EUROPA VOR DEM UNTERGANG Die Folgen des demografischen Zusammenbruchs (German Edition)
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GB: Is there a moment in the way you recall the year which represents a sense of definite change, one which could form the basis of a national holiday or celebration? And if such moments were missed, then why? On the one hand, we were convinced then that we are dealing with events of epic importance, totally fundamental and positive, and on the other, one could feel the disorientation, confusion or even lethargy. At the time, we had no idea, though today we know the process of the Transformation ended with the introduction of radical market reforms, which then led to many thousands of people feeling humiliated and marginalised.
At the same time, in the current narratives dedicated to those events there appears an ultra-optimistic tone, along with the conviction that these were wonderful, grand, historical achievements, ones which should be recognised and valued all over the world. And now speaking totally seriously, I am afraid that it is no longer possible to create a sense of unity around the events of the 4 th of June, and thereby turning the date into something akin to Bastille Day in France or Independence Day in the US.
All the more so when we consider , when we did truly witness an authentic, grass-roots revolution, a time of total euphoria for the whole of the nation. And so the last moment which could be turned into a national holiday is not the 4 th of June, but the signing of the Gdansk accords? JP: If we are looking to pinpoint a time when communism was finished, in my opinion this took place on the 31 st of August , when the Gdansk agreements were signed.
Even though the state of martial law prolonged communist rule by a good few years, we can definitely think about the August accords as the Polish knocking down of the Bastille. A transformative moment of the spiritual fall of the old authoritarian regime is the appearance of Solidarity in Tthis can be felt in language itself: talking about this time, we make reference to a carnival. This is, I think, the time of true founding, and hence totally pivotal for Polish democracy. What sort of civic moods can Jacek Borcuch remember from his own experiences of ? Can you recall any sort of visual symbol of this transformation?
Our exams were symbolic, exceptional, because we could feel that once they are over, we would enter a completely different world to the one our parents and grandparents lived in. And this to us was valuable. I remember that enthusiasm. We did not experience subtle, intellectual disputes about the nature of the nation. Back then, at 19, we were happy to be free, something which we associated with symbolic aspects — for example, our borders being once again open. This is perhaps a simplification of the memories to something very basic, but I remember that very clearly.
I found the changes rather intimidating, seeing as someone had decided to offer me the whole world on a plate, while I had spent my whole school years preparing for something completely different. We were busy living in the playground, with girls, books, not taking part in the political debate — we were too small for this. Having been shipped out as an 18 year old at the start of the conflict, she then worked in some kind of chocolate factory.
She remembers that time as the most wonderful period of her life, because this was the time she blossomed into an adult. For me, is the same sort of watershed. Back then, my boyish enthusiasm won over. I remember, on the 4 th of June some cats were born in the basement of my house. It was wild, we were young, and then… we went to vote. Why did you decide, when shooting your film, to not focus on any particular point in that year?
You show a vision of changes taking place smoothly, without any sort of breakthrough moment. Was this your intention from the start? MB: That is how I remember that year, hence why I wanted to show it in that fashion. From the very start, I thought it was a year of ambivalent emotions, a year of chaos, intermixed with enthusiasm. And it was this very aspect, that that time was so complex in terms of emotional experience, which seemed interesting to me as I worked on the film. And later, as if moving step by step towards the event, trying to understand why some feel offended, while others defend the meaning of those days, is when I realised that it is necessary to show it in as neutral a light as possible.
MB: It turned out to be laborious, although I thankfully had fantastic researchers and I think that we managed to uncover a lot of interesting material. This is not at all simple, because there have been numerous films made about I wanted to contrast this sort of footage with material from the Polish film archive, which is defined by a certain kind of undecided narration — as if its authors were unsure whether they should be celebrating or not, whether they could mock that which was happening all across the country, which side to take. I am interested in the gaps in this story — were you able to access archives which contain materials relating to certain events?
There was a series of his appearances during televised news, or just afterwards, when he explained why things were so bad. Changes were taking place so quickly, that not many could keep up with them.
But it was hard trying to track down those records. When taking on the task of creating a film covering the whole of , did you not feel the pressure of expectations — from either critics or audiences — regarding the creation of a complete metaphor of the transformation process? MB: It is hard to answer this question. I remember that, for about 10 years after , we kept hearing that Polish cinema is still waiting for a portrait of those days — waiting for film makers to wake up and show what had happened, to explain the world which surrounds us.
