Thursday, 29 October 2009

A German Manifesto

Vaclav Klaus is absolutely right to be requiring guarantees on the effects of the Lisbon treaty on post War settlements. In the long document produced by the new German government on its intentions, it is clearly stated that it:

'plans to create the "Flight, Expulsion and Conciliation" [commission] dedicated to German expellees -- a move likely to ruffle feathers in neighboring Poland, where politicians have fought vociferously against its establishment because they fear ethnic Germans forced out of Eastern Europe will depict themselves as the victims of World War II. In addition, the government wants to support the creation of a museum dedicated to the Sudeten Germans. More than 3 million Sudeten Germans were forcefully expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war.' (Der Spiegel)

It might be thought that a commission and a museum in commemoration of acts widely viewed as wrongful by their victims (obviously) and by others as having been unwise, is a considerable concession to, and first step in, changing the status quo. Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks are engaged in an ongoing dispute about wealth and power redistributions since 1945. It is only 20 years since Germany was reunited - the most unacceptable of the 1945 dispositions that forced half the country to live under realised socialism with a Wall to keep them from escaping their privations and brutalisation in every aspect of their lives; but for the millions involved in smaller disputes their fate is just as destructive, just as arbitrarily imposed.

When Poland argued that it was missing a large part of its population and should have its vote re-weighted to take this into account there was concerted poo-pooing of the quite reasonable view that to be deprived of people is as bad as to be deprived of land. Now the Czechs are being sneered at and told to hurry through their pointless objections to the opening of threats to fundamental democratic features like secure property rights. Yet the people on the other side of the Czech viewpoint, the Sudeten Germans - seem to be enjoying a considerable and formalised upsurge in government-backed support for their aims. Hungary and Slovakia are caught up in a different dispute but a dispute of a similar kind springing from the same source - the improper resolution of the consequences of the War.

If Lisbon does go through it will reopen, in one fell swoop, injustices that until now had no redress. President Klaus is trying to protect more than just his own country's interests but the Union itself in a form more appropriate to nation states so recently at determined odds with one another. No, not the War, but the consequences and longterm settlements of the War . There is more to fear from Lisbon than an extension of executive administrative power into our democracies.

The peoples forced to live under socialist regimes which deprived generations of decent lives having freed themselves, disgraceful walls or no disgraceful walls, those who suffered specific victimisation at the hands of the regimes in their countries will be a powerful force of disruption in a Lisbon-shaped Europe. Perhaps we should think less about representing Europe to the world with a president and a foreign minister and more about institutions and means for setting right the evils inflicted inside Europe on so many millions of its people since 1945. Lisbon is facing the wrong way, oriented to the wrong goals, and its provisions for internal settlement of relations within the Union are ill-conceived and will bring into being the very opposite of the ever closer union it pretends to champion.


Sackerson said...

Can of worms. My grandparents' farm was in East Prussia, now part of that strange liitle sliver of Russia separated from the main mass (but with a port that is open in winter).

hatfield girl said...

Have your family tried to reclaim your property S? it would be at the very least a just thing to do, and property is being slowly yielded up by states and state entities that usurped it.

Sackerson said...

600 acres of once beautifully-farmed land. We'd be fighting the Russians. No chance.

hatfield girl said...

It is a can of worms isn't it. Looking at the privatisation and restitution of state held enterprises, and land in Germany makes the head spin. The added complication of altered frontiers and differing regimes, not to mention the consolidation of landholdings into gigantic state farms in the former Soviet Union...

But still there persists the idea that for Europe the second War settlement is arbitrary, unjust and not a little shameful. Trying to bury it all under Lisbon, the latest move on nothing to see here manoevre, is not going to work. President Klaus is right to fear the mills of God that will be set moving by legal powers conferred on individuals against states under this treaty.

Your family might reasonably claim against the German government for loss of property and if the original land and houses cannot be returned as being in another state lost by act of war, that compensation could be given either in land - there is enough of it being administered by the German state in eastern Germany - or cash.

Sackerson said...

My late grandparents got "compensation" from West Germany - but a flat in Wiesbaden isn't the same as a square mile of fertile ground and 60 employees in East Prussia. Doubtless the compo already received would muddy the waters completely. Sometimes you recover more from a situation by turning your back on it and using the time and energy in alternative new projects.

hatfield girl said...

I did not mean to be nosy about your situation, S, and hope I have not been; but you have first hand experience of the injustice of post War II settlements and it is of the greatest interest on the future of the EU under its new dispensation. Much more interesting than who will be President of the Council of Ministers.

Germany has turned our attention elsewhere, as it has done often in the years since 1945 (that does not mean I disapprove, I regret bitterly the middle of the last century), but it is noteworthy.