current aim is to foster the EU’s disintegration, and the best way to do so is to flood the EU with Syrian refugees.

Soros gets it right, IMHO. Putin, via Russia’s action in Syria, is out to destroy the European Union as a supranational political entity and assert Russian primacy in Europe. Europeans need to understand this and, if they have the interest and will, to resist it.

On Syria and US policy, Aaron David Miller has a spot on tribune in The Wall Street Journal (February 12th), “The flawed logic in blaming the U.S. for Syria’s humanitarian crisis.” ADM concludes

As horrible as the destruction in Syria has become, the U.S. doesn’t bear primary responsibility. A more accurate assessment starts with Bashar Assad, ISIS, Iran (and Hezbollah), and Russia.

In case one missed it, Vox’s Max Fisher has a must-read post dated February 10th on the “14 hard truths on Syria no one wants to admit.”

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Syrian refugees in Greece near the border with Macedonia (Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

Syrian refugees in Greece near the border with Macedonia
(Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

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The headline story in last Friday’s Le Monde, which I am looking at on my desk as I write, is entitled “Après les attentats, Europe se referme” (After the attacks, Europe is closing the door), and with a big photo of refugees, presumably Syrian, in a dingy off the coast of Lesbos. The accompanying article, on “the return of fortress Europe,” quotes PM Manuel Valls—a member of the Socialist party and formally a man of the left (albeit its most rightist flank)—saying that Europe must make it clear that it cannot welcome as many migrants as it has up to now. And on the France 2 news yesterday evening was a report from Slovenia, which is putting up a barbed wire fence on its border with Croatia to keep migrants out, taking after Hungary, Slovakia, and other EU member countries sure to follow.

On some level I can comprehend the reflex of Slovenia et al (though not Manuel Valls; I don’t care if he’s prime minister but it is simply not acceptable for a leading personality of the French PS to talk the way he does on this issue). European states are indeed not prepared to confront the torrent of refugees and migrants flowing into the continent—even though Europe has successfully dealt with refugee/migrant flows of equal, indeed greater, importance in the recent past (Yugoslavia in the 1990s), not to mention after WWII. Hopefully the EU-Turkey agreement that’s being hammered out, which will presumably allow for an orderly processing of asylum requests of the refugees in Turkey, will work.

As for the bottom line—and there is no getting around this—the majority of Syrian refugees will eventually have to be settled in third countries, mostly in the West. The war in Syria will not end anytime soon and when/if it does, there will be nothing for Syrians who have left the country to go back to. Syria has been destroyed and is not likely to be rebuilt, at least not in the foreseeable future (e.g. see this report from Kobane). The destruction of Syria is not only physical—of cities (Aleppo, Homs) and towns—but also societal. Wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that have generated large cross border refugee flows have mainly involved rural people, who await the war’s end so they can return to their villages and farms and try to resume their lives. The great majority of Syrian refugees are urban and educated. Their livelihoods and social networks—not to mention extended families—are gone. And they can’t sit around in refugee camps in Lebanon, or live on handouts in Turkey, for years on end. They need to be able to work, continue with their education if they’re of that age, and rebuild their lives. Now. A few will be able to do so in the MENA region but the only part of the world where this can happen for most is the West (including Russia).

The United States could easily absorb a large number of Syrians—say, one hundred thousand, even more (why not?)—but obviously won’t in view of the current political climate. The post-Paris hysteria in the Republican party—leaders and base—over taking in any refugees leaves one speechless. As WaPo’s Alexandra Petri put it a couple of weeks ago, the reaction of Republicans is “past the point of parody.” The fear of Americans—mostly on the right—that even a tiny number of potential terrorists could be embedded in a refugee population is particularly puzzling in a country where just about anyone can legally constitute an arsenal of assault weapons and then carry out a massacre—in a movie theater, elementary school, college campus, family planning clinic, social services center, you name it—and with no reaction whatever from the political system—and precisely because those Americans who fear potential refugee terrorists are also the kind who are all for the unlimited right to acquire assault weapons and will vote against any candidate to elective office who thinks otherwise. Fearing jihadi terrorism in a country with practically no jihadis but where mass shootings happen every day of the week—and to which politicians respond with prayers and thoughts and that’s it—is, objectively speaking, irrational.

Continuing to speak objectively, Syrian refugees are “not the problem,” as Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch asserted in a piece in Foreign Policy. Americans who do think that refugees are a problem tend, however, not to look at websites like Foreign Policy. Addressing Americans on that side of the political spectrum, my friend Claire Berlinski, who blogs at Ricochet—the tagline of which is “Conservative conversation and community”—has a good, well-argued post, dated November 24th, “What’s in it for us? Why we should accept Syrian refugees.” Glancing at the comments thread, it doesn’t look like she convinced too many of her numerous refugee-skeptical readers.

One group that has been excellent on the refugee question is the libertarians, with whom I otherwise disagree 100% on a whole range of issues (notably the economy and social policy). E.g. Dave Bier, the director of immigration policy at the Niskanen Center in D.C.—a new libertarian think tank—has a fine piece (November 16th) on the “Six reasons to welcome Syrian refugees after Paris.” See as well the analysis (November 18th) by the Cato Institute’s immigration specialist Alex Nowrasteh, “Syrian refugees don’t pose a serious security threat.”

If one needs further convincing on the question, don’t miss historian Josh Zeitz’s explanation in Politico Magazine (November 22nd), “Yes, it’s fair to compare the plight of the Syrians to the plight of the Jews [and] here’s why.” Voilà.

UPDATE: Regarding my comment above on “mass shootings” in the US, Mother Jones’s Mark Follman has an important clarification in the NYT op-ed page, “How many mass shootings are there, really?”

