I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Goodbye Schweinhund, Hallo Nachbar?

Goodbye Schweinhund, Hallo Nachbar?

Seán OHuiginn
Germany: Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor, Allen Lane, 640 pp, £30, ISBN: 978-0241008331 Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern, by Simon Winder, 480 pp, £6.99, ISBN: 978-0330451406 The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century, by Peter Watson, Simon and Schuster, 992 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1416526155 Chancellor Merkel and prime minister Cameron have recently been doggedly cultivating their relationship, including through family get-togethers at Chequers and in a German Schloss. This is happening as the old order in the European Union is looking increasingly listless and outworn, and the new order, whatever it is to be, has not yet defined itself. The quality of British-German relations will be one of the defining influences on the European future. It is a matter, therefore, in which Ireland has an acute interest, both because of our political commitment to a thriving European Union in general, and because we are situated on a major fault-line along which break-up can occur. For most of our EU membership, Ireland has enjoyed a flexible à la carte menu – British dishes on taxation issues, à la française for agriculture, a Scandinavian plate for peace-keeping and development aid, and so on. Our negotiators skilfully mixed and matched to provide, for the most part, very congenial fare. We are now entering a phase of more rigid fixed menus, and, it might be added, political chefs more attuned to short-order cooking than political haute cuisine. Our choices will be more difficult and constricted, and in some cases downright unpalatable. There are few reasons to warrant great expectations from the Merkel-Cameron dialogue and many to justify modest ones. Both leaders are arch-pragmatists and have a good sense of the dangerous imponderables which British disengagement from the EU would introduce for both sides. They have therefore a strong incentive to do a deal, if they can. One possible approach might be to cast the Brussels machine in the role of sacrificial victim, to seal a new pact on subsidiarity, suitably “sexed up” and no doubt rebranded in terms less redolent of the Vatican. On the other hand, their pragmatism means that both leaders are predominantly specialists in reactive and defensive policies. The chancellor espouses minimum necessary movement, which often means the latest possible movement. This strategy of choice offers her the advantage that her decisions are taken with the fullest possible reconnaissance of the forces in play and…

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