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From Prussia to Germany: Bismarck’s Foreign Policy

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Before Bismarck helmed the German stewardship, the German areas were fragmented into many a piece— this included two major exceptions: Hanover governed by the United Kingdom and the duchy of Holstein under the aegis of the King of Denmark.  All the duchies, Kingdoms and city-states came under the umbrella of the Holy Roman Empire.

The incessant victories of Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. Napoleon formed the Confederation of Rhine which was, after Napoleon, supplanted by the German confederation devised by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.The Congress awarded the heterogenous Austria with the presidency of the German Confederation, Kingdom of Prussia was set aside.

Prussia endeavored economically to coalesce the fragmented German states within a common customs union. This onerous task was hard to achieve. Before 1818, each district in Prussia had its own customs and there were as many as 67 tariff areas in Prussia alone.[1]First of all, Prussia effaced the custom barricades in her own boundaries and then other German areas merged into it. The Customs Union was known as Zollverein—Austria ostracized from it.

The revolution of 1830 sparked protests in Europe, however, with the help of the Carlsbad decrees Metternich was able to curb the revolutionary elements in its milieu. Metternich did not allow the revolutionary elements to harbor in Central Europe. He orchestrated the Metternich system to obliterate any revolutionary activities. This upended in 1848, Amidst the revolution,Metternich fled from Austria.

In the period before march 1848, known as the Vormärz, the futility of the German Confederation became self-evident. Its diet declined into little more than a court of appeal. It was still preoccupied in settling debts from the Thirty Years War.[2]The German Confederation ceased to exist and a new Frankfurt Parliament, under the aegis of Prussia, came into being. The parliament promulgated a constitution with a constitutional monarchy as its bedrock.


The parliament wanted King Frederick William IV of Prussia to accept the throne. He was, however, adamant in accepting the constitution because of his autocratic idiosyncrasies and absolutist predilections. This was a historic mistake— Metternich was out of the scene; France was enmeshed in the revolution and England was against the suppression done by the Concert of Europe. Notwithstanding the rejection to helm the leadership by constitutional means, he decided to take on the task of Unifying the Germanic hierarchy in Erfurt. It morphed into a fiasco as the situation in Europe changed. Metternich was back — Austria had suppressed the revolutionary elements from Hungary to German lands. These events led Frederick to capitulate at Olmutz. The dream of German Union was given up and the erstwhile German Confederation was restored under the leadership of Austria.

Bismarck’s Foreign Policy

It became evident to the new King that as long as Austria was in power, the dream of German unification could not be achieved. King William I came to the Prussian throne which reinvigorated the dream of a United Germany. He wanted to strengthen the Prussian military might, however, the landtag was interested in constitutional reforms. The crown-landtag crevice started to widen. In this peculiar situation, the King called on Bismarck to become the Minister-President of Prussia. In 1862, Otto Von Bismarck was appointed Premier to sort out the resultant crisis, if necessary, by unconstitutional measures.

Before becoming the Minister-President, he served as an ambassador to Russia and France— where he harboured amicable relations with the Tsar and Napoleon III. His first foreign policy challenge was the annexation of Schleswig by the King Frederick VII of Denmark.
King Frederick, yielding to the pressure of Danish Nationalists and contrary to the Protocol of 1852, separated Schleswig from Holstein, annexing the former and introducing a new constitution for the latter.

The developments led to the second Schleswig war. Bismarck drew Austria is her ambit and jointly fought Denmark. The coalition won the war and the treaty of Vienna awarded Schleswig to Prussia and, the purely German, Holstein to Austria to administer. Austria soon realized that administering Holstein, a purely German land, would be incongruous as it was environed by Prussia from all sides. Therefore, Austria started to propound the right of the Duke of Augustenburg to the Duchies.

This caused a rift between Prussia and Austria as it was contrary to their agreement. Bismarck saw this opportunity to accede both the duchies to Prussia. Before starting the war, Prussia isolated Austria diplomatically. He won over the Tsar during the Polish Revolt — Although he had nationalist predilections, he did not support the Polish nationalists. There were two reasons behind it — Firstly, he wanted to win over the Tsar against Austria and the second reason was the danger of a powerful Poland near the German borders. Austria, after the Crimean war and the demise of the Concert of Europe, did not have cordial relations with Russia. Italy’s risorgemento movement tethered Italy with Germany against Austria — Austria had to fight on two fronts. Italy wanted the Venetian lands as part of her plan to unify Italy. Furthermore, He met Napoleon III and secured his neutrality.

