Germany and the Norms of European Governance

By Haas, Ernst B.; Roever, Sally et al. | German Politics and Society, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview
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Germany and the Norms of European Governance

Haas, Ernst B., Roever, Sally, Schmidt, Anna, German Politics and Society

   Man ist stolz in Europa: 
   Deutscher zu sein. 
   Franzose zu sein. 
   Englander zu sein. 
   Man ist stolz in Europa: 
   Kein Deutscher zu sein. 
   Kein Franzose zu sein. 
   Kein Englander zu sein. 
   Kurt Tucholsky, 1932. 

Norms, Culture, Identity

The Advent of New Interstate Norms

Contemporary interstate relations in Europe are proclaimed by Europeans to be little short of ideal. Every nation and every state is told to behave toward others as do the states of the European Union. Inter-European relations, we are told, illustrate the norms to which everyone should aspire. Moreover, the same civilized rules of political behavior apply within each country.

What are these norms? Before responding, let us recall the moral landscape of Europe before 1945. War was almost endemic; its recurrence was taken for granted in the arms racing and military planning the states of Europe practiced against one another. The collective pursuit of democracy and the common protection of human rights were unknown; the constitutional rights of individuals and groups were not a matter taken up in interstate relations. Nationalist antagonisms were promoted deliberately by almost all governments. Multilateral decision making by conference diplomacy was the exception, not the rule. The collective security enshrined in the League of Nations Covenant was a bad joke.

Today the governments of western, southern, and central Europe live by these fundamental norms: no military threats whatever against others in the region are made; collective security, via the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union, is practiced by most; all disputes are settled by peaceful means, preferably judicial; relations among states are always friendly; multilateral decision making via standing institutions is practiced; the moral obligation to give aid of various kinds to poorer and disadvantaged states is accepted.

This much puts into practice what is merely preached in the United Nations Charter. These norms are fully institutionalized and routinized. In addition, however, European countries follow practices found only intermittently elsewhere in the world. (1) They profess collective responsibility for the creation and protection of the basic human rights of their citizens and those of their neighbors. They also proclaim and practice the advancement of democracy, especially in eastern and southeastern Europe.

A further set of European norms is partly institutionalized but not yet routinized. (2) In particular, states pledge the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities. They show more consistent concern for their common environment than do other countries. A commitment to free markets as the road to prosperity is voiced. Security is understood by many to include the "human dimension," as well as protection from terrorism, organized crime, and the drug traffic. Human rights include privacy, consumer protection, education, non-discrimination, collective bargaining as well as the rights of the child, of the elderly, and the handicapped.

In this essay we will demonstrate that, by and large, mass attitudes in the countries of western, central, and southern Europe, of the enlarged European Union, support these norms. We will also show that mass beliefs, attitudes, and values in Germany support them even more. However, we know of exceptions showing on the right-wing fringes of the political spectrum in several countries, including Germany. We show that there is evidence that certain members of the German political elite are beginning to waver in their adherence to commonly held norms, as illustrated by the recent German debate over Leitkultur. We conclude that these challenges are too weak to undermine a finding that there is, indeed, a common European sensibility, but not a common culture, nor a single identity.

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