The meeting between outgoing US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hanover in late April is said to have been very affectionate. However, so were her encounters with Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush eight years ago. Even then, those bilateral visits were accompanied by violent protests which the German Government acknowledged with a shrug. This time it is the debate on the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TTIP), which is gaining urgency after the recent release of undisclosed documents by Greenpeace.
What was brought to Hanover as one of Obama’s key concerns and highly praised by Merkel as an “ambitious agreement” is judged by critics to bring on the full surrender of national sovereignty and self-determination in economic and social policy issues – from admission of the import of genetically modified goods up to the disclosure of personal data.
The timing is not unwisely selected. The Ukraine crisis has restored the situation of a new cold war on the borders with Russia. Since Saudi Arabia’s (equally strategically calculated) opening towards Iran, the United States is in danger of losing control of Saudi Arabia as an ally, as there seems to be a difference of opinions about restructuring the Middle East. Moreover, China is aiming to realise the project of a New Silk Road, with the goal of connecting the economies of East and Central Asia, Russia and Europe. The US is therefore trying to defy China’s expanding growth market in multiple ways: on the one hand rising Chinese mobile phone companies such as Huawei and ZTE have to put up with sanctions. On the other hand Obama urged the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Australia and several Pacific countries. The agreement was signed by twelve states in February.
In view of this background the pressure with which the pace for a similar agreement is forced in the EU, should no longer surprise anyone. Possibly the German Chancellor’s euphoria in agreeing to the deal is a lot more surprising. At any rate, scandals about eavesdropping by the US foreign intelligence NSA seem to have affected Merkel far less than the current Greenpeace Leaks in order to better educate the world public about the TTIP content.
EU officials have gradually to decide what kind of Europe they want to leave to future generations: Should it be a Europe soon even economically dependent on the militant US foreign policy? Should it be an emerging supervised States Union in which citizens enjoy less and less participation and in consequence turn to radical movements and parties? Or should Europe still find its way back to its role as a mediator, perceiving and respecting the concerns of its civilian population? Obama and Merkel have obviously already come to their decisions. •
Stefan Haderer is a cultural anthropologist and a political scientist.
(Translation Current Concerns)
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