2nd UPDATE: Comedian and TV host Samantha Bee had a humorous but informative two-part report on Syrian refugees and the American reaction on her show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Here’s part 1 and part 2. (February 24, 2016)

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Helmut Schmidt R.I.P.


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Helmut Schmidt is not someone whose death I would normally have a post on, as I didn’t think about him too much over the decades, but as I am presently teaching two courses on the European Union—one to American undergrads (in French), the other to French graduate students (in English)—I have had occasion to mention him more than twice over the past month, for the role he played in the construction of Europe during his years as chancellor and in solidifying the Franco-German partnership. I told my students—almost none of whom recognized him from a photo or knew a thing about him—that he was up there with Germany’s other outsized postwar chancellors (which happens to be most of them: Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt, Helmut Kohl, and Angela Merkel). And his center-left politics were about where mine are today (though not during his time in office, when I was rather more gauchiste).

To commemorate his death, Foreign Affairs has posted on its website an essay Schmidt wrote for the journal’s May-June 1997 issue, “Miles to Go: From American Plan to European Union,” in which he discusses the three speeches that had “a decisive impact on the economic and political rehabilitation of Europe after World War II”: Winston Churchill’s in 1946, on his vision of a United States of Europe; George C. Marshall’s in 1947, laying out what would become the Marshall Plan the following year; and Robert Schuman’s famous one of May 9th 1950, which led to the Treaty of Paris and creation of the ECSC, which in turn led to the Treaty of Rome and then today’s EU. Toward the end of the essay, Schmidt offers this

As this new world emerges [one with three superpowers: the United States, Russia, and China, plus Japan], what will be Europe’s role and weight in international affairs? Neither Britain nor France is a world power any longer, even if they find this difficult to admit to themselves. Italy ceased to be a world power when the Germanic barbarians destroyed the Roman Empire. And, after losing two world wars and constraining itself within a web of European institutions, Germany will never again become a world power. None of the European nation-states will be sufficiently influential to pursue its national interests alone as the world comes to terms with the oncoming global paradigm shift and attempts to address the host of issues that will arise over the control of financial markets, over exchange rates and freedom of trade, arms control, limits on population growth, and the deterioration of the atmosphere and the oceans. Only a vital European Union will have the political, economic, and financial weight to exert an influence on global affairs equal to that of the three superpowers.

It’s a great piece. Absolutely worth reading in full.

Another great essay by Schmidt that’s been posted on more than one website since yesterday is the transcript of the speech he gave on December 4th 2011 at the SPD party congress in Berlin, “Germany in, with and for Europe,” which was widely remarked on at the time in Germany. Money quotes

In 2050, each of the European nations will constitute just a fraction of one per cent of the world’s population. In other words, if we cherish the notion that we Europeans are important for the world, we have to act in unison. As individual states – France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Holland, Denmark or Greece – we will ultimately be measured not in percentages, but in parts per thousand.

That is why the European nation states have a long-term strategic interest in their mutual integration. This strategic interest in European integration will become increasingly significant.

Further down

The Federal Republic of Germany is a very large country with a very competitive economy that needs to be integrated into Europe – to protect it from itself, amongst other things. Ever since 1992 therefore – since the times of Helmut Kohl – Article 23 of the Basic Law has obliged us to cooperate »… in the development of the European Union«. Article 23 also obliges us, as an element of this cooperation, to heed »the principle of subsidiarity«. The present crisis affecting the ability of the EU institutions to take action does not change these principles in any way.

In view of our central geopolitical location, the unfortunate role we played in European history up to the middle of the twentieth century and the strong economy we have today, every German government is called upon to show the utmost sensitivity towards the interests of our partners in the European Union. And our willingness to help is indispensable.

And in conclusion

my friends, let me say that there is really no need to preach international solidarity to Social Democrats. For a century and a half, German Social Democrats have been internationalists to a far greater extent than generations of Liberals, Conservatives or German Nationalists. We Social Democrats have upheld the cause of freedom and human dignity. We have held fast to representative parliamentary democracy. These fundamental values make it our duty to exercise European solidarity today.

In the 21st century, Europe will undoubtedly continue to consist of nation states, each with its own language and history. For that reason Europe will definitely not become a federal state. However, the European Union cannot afford to degenerate into a mere confederation. The European Union must remain a dynamically developing alliance, for which there is no parallel in the whole of human history. We Social Democrats must contribute to the gradual evolution of this alliance.

Also making the rounds since yesterday is Schmidt’s famous line from 1972, when he was finance minister: “I’d rather have five percent inflation than five percent unemployment.” Too bad the spirit of this wasn’t inscribed in the Treaty on European Union and the architecture of the single currency.

Here’s a quote from World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder

Helmut Schmidt was undoubtedly one of the great Germans of the 20th century…When terrorists struck during the 1970s, he refused to be blackmailed and stood his ground. He stood with America when it came to defending the West against Soviet expansionism.

Not a single obituary has neglected to mention that Schmidt was a heavy smoker for almost his entire life, consuming two to three packs of cigarettes a day (menthol, no doubt with high tar content)—along with snuff—from his early teens until a few months ago, after his 96th birthday. According to my calculation, he must have smoked over a million cigarettes in his life. And yet he stayed active—intellectually and otherwise—almost to the very end. Talk about beating the odds.

UPDATE: Die Zeit editor Josef Joffe has a good remembrance in the WSJ of “The man who saved Germany’s new democracy: Helmut Schmidt saw his country through terrorism and Soviet intimidation with its liberty intact.”

And see Le Monde’s very good editorial, “Helmut Schmidt, un visionnaire dans le réel.”

2nd UPDATE: Die Zeit political editor Jochen Bittner has an op-ed in the NYT explaining “Why Germans loved Helmut Schmidt.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Süddeutsche Zeitung

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