I had the sense that we were waiting for a synthesis. They accompanied all of the films which were made about the Transformation. Criticisms were levelled at them, accusations of political bias, glorification of violence, or submitting to needs to make genre cinema, while the s are often talked about as a time of crisis in Polish film making. I have the impression that part of this dissatisfaction comes from an unanswered need for a grand, complete metaphor of the transformation. Maybe one of the reasons for this lack was bitterness about the transition process expressed by its previous enthusiastic supporters?
JB: I think that this was when Polish cinema freed itself from that metaphor. But then the s brought with them hyper-realism, which made it possible to show good and bad political policemen — at that time, mostly bad — but also ordinary people, to show reality in any way the film maker chose. This crisis was not therefore down to an inability to create a metaphor. No one was interested in using such devices. All we wanted to do was shoot film. We were also excited by all that was suddenly reaching us from the West. The language of cinema back then became vulgar. MB: Among those artists who spoke at the Gdynia film festival, whose recordings I found while researching my film, I listened to Jacek Skalski, who expressed the hope that it would no longer be necessary to build films out of metaphors.
Before then, there was a lot of talk around subjects, and so it was important to try and address things directly after This too is not that easy. And did Polish documentary film makers quickly free themselves from this weight of expectation — the need to build a metaphor? What in your opinion are the most important documentaries from the s, showing the process of transformation?
It shows a certain moment when collective emotions were given free reign — like the people who were outside the Congress Hall and wanted to throw stones. The film shows that they are really ready to do this — which makes an impression on the audience. Which film from the s is the best depiction of the spirit of those times? JP: This is a problem affecting not only film, but literature also.
If we were to try and right now answer the question: which book shows us a true picture of those times, would we be able to find one? Do please note that no one reads poetry in the same way we read it in the s, back in my day. I think if we tried today to find out a true picture of the world, of society in literature, we would have the same problem as with film. It shows a certain honest version of reality back then. A new reality, absent from the press or from television.
He showed its aspects — in a way which was a little extreme — which was back then considered taboo. I remember, during a screening in a cinema full to the rafters, I could feel something akin to the classic experience of catharsis: we go to the cinema in order to see something which will cleanse you; this is terrible, but after the screening you leave strengthened. I want to go back to a point raised by Jacek Borcuch, about looking for a filmic language, with which it is possible to talk about the times of the transformation.
JB: There is right now a pop-culture trend for all things s, perhaps because these are the years of childhood experienced by most thirty-somethings. Today, many artists, especially in animation or graphic design, are drawing on those times. Young architects and other artists are beginning to realise that world was not all black and white. I think that this trend is a manifestation of longing for an as-yet untold history, that perhaps there exists a space which can be utilised.
And this happens in a variety of ways. I wanted to talk about music. Grown-ups had their Solidarity badges, while we expressed ourselves through a form of music which was becoming more and more accepted. A sizeable majority of songs from the early s talked about a longing for freedom. JB: That film was very popular with my peers, because they remembered that time in a similar way. But those slightly older than us had a different attitude. I told him: Krzysztof, that was how it was for me, no one shot at me, no one beat me with batons, we did what we wanted to, high on hope.
Krzysztof could not believe me, because that was the time when he was handing out leaflets, running from the police, and as a result did not see ordinary life, going on all around him — imperceptibly. How did you come to agree with the film makers about lending your identity to their project, and what aspects of your experience was it not possible to translate into film? JP: There is always a clash when an artist meets the living person they are making a film about. The artist wants to have a free hand to create their vision. On the other hand, this is my biography, my life, and so I too think I have some right to a say.
For me, the process of shooting this film was in some way a terrible experience and I think that the film crew hated me for at least part of the shoot. I was at a certain point actually sure that this will not change, and started to talk about it in public.
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In the end, when Krzystek hired out Grunwaldzki Bridge in Wroclaw, paralysing the whole town for two days, we met with him and his crew for a last chat over some wine. They were the same age as I had been when I took that money. When I saw their enthusiasm, I realised that for them it was a huge adventure, something existentially real. I realised this was something interesting, important and good, and agreed to let them use my name on that very last night.
