Is Berlin starting to separate from the EU?
A war is being waged over one of the most important EU decisions in history. Berlin sent requests. Is this Berlin’s response to the Nord Stream sabotage?
Berlin is quietly starting to be an unpredictable partner within the EU. It is proving to be the case regarding its sudden change of mind regarding banning engines with internal combustion.
What are two poorly protected secrets of Brussels and the EU? Well, that is obviously not that big a secret!
The secret number one is that Germans are ultimately making decisions about everything. Others are careful to wait for Germans to state their position, and then they just follow it. All democratically, of course. Or is it corruption? Those like Hungary and Orban, who are not democratically following, are denied access to EU funds. Those democratically aware and politically correct are rewarded. Money is money, be it a bribe or reward.
The second worst kept secret in Brussels is that the Germans actually enjoy this dominance.
Even staunch advocates of the European Union have been hard-pressed in recent days to cite a more blatant example of toxic Germanism than Berlin’s last-minute intervention to save internal combustion engines. Does anyone have any doubts about Germans succeeding in this?
As far as Germans enjoying dominance within the EU – there is an explanation for that. Imagine how frustrated Europe’s biggest country and economy must be with the fact that it is still just an occupied territory. Imagine what stratospheric frustration levels reached after their Anglo masters (apparently allies) destroyed the Nord Stream gas pipeline! The pipeline was bringing cheap natural gas from Russia. The cheap gas and other energy gave German manufacturing a competitive edge over Japan and other industrial nations.
Last week the EU countries were expected to approve a package of measures aimed at ridding European roads of conventional fuel cars. According to the plan, the EU would ban registering new vehicles with internal combustion engines from 2035.
The comprehensive agreement, the culmination of years of painstaking negotiations in Brussels and European capitals, is a pillar of the EU’s ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
German sudden intervention
Berlin’s intervention in the deal, which everyone believed was done, left the EU’s environmental policy in limbo and exposed the power vertical within the Union in its dubious Teutonic glory. Message: Germany is no longer even trying to hide its ability. Now, will France enter the story? My real question is – will France entering the story make any difference? Probably not. You can bet on some noise, though.
For the French, this situation also represents an opportunity, and they will not waste a good crisis in vain. The more it can contribute to the idea that Germany only looks at itself, the stronger the opinion that the Germans are an unreliable partner in Europe. That is exactly what French want to achieve.
Germany’s unprecedented move has fueled fears that other countries will try to follow its example and hold EU reforms hostage. The Germans may not be known for their finesse, but despite this, Berlin’s crude engine-saving tactics shocked the Brussels veterans and angered them.
That’s why the real significance of this standoff has less to do with carbon dioxide emissions than with the way Brussels functions. There is great concern among EU insiders that the coalition Germany assembled to save the engines, which includes countries such as Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, will become an unpredictable coalition on other fronts, with or without German support.
It is easy to mock the roundabout nature of decision-making in the EU. Boring as it may be, the alchemy produces credible results that legitimise and sustain the EU. Let me correct myself. It makes an impression of credible results and gives them fake legitimity. In short, it makes corporatocracy look like democracy.
Berlin is willing to play with delicate balance
The fact that Germany is willing to play with this delicate balance betrays ignorance of the current EU regime, ambivalence, or both.
One could justifiably argue that Berlin will never kill the golden hen. Invented and perfected in Germany more than a century ago by Mercedes, the internal combustion engine has been a source of German pride and prosperity for generations. Let’s face it – everyone buying a German car (regardless of the brand) is paying a premium for prestige. Something that Tesla achieved among electric vehicles. British and French lost that edge some decades ago, and Italian super-cars production is too small to play an essential role in the country’s overall economy.
Why is this happening so suddenly and right now?
German automakers have not proven particularly adept at producing electric cars. Manufacturing of adequate batteries just did not happen. Therefore, there was a strong case for Germany to develop low-emission synthetic fuels to keep internal combustion engine production going. Change to producing electric vehicles would seriously dent the marketing advantage German brands typically enjoy.
Germans had the chance to act this way for at least a decade. The thing is, they didn’t. Instead, they decided to spend billions subsidising the purchase of electric vehicles and the infrastructure to charge them!
Moreover, Berlin encouraged other European countries to follow its example. Berlin’s views on the ‘future of mobility’ were so clear. Mercedes, VW and BMW pledged to switch to all-electric drives by 2035. A group of countries that serve as production facilities for these companies, from Slovakia to Hungary and Austria, agreed to go together. Did they really have any choice? Of course not.
However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats have fallen below 20 per cent in recent polls. It is more than 10 percentage points behind the top-ranked Christian Democrats.
His most minor coalition partner, the business-oriented Free Democrats (FDP), is in worse shape. The party has fared poorly in a series of recent regional elections. In national polls, it is dangerously close to the five per cent threshold parties must pass to enter parliament.
About a million Germans work in the automotive industry. Many of those jobs – especially with subcontractors – would be lost if the engine went out. If nothing else, then for the simple reason that electric cars have far fewer parts than traditional cars.
Where are the Greens?
It is a real mystery why the Greens, the second party in Germany’s ruling triumvirate, did not do more to solve the crisis. The ‘ecological’ party has advocated the ban on motorbikes for years. It is also the most pro-European party in the government. Usually, they would do their best to prevent Berlin from even thinking about undermining Brussels. Not this time. Let’s clarify one thing – German (and many other European) Greens were not established as ecological parties. They were established to pretend to be an environmental party. Their founders are European, British and American big corporations and the CIA. European Greens are traditionally aggressive and supportive of NATO interventions. There is a good reason for that.
The German government sent a letter to the European Commission on Wednesday to ease the deadlock ahead of a summit of EU leaders next week. It outlines what it wants in return for lifting its blockade. The primary demand – a broad exception for e-fuels. However, it was already rejected by Parliament and other institutions during the initial negotiations on the package.
Reversing that would require reopening negotiations. The French will cry. And then Germany will push through whatever it wants anyway.
Germans are learning that Russia is the only honest partner they have
Germany is preparing for a long, sophisticated game that might split the EU. Destruction of Nord Stream by their allies (British and Americans, who pushed it in two world wars) denies them access to cheap energy and all other sanctions. Moving to electric cars would deny them a marketing advantage as well. That would deny them influence in the EU. This move will give Germany time to deal with all these problems. I bet that Berlin secretly hopes Russia will finish the job in Ukraine. After all, the only honest partner that Germans have are Russians. The others are there to use them in one way or the other.
Electric vehicles, as some sort of a silver bullet that will solve the problem of climate change, have been overestimated. There is not much evidence of that being the case. Electricity has to be produced from something, and fossil fuels seem to be irreplaceable in the near future.