 Soon, War started between Austria and Prussia that lasted seven weeks this is why it is called the Seven Week’s war. Prussia Won the War and incorporated the Northern Germany including Hanover, Schleswig and Holstein. The erstwhile German confederation ceased to exist and the North German Confederation superseded Prussia.

The last barricade between the North-South Union was France. France did not allow a strong German Federation in its vicinity and King William I did not want to fight France. It was the revolution in Spain that brought both the powers at loggerhead. After the Spanish Revolution, the Spanish throne was being offered to the Prince Leopold, House of Hohenzollern. Napoleon III became indignant as it would place France between two German Princes. Benedetti, the French Ambassador, asked King William I to retire the Hohenzollern Claim from Spain at Ems. This interview, when dispatched to Bismarck, was published in such a way that rose jingoism on both side of the border —both sides believed that they had been treated undiplomatically.

France, like Austria, had been isolated before the war. The Crimean war theater assured Russian neutrality, Italy hopped the bandwagon again and Austria was not interested in buttressing France after her defeat. Napoleon wanted to increase in his glory as he failed to receive fanfare during his tenure. France was defeated by Prussia and subsequently the south Germany amalgamated with the North. This resulted in the Unification of Germany in 1871.


[1]Mahajan, V.D; History of Modern Europe Since 1789. (P. 197)

[2] Davies, Norman; Europe: A History. Oxford University Press. (P. 824)

I am a writer based in Lahore. I have done my masters in Islamic History and bachelors in European History and International Relations. Erstwhile, I was teaching History & Pakistan Studies at a school in Lahore Cantt. I have been writing for major newspapers and magazines both in India and Pakistan.

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Europe

Deciphering EU’s new investment deal with China

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The perceived economic gains of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investments (CAI), which the 27-nation European Union recently struck with the People’s Republic of China, come at the cost of disregarding human rights, which the Western bloc is known for, amid clear and irreconcilable systemic differences.

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The closing days of 2020 saw the European Union and China striking a deal known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investments (CAI), thereby concluding seven long years of negotiations, as per the year-end deadline. China is also the EU’s biggest trading partner after the United States, but a strategic and systemic rival too.

The European Commission, Brussels-based executive arm of the EU, primarily led the negotiations on behalf of the bloc. Germany, being the holder the EU Council Presidency and led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s continued push, combined with Beijing’s last-minute concessions, proved instrumental in expediting the process of finalising the CAI before the end of 2020.

However, the deal will still have to wait for a formal ratification by both sides and an approval by the Strasbourg-based EU Parliament, a tougher task, before finally setting it on course to be effective in a couple of years’ time, if not by early 2022.

Better rules, level-playing field for European businesses

The EU, by this deal, aims to widen the access for European companies to lucrative Chinese markets, with billion-plus consumers, on a wide range of sectors, particularly in services such as healthcare, finance, cloud-computing and air travel, among others, that has always been restrictive to foreign players in the past.

The deal could bring in a level playing field in the conduct of European businesses in China wherein Chinese state-owned enterprises will no longer be given preferential treatment through subsidies, thereby promoting fair competition and ensuring transparency in technology transfers. Newer possibilities for the expansion European businesses in China will be opened.

The CAI also promise better rules, investment protection, and an investment dispute settlement mechanism within two years of signing, which will replace all the separate bilateral investment treaties currently signed between China and EU member states. The EU maintains that the main purpose of this new deal is to address the economic imbalance in its relations with China.

However, the most striking aspect of the CAI is that, for the first time, China commits to follow accepted standards on climate and labour aspects, even though in a vague form. And for the EU, the timing of this deal with China is significant as a way of signalling its reengagement with the world in the aftermath of a post-Brexit scenario.

At the same time, the CAI reaffirmed reciprocal access for Chinese companies into European markets, which they always had. So, the deal matters to Europe, more than it matters to China. So, the real question is the extent of compromises which European negotiators had to make to strike the deal with the Asian superpower.

The issue of forced labour in China

Many EU member countries and the US had been apprehensive about the human rights situation in the northern Xinjiang province of China where there have been evidences and investigations on the use of forced labour from the media and elsewhere, which has not been duly factored in while concluding the investment deal.

It has been alleged that in the past several years, the Chinese government has forced over a million Uighur minorities in Xinjiang to perform seasonal labour against their will and are often underpaid. But, the Chinese government has repeatedly denied such allegations.