JP: You could say that. Everyone who thinks about martial law in Wroclaw will see it the way Krzystek filmed it. Mai unterschrieben, nach Moskauer Zeit war bereits der 9. Mai angebrochen. In der parlamentarischen Debatte wurden Stimmen laut, den Gedenktag abzuschaffen, weil es aus polnischer Sicht eigentlich nichts zu feiern gebe. Der Zweite Weltkrieg war ohne Zweifel eins der wichtigsten Ereignisse in unserer Geschichte und wir sollten an seine Bedeutung erinnern.
Diejenigen, die behaupten, man solle dieses Datum nicht feiern, propagieren eine sehr einseitige Interpretation, nach der Polen den Krieg verloren hat und infolgedessen die eine Besatzung ganz einfach durch eine andere ersetzt wurde. Mit einer solchen Deutung bin ich nicht einverstanden.
Wie interpretieren Sie die Geschehnisse des Jahres ? Aus meiner Sicht reicht ein einzelner Begriff nicht aus, um der damaligen Situation gerecht zu werden. Das Kriegsende war zweifellos unser Sieg. Mai somit im Kreis der Sieger des Krieges befanden. Polnische Soldaten eroberten Berlin, ein wenig weiter in Norddeutschland marschierte von Westen her die 1. Umso mehr symbolisches Gewicht hat dieses grausame Ereignis. In Deutschland hat sich dagegen die Tradition entwickelt, Museen als kritische Institutionen zu denken, die in eine Diskussion mit der Vergangenheit eintreten.
Welche Formel realisiert das Museum in Danzig? In der Tat gibt es zwei unterschiedliche Typen von Geschichtsmuseen — einerseits den Tempel, der ein geschlossenes Wissen vermittelt, und andererseits das kritische Museum, das zum Nachdenken anregen soll. Ich denke zum Beispiel an das Deutsche Historische Museum. Eine solche Formulierung ruft meine Beunruhigung hervor.
Ich will damit keineswegs sagen, dass unser Museum als Gegenpol zum Museum des Warschauer Aufstandes entsteht, wie es viele Medien und Politiker suggerieren. Aufmerksame Betrachterinnen und Betrachter erkennen mit Sicherheit Unterschiede in beiden Museen, was die Behandlung des Warschauer Aufstandes oder des polnischen Untergrundstaates angeht. Weltkrieg zu organisieren, auch Historiker getroffen? Mai politischen Charakter hatte. Jahrhunderts im Ganzen Widerstand zu leisten. Die jeweilige Besonderheit der Funktion von Historiographie und Politik muss dabei gewahrt bleiben.
Inzwischen wird davon ausgegangen, dass diese exekutiert worden sind. He writes mainly on Polish and American politics. Anne Applebaum: Our weakness and strengths are mismatched. Certainly Russia is strong in one area in which we are weak: the West has lost interest in using its military, and they are just getting a taste for using theirs. The country is so corrupt it puts the legitimacy of the system continuously in question. He would not allow Boris Nemtsov to be killed and would not be jailing dissidents if he was not afraid.
He runs a system, which cannot sustain itself without constantly resorting to violence. This is a paradox which I cannot figure out. There are two huge advantages Russia has on a global stage. The first lies in the fact that Putin and the people around him possess political tools we cannot even imagine in the West.
They own the country. The second thing they have — and this factor is strangely underrated at the moment — is a nuclear arsenal. If Russia was Albania and it had invaded Ukraine, we would immediately help Kiev. Exactly, we were afraid then too. Yet the Western response has been a lot weaker.
I think he meant the most serious European crisis. Still the response has been weak. What are the reasons? Fear of nuclear weapons? First of all the West is not united. And secondly, until last year Russia has not been seen as a serious problem, at least not in the United States. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, the state of the economy and many other issues were much higher on the American priority list.
In during the presidential campaign Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, said that Russia was American enemy number one…. At one point somebody I know tried to convince him to defend it and justify his positions. Romney declined. He apparently decided it was a mistake and did not repeat it again. By the way, that brief conversation was the only one about Russia during the whole campaign. To roll back the changes of and International communism was also impossible — it never worked and never would. And yet they tried.
