Charlemagne crushes Greek democracy
It is clear who really runs the European Union and where the real power resides. It wasn't, after all, Malta who summoned Greece: he who pays the piper gets to call the tune. And the piper is Germany, aided and abetted by France. And when the Greek Prime Minister arrived at the headmaster's study, naughty George was read the riot act; hysterical threats were made of expulsion; he was bullied into backing down; and the dark threats were too much to bear. Europe’s political élite badgered and cajoled until little George cancelled his referendum. Sarkozy strutted and postured like Napoleon; Merkel puffed and blew like the Kaiser. But this alliance is nothing new.
The European Union is essentially the recreation of the old Empire of Charlemagne: from the moment the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) bound together the economic and political destinies of France and Germany. Charlemagne was crowned Imperator Romanorum (Emperor of the Romans) by Pope Leo III in AD800. He became Western Europe’s ‘Christian’ Caesar - a Roman emperor born of a Germanic race. The West once again had an emperor, and his coronation was to become the central event of the Middle Ages. He was proclaimed Rex Pater Europae (King Father of Europe) and espoused the ideal of a unified Christian Empire of the Frankish and Germanic tribes - albeit christianised at sword-point - in close alliance with the Pope.
In 962, Otto the Great revived Charlemagne’s Empire as the first German Reich, and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope John XII. This Reich became known as the Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicae (Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation). Germany became the power centre of the Empire. Throughout the Middle Ages it was to be the kings of the Germans, crowned by the Pope, who would be named Holy Roman Emperor. Napoleon crowned himself with the ‘iron crown’ of Lombardy, the great historic symbol of Europe which had previously been worn by Charlemagne, Otto the Great and other European sovereigns.
Both France and Germany are vying for control of the European superstate, with both sides claiming the heritage of the crown of Charlemagne. Margaret Thatcher knew what was going on when she observed at the Fontainebleau Summit of 1984: "The whole axis is France and Germany, and what they say the others agree with." Former French foreign minister Hervé de Charette confirmed this, when he declared: "The Franco-German axis must continue to fulfil its federating function... The single currency project is the principal and...only European federating project...the powerfully federalist character of this project has yet to be appreciated."
Senior European economists also affirm that decisions are partly rigged in advance by the two largest member states - Germany and France - which are bound by the terms of their bilateral treaty of 1963 to reach ‘as far as possible an analogous position’ ahead of meetings of the Council of Ministers. There was a curious symbolic expression of this continuing alliance - a union within the Union - at the Aachen summit of 1978, when the President of France Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt paid homage at the throne and burial place of Charlemagne - the federalist’s patron saint. Afterwards, the French President remarked: "Perhaps when we discussed monetary problems, the spirit of Charlemagne brooded over us."
And so the spirit of Charlemagne still broods: the Franco-German axis has chewed and spat out the birthplace of democracy, the fount of Western philosophy and literature, the creator of the Olympic Games, the originator of historiography, political science, mathematical principles, and our dramatic traditions of tragedy and comedy. And there is more to come: the same fate will befall Portugal, Italy and Spain, for 'the powerfully federalist character of this project has yet to be appreciated'. Truly, we have learned nothing from history.