Monday, January 7, 2013

The Holy Roman Empire: European Disunion Done Right

Back in 2011 I thought we were going to get a reprise of the HRE but it wasn't to be.*
From The Economist:
SUMMITS were more fun in those days. When Ferdinand III, the Habsburg monarch of the Holy Roman Empire, arrived in Regensburg, the Brussels of its time, in late 1652, he brought 60 musicians and three dwarves. There were sleigh rides, fireworks and the first Italian opera ever performed in Germanic lands. Aside from that, the Reichstag (imperial diet) was much like today’s European Council, the gathering for leaders of the member states. The emperor arrived with a retinue of 3,000 people to meet the empire’s princes, bishops, margraves and other assorted VIPs. They negotiated for more than a year. By the time Ferdinand left again for Vienna, with 164 ships floating down the Danube, quite a lot had transpired.

Precisely what that was, however, has been a matter of passionate dispute among historians ever since, with special relevance today. The traditional view is that Central Europe, exhausted by crisis (the Thirty Years War, which had ended in 1648), yet again failed to get its act together and form a proper union—ie, a centralised state. For the next 150 years, the “old empire” thus drifted into fragmentation and geopolitical irrelevance. As the Prussian historian Heinrich von Treitschke described it in the 19th century, it became “a chaotic mess of rotted imperial forms and unfinished territories”, until it expired with a barely audible whimper in 1806.

Such a reading would warn leaders of the EU today against repeating history: Thou shalt not let the euro crisis turn centripetal forces (“ever closer union”) into centrifugal ones, with member countries exiting from the euro zone or even the EU. For this would lead to a gradual break-up of the EU similar to the erstwhile dissolution of the empire, and deliver the continent to its old curse of Kleinstaaterei (small-statism) in a world of giants such as America, China and India. In the worst case the old nationalist energies would return, just as they metastasised in the century after 1806.

But there is a revisionist view. Originating in Germany in recent decades but increasingly accepted in academia elsewhere, it also regards the institutional structure of the empire as it emerged from the 1653 Reichstag as a prototype for the EU today. However, its proponents mean that in a good way. Peter Claus Hartmann, a historian at the University of Mainz, says that the old empire, though not powerful politically or militarily, was extraordinarily diverse and free by the standards of Europe at the time. As one of its subjects, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, wrote, it was a place “in which, in peacetime, everybody can prosper.”
By this reading, EU leaders today need not fear a “looser union”. They could welcome the crisis as an opportunity, as in 1653, to refine and fix the EU’s federalist structures. This would mean embracing the reality of dual (meaning ambiguous) sovereignty, shared between emperor and princes then, between Brussels and member states now. With the principle of “subsidiarity”, which organised both the empire and the EU, Europe can remain free and happy, Mr Hartmann thinks.

A brief one-millennium recap
Depending on how one dates it, the old empire lasted a thousand years. Its patriarch was Charlemagne, a Frankish king who united a geographic area eerily similar to that of the 1952 precursor to the EU, the European Coal and Steel Community of West Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy. Crowned emperor in Rome by the pope in 800, Charlemagne and his heirs represented the continuation in western Europe of the ancient Caesars, whence the German word Kaiser (emperor)....MUCH MORE

HT: The Money Illusion

* Sarkozy, Merkel Announce Plans to Wed, Restore Holy Roman Empire
Don't email, I know about Herr Professor Doktor Sauer and Carla Bruni, Just roll with me on this.
Europe has not been the same since the HRE folded its tent in 1806 after Napolean beat Francis II and forced him to abdicate on August 6.
Now 205 years to the day later....
I'm sorry, I can't continue.

The HR Emperor was the German top dog and that's not how I want to refer to Angela....
By May 2012 I had come to accept the inevitable:
Merkozy Memories

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind  
Smiles we give to one another
For the way we were
German Chancellor Angela Merkel And French President Nicolas Sarkozy at Elysee Palace
Memories, may be beautiful and yet  
What's too painful to remember 
We simply choose to forget