Many European lawmakers believe that China is not interested in fully complying with international agreements after signing it and is not a responsible and trustable partner. The presence of mass detention camps in this province, as verified by satellite imagery and other documents, is also a human rights concern which the EU was not supposed to ignore, considering its historical commitments to human rights.

US concerns and strategic rivalry

The incoming Biden administration has also raised concerns about the CAI, stating that it would “welcome early consultations” with its European partners on shared concerns surrounding China’s unfair economic practices, hinting at the issue of forced labour and the deal’s lacking on the question of enforcement of human rights.

Being a security and strategic partner of the US and part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), any such deal which EU and its member countries sign with its strategic rival, China, could effectively undermine American-led efforts to counter the strategic and geopolitical threat posed by Beijing’s aggressive and expansionist policies around the world.

It also flies in the face of an incoming Biden administration which is openly committed to mend relations with allies in Europe that had been worsened under Donald Trump. Many experts in the US have felt the EU should’ve waited for a few more weeks until the Biden administration takes charge to form a co-ordinated approach, as it related to their common systemic and strategic rival, China.

Moreover, the deal comes at a time when individual EU members such as Germany and the Netherlands have recently released their own outlook on the Indo-Pacific strategy, which is perceivably aimed at containing China’s rise and to ensure balance of power in the region. Meanwhile, France’s outlook is in existence for two years now.

Way ahead for implementation

The deal has now been reached at the technical level, paving way for a final ratification. But, getting the deal through the European Parliament, which attaches far more significance to human rights concerns than the Commission and the Council, is going to be a tough task, as many European legislators are increasingly sceptical of Chinese intentions and commitments to any deal.

The coming months are going to be crucial with regard to how the European legislators will debate and take forward the deal to the next level.

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Hungry for change: An open letter to European governments

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In 2020, the entire world knew what it was to be hungry. Millions of people went without enough to eat, with the most desperate now facing famine. At the same time, isolation took on a new meaning, in which the lonely and most remote were deprived of human contact when they most needed it, while the many victims of Covid-19 were starved of air. For all of us, the human experience fell far short of satisfying even the most basic needs.

The pandemic has provided a taste of a future at the limits of existence, where people are bereft, governments are stymied and economies wither. But it has also fuelled an unprecedented global appetite for change to prevent this from becoming our long-term reality.

For all the obstacles and challenges we face in the weeks and months ahead, I start 2021 with a tremendous sense of optimism and hope that the growling in our stomachs and the yearning in our hearts can become the collective roar of defiance, of determination and of revolution to make this year better than last, and the future brighter than the past.

It starts with food, the most primal form of sustenance. It is food that determines the health and prospects of almost 750 million Europeans and counting. It is food that employs some 10 million in European agriculture alone and offers the promise of economic growth and development. And it is food that we have learned impacts our very ecosystems, down to the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate we enjoy, come rain or shine.

Even before the pandemic, 2021 was destined to be a “super-year” for food, a year in which food production, consumption and disposal finally received the requisite global attention as the UN convenes the world’s first Food Systems Summit. But with two years’ worth of progress now compressed into the next 12 months, 2021 takes on a renewed significance.

After a year of global paralysis, caused by the shock of Covid-19, we must channel our anxieties, our fear, our hunger,and most of all our energies into action, and wake up to the fact that by transforming food systems to be healthier, more sustainable and inclusive, we can recover from the pandemic and limit the impact of future crises.

The change we need will require all of us to think and act differently because every one of us has a stake and a role in functioning food systems. But now, more than ever, we must look to our national leaders to chart the path forward by uniting farmers, producers, scientists, hauliers, grocers, and consumers, listening to their difficulties and insights, and pledging to improve each aspect of the food system for the betterment of all.

Policymakers must listen to Europe’s 10 million farmers as custodians of the resources that produce our food, and align their needs and challenges with the perspectives of environmentalists and entrepreneurs, chefs and restaurant owners, doctors and nutritionists to develop national commitments.

We enter 2021 with wind in our sails. More than 50 countries have joined the European Union in engaging with the Food Systems Summit and its five priority pillars, or Action Tracks, which cut across nutrition, poverty, climate change, resilience and sustainability. And more than two dozen countries have appointed a national convenor to host a series of country-level dialogues in the months ahead, a process that will underpin the Summit and set the agenda for the Decade of Action to 2030.

But this is just the beginning. With utmost urgency, I call on all UN Member States to join this global movement for a better, more fulfilling future, starting with the transformation of food systems. I urge governments to provide the platform that opens a conversation and guides countries towards tangible, concrete change. And I encourage everyone with fire in their bellies to get involved with the Food Systems Summit process this year and start the journey of transitioning to more inclusive and sustainable food systems.