For the last 20 years Russia invested huge sums of money in business across Europe — they bought companies, agents of influence, football clubs, etc. The purchase of the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder did not happen after Crimea. It happened many years ago. They also set up an expensive propaganda apparatus, which now has branches in every country, and have been funding radical parties in most European countries — National Front in France, Jobbik in Hungary, Syriza in Greece.
Now and again they have some successes. The Greek parliamentary elections were a big success for Russia. Both the far left and the far right party which now run Greece in coalition have two things in common: they hate austerity and they are pro-Russian. Leaders of both parties have close links to Alexander Dugin, the propagandist of Russian fascism. The place where Russians invested the most is London, and still the British government is very critical of Putin.
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When compared to the total value of assets that flow through the City of London from all over the world, the amount of Russian money invested in the UK is not that significant. The British economy, like the German and American economies, is simply too big to be bought. The countries where Russian influence works better are usually weaker, smaller and with a corrupt political class. Russians benefit from the situation which was already in place and which they have been monitoring closely. All the Russians need to do is throw them a little money.
Now Frederica Mogherini is tasked to present a plan for such counteraction by June. Because it would require a level of commitment that the EU bureaucracy, and particularly its external affairs service, does not have. What about NATO — is it a viable structure today? Only recently president Obama refused to meet with its chairman, Jens Soltenberg, even though he applied for such meeting well in advance.
Great Britain has announced it might significantly reduce its military budget and lower the number of soldiers to years low. We need to completely rethink NATO — where are its bases, how is it run, maybe even who its members are — just as we need to completely rethink our information policy and the funding of political parties in Europe. How is it possible that the National Front can take 40 million euros from a spooky Czech-Russian bank?
How is it possible that Russian disinformation appears regularly in mainstream media all across Europe? To prevent these things, each individual European country would need to sit up and realize that Russia is a threat and then to react accordingly. Almost nobody has done that. Who do you think can be the agent behind such change? Until recently, Poland was considered the absolute leader on European relations with the former USSR, and indeed inspired several absolutely critical EU institutional reforms.
Poland created the Eastern Partnership, for example, which of course helped pave the way for the Maidan revolution in Kiev. Theoretically Germany could make big changes to European Union — particularly in conjunction with Poland, Britain or other states — but Berlin is very ambivalent about its own power, and actually avoids taking the lead unless there is a serious crisis. A third possibility is the United States.
I have met White House officials. Yet the Congress has urged president Obama a few times already to get more involved in the conflict and provide Ukraine with military help. The resolutions were passed with both Democratic and Republican support. There are some people in Congress who see the magnitude of the challenge, but not in the White House. And for something as big as the reform of NATO you need the full support of the president. But maybe president Obama is right about not getting too engaged in a struggle with Putin?
Russian money reserves are shrinking, Western dependence on its resources is diminishing, Chinese domination in the eastern Asia is already indisputable. Why worry then? A sick man with a gun is still a man with a gun. We need to completely rethink NATO — where are its bases, how is it run, maybe even who its members. Ilya Ponomarev with whom we talked a few weeks ago said that the year , the th anniversary of Bolshevik Revolution will bring another political earthquake to Russia. Do you agree? The Soviet Union was also an impoverished state where nothing worked the way it supposed to, and yet it lasted for 70 years.
Even the independent analyses like those conducted by Levada Center confirm these results. Could you please tell me, whether you like the president? What are you going to say? One cannot do a poll in an authoritarian country and expect realistic results. In Russia even such dramatic events like the killing of Boris Nemtsov provoke hardly any social opposition. There are two separate issues here: one is whether most Russians approve of the current situation.
Another is whether their disapproval will bring about a street revolution. There could be a coup, an assassination or — as Ponomarev seems to hope — an internal change in the political system, which will bring new people to the political scene. They also say that Putin is bluffing. Every single time one of them died or — as was the case with Khrushchev — was replaced, American papers speculated about the hard liners who were supposedly on the verge of taking over the power and the great crisis which was about to follow. Can you imagine?
Stalin — one of the greatest murderers in history died and they were worried about who was coming next! Russia has no institutional mechanism for change. The working class is no different. The more the West increases its pressure, the less likely it becomes that this will change. The sanctions are not aimed at ordinary Russians but at the elite. Otherwise the Kremlin will resort to military options. Why was Russia in the G8? The idea was that Russians would feel appreciated and become a part of the Western world. Some say it was a violation of Russian sphere of influence, which now Russia is trying to undo.
