Sunday, 22 December 2013

The next Holy Roman Empress?

I have long felt that the most ardent supporters of a Federal Europe are from countries which have closely bound in to a historical empire: Italy, obviously (Mussolini traded on restoring imperial splendour); France, dreaming of a new Bonaparte; Austria and Spain thinking of the Hapsburgs; and those lands which were the core of the Holy Roman Empire (neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire at the end in 1806). Nations north and west of Germany, cherishing longer periods of independence, are more resistant.

There was a reminder when the Independent ran a story that Ursula von der Leyen was the clear heiress to Angela Merkel's throne. The gracious lady is said to be a passionate advocate of European integration. (Angela Merkel is wary of this, recollecting no doubt the downside of being brought up in the Soviet empire.) What is as worrying is that vd Leyen clearly shares with the Poles the belief that Christianity is the bedrock of Europe. According to a potted biography on a feminist website, when she took over the Family portfolio she "succeeded in making such issues as childcare and family policy important political concerns in Germany once again. 'I want us to have more children in this country again. That’s the most important thing!' She pushed through a new law for 'Elterngeld' (one-year parental pay for parents who stay at home to care for their children), which despite massive protests from all sides includes two months for fathers. (During these two months the state pays parental support only if the father stays home.) Among her conservative colleagues and voters, of course, she did not only win friends with this provision.

"Virtually simultaneously she alienated the opposite side when she set up an 'Erziehungsgipfel' (education summit) which was limited to representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches and excluded all other religious and pedagogically concerned groups."

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