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Many countries did this but Russia from the very beginning made it clear that it would not change its political system to meet the requirements of European institutions. I think if Yeltsin, and later Putin, had been willing to make truly fundamental changes — and this was said by many people, many times — then there absolutely could have been a discussion of NATO membership for Russia. But they never were and there never was. When Vladimir Putin became president he was long seen as a pragmatist who really wanted to improve his relations with the West.
His visit in at Westerplatte was…. He did the same thing in Budapest. It was also right for the West to try to have a pragmatic relationship with Russia for so many years. The mistake was to take one step further and imagine that Russia had already become a Western country, which it never was, and to imagine that it no longer posed any military threat whatsoever. What is wrong with us? Were our weaknesses always there or do they result from some major mistake made over the last decades? There have been three important Western political miscalculations in the past two decades.
The second mistake was to admit too many countries into the Euro. A generation of southern Europeans has been impoverished as a result. The third bad decision was the invasion of Iraq which misdirected Western military power and attention at an issue which could have been solved differently. By cultural deficiency Putin means the advancement of gay rights and that is of course ridiculous. No, Western weakness is really a political, not a cultural issue. The level of political debate in almost every European country, including Poland, has deteriorated significantly in the past decade.
Radical changes in the media — the growth of the internet and anonymous commentary, plus the bankruptcy of traditional media — have made it impossible for news to be either gathered or discussed as seriously as it once was. As a result, European countries which once had outward-looking, intellectual political debate have now became hysterical and shallow.
Germany still has excellent private media and the UK still has good state media, in the form of the BBC, but most European countries have neither. The non-stop need for news and the constant invasion of privacy are now making politics unattractive too. How many people want to live in a world where every misinterpreted word or misunderstood joke can be spun into a stupid scandal? As a result, fewer competent people now want to become either journalists or politicians, both in Europe and the US. At the moment, most of our political leaders made their careers in the post-Cold War era of globalization and European peace.
Now they have woken up and suddenly found themselves in a situation of military crisis. For many European countries even to start thinking about Russia as a threat again, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, requires a total paradigm shift, a Copernican revolution. Europe very badly needs a common foreign policy and probably a common defence policy, in addition to and in conjunction with NATO.
What is Europe doing instead? Wasting time on ridiculous, petty regulations and a common currency for which some countries were totally unprepared. We need a leap of imagination and of leadership. The Politics of Global Protest For over 10 years he has been involved in researching cultural and social aspects of digital media.
Is Internet helping or killing good democracy?
To be honest I have no idea at all. We have to be much more flexible in our approach to this concept. The Internet we have now is not the Internet we used to have yesterday and might have tomorrow. Technology companies are now becoming the primary vehicles through which we tackle important political and social problems.
In the future it will be based on the idea of preventive care, relying on various sensors which already invaded our cars, apartments, mobile phones and other electronic devices. These sensors can monitor how much we walk, sleep, what we eat, how much we exercise and as a result tell us in advance how we ought to behave in order to remain healthy. Yet this technology is not only about using our devices to steer us towards a healthier life. It also changes the way we perceive social and political challenges.
Problems we thus far tackled differently, through interventions of the welfare state or other social and political institutions, have now been pushed almost exclusively on the shoulders of citizens. A paradigm where technology companies become the primary means of problem solving is in itself a threat to democratic life, because companies are efficient in a particular manner: in tackling the consequences, not the root causes of a given issue. For example, one could argue that the reason for the current obesity problem is our laziness and lack of exercise.
This might be true, but there are clearly other, structural factors at play: the power of food companies, deficiencies in the health care system, lack of access to better food, etc. All of those factors are suddenly becoming less important in the public debate. The state no longer wants to inquire into why certain problems occur.
A lot of state institutions support the ideology behind that change, because it shifts the burden of responsibility from them to an individual and on top of that reduces the costs. My fear, however, is that — if this program is fully implemented — we will all end up in a society with placid, boring and undemocratic public life.
The state delegates more of its powers to private actors which assume the roles previously ascribed to state officials — gatekeepers, judges, police, etc. Secondly, since the infrastructure is private it also needs to be profit driven. How does one make make a profit out of a product, which is in a sense free and accessible to all? Instead of paying for it in money we end up having another transaction — data for service.
The third and the broadest implication of the change we discuss is commodification of subsequent areas of life. We are no longer citizens, members of some communities — even though we still like to call online groups communities. We are either entrepreneurs competing for attention in social media, or we are passive products — traded as commodities by somebody else. In both cases our data is the essential measure of our value.
The more we share, the more attractive we become. The far reaching results these changes are not optimistic. They include anxiety, loneliness, feeling that we are being left alone in this cruel world. The state is now withdrawing from many of its functions towards citizens and saying it I can no longer deal with all those global challenges and international companies possessing our data.
Our fear increases because we know, we have to do the negotiating directly with the huge market players. But on the other side, the state feeds on our fear when developing its own security policy. As a result we feel… less secure, because our human rights are limited and we become exposed to many dangers, including those coming from the state. All these changes force us to rethink the role of the state. On the one hand I would like it to be limited when it invades our private lives in the name of security. On the other, I would like to see the state much more active where it comes to dealing with the market.
Aleksander Tarkowski: Rather than thinking about good democracy, I prefer to think about good and bad Internet. It sits in the middle and just sends packets of information — nothing else. And it is surveilling us. What happened, then? We increasingly depend on a single intermediary for certain areas: for cars, searches, shoes. How can we get out of it? At this point I would like to name one actor who can solve this problem, but this is impossible. I bet a bit on the state and I wish I could bet more on the grassroots activity. A while ago I listened to a podcast on designing… fire escapes in buildings.
In the 19th century USA there were virtually no fire escapes and no fire brigades to help save people from fires in buildings. And years later we have fire brigades and fire escapes. Things do change over time if we talk about it. Someone in that podcast said, that a huge fire in New York, when over people died, proved that architecture does not protect us. We need to protect ourselves from architecture. I think we can say the same thing about Internet and it does not mean the Internet or architecture is bad. Building is not evil — in some cases we just need to be smarter than it is.
Ivan Krastev: My interest in Internet and transparency started with two observations. Second fact which made me ponder upon this issue was a decision made by a Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov. Immediately after being elected in Borisov declared all the meetings of the council of ministers would be accessible to public two hours after they finish. Borisov is not famous for a strong democratic instinct. Why did he do it, then? It was the best way to close the mouths of his ministers. Normally, discussions during government meetings were rather intense.
But when you know that everything is going to be public, you realize, that any major disagreement means government crisis. As a result people control themselves. We should not fall in love with the transparency paradigm. Something that was a desirable utopia yesterday, may turn into a nightmare when it becomes reality. I believe that the popular transparency paradigm is based on three illusions. So there will be a decision by consensus simply because all of us have symmetrical information. This is not true. We can get the same information, but make different decisions based on our different experiences and values To try to reduce all political disagreements to the asymmetry of information is a false view of what policy is about and how society functions.
The second illusion is that we can combine fully transparent governments with private citizens keeping their privacy intact. Yet, even if the government is transparent, it is collecting information about its people. So citizens are going to be transparent too.
The last illusion concerns trust. Many of us will say the part of the problems democracy is facing today is the crisis of trust and that transparency automatically creates more trust. We somehow tend to forget that trust is not something simply based on the availability of information. I therefore argue we should not fall in love with the transparency paradigm. An argument can be made that people pushing for full transparency misunderstand the way politics and democracy function and that we need dark corners for deals and bargaining.
Five Star Movement in Italy also embarked on an agenda of radical transparency. They bring cameras even to meetings between the leader of the party and prime minister which normally would be private. However, their goal is not to make everything transparent in order to increase trust. They believe the more they reveal of this corruption, the sooner the system will fall and I think they are right.
With regards to other subjects we tackled — I also would love to see the state being more active. Der britische Antrag wurde schon am Mai einstimmig angenommen. Juli bis zum 3. Mit acht zu sieben Stimmen fiel das Ergebnis sehr knapp aus. Daher wurde die Zollunion als Anschlag auf Frankreichs Sicherheit interpretiert. Als Korrelat zu dieser negativen Haltung wurde am 7. Der gleichfalls innenpolitisch angeschlagene Kanzler lehnte das ab.
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