The Summit is a “People’s Summit” for everyone, and its success relies on everyone everywhere getting involved through participating in Action Track surveys, joining the online Summit Community, and signing up to become Food Systems Heroes who are committed to improving food systems in their own communities and constituencies.

Too often, we say it is time to act and make a difference, then continue as before. But it would be unforgivable if the world was allowed to forget the lessons of the pandemic in our desperation to return to normal life. All the writing on the wall suggests that our food systems need reform now. Humanity is hungry for this change. It is time to sate our appetite.

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Blank Spot in EU

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The historic exit of the Great Britain from the European Union sparked both opportunities and chaos alike. Whether it comes to sectors within and beyond the orders of Britain, the trade policy with Northern Ireland or the isolated position of the bloc as the pandemic continues to perforate the continent with each passing day. It took a span of 4 years and a combination of referendums, disagreements in the House of Commons, displacement of public office and relentless efforts of the diplomats to bargain and negotiate an exit deal. Despite of the celebrated trade deal in action, much of the uncertainty still looms across Europe. The economic bloc now faces an empty spot of a 28th member post UK-exit and with rilling economic desperation and the Coronavirus spiralling alike, EU seeks a promising role to displace some of the pressure buildup.

The United Kingdom, mainly London, serves as the only unarguable financial rival to the metropolis of New York. Although the financial epicentre casted no qualms over trade post Brexit and even the EU financial markets reported no apparent glitches in trade across borders now subject to custom rules and regulations, the sheer volume of the trade denominated in LIBOR projects a sinister possibility of financial turmoil in the near future. Moreover, the trade deal negotiated, hailed by either parties as a victorious bargain, does little to placate uncertainty in the financial markets which further encourages the need of a solid alliance or partnership to fill the gap and subsequent irregularities faced by the European Union.

Turkey stands as one of the aspirants seeking EU membership. Every European state enjoys the privilege to seek EU membership which is subject to yearly review. Turkey has been a lurking party to seek EU approval since 1987. The opportunities opened up in 2016 after decades of tensions over Turkey’s shady democracy and violent role in dealing with their Kurdish minority, residing on the south-eastern borders of Turkey shared with a war-torn Syria. A refugee deal was signed in 2016 between Turkey and EU to facilitate Syrian refugees amidst the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The deal served as a defining chapter in improving bilateral relations. Despite of Turkey’s conditions in the refugee deal: demanding a $60 billion grant from EU to pivot the refugee crisis, EU subliminally promised an expedited track for Turkey’s ascension to EU membership. 

However, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and arguably the most powerful political figure in the circles of Europe, always stood against and awry to Turkey’s membership in EU. The talks of Turkish membership were even stalled back in 2019 in the EU parliament and the prospects looked murky. However, as Merkel inches closer to departure from Germany’s political benches after decades of systematic control, Turkey cites the opportunity as a blessing in disguise. Coupled with Germany being at the verge of a severe recession synonymous in scale to the financial crisis of 2009, Germany’s position could actually shift in favour of Turkey ever since UK-exit baffled even the most sage minds of the continent.

The opportunities, however, are not the only blocks paving way for Turkey towards EU. Turkey shares a brutal conflict with Greece, another EU member state that has muddled the chances of Turkey in the EU for decades. Turkey has the longest continental coastline in the East Mediterranean which has been long contested with Greece over the gas reserves found profoundly in the waters of the East Mediterranean. Both countries have overlapping areas and have time and time again rejected each others claims over respective maritime borders and continental shelves. The icy relations between the duo have been hazy due to multitude of other reasons as well. Ranging from disputes over Turkish migrants crossing Greek borders to ships anchoring in the disputed regions without prior alert. The recent turmoil incited when Turkey officially declared Hagia Sophia, a museum in Istanbul and a historic remnant of Greek Orthodox Christian Cathedral, as a mosque which infuriated the Greek patriots.

Turkey’s ascension to membership might be a solution to economic disparity in the region; Turkey serving as a corridor between Europe and Asia and opening channels of economic flourish to EU like Silk Road initiative with China. The ascension could even solve the border disputes with Greece and project a solution to the energy reserves in Mediterranean, solving the divide once and for all. Even with Recab Tayyab Erdogan’s boasting position over improving relations with EU, the extent of ease in bilateral relations is still unclear. As top Turkish Diplomat’s schedule visit to Brussels in a week, and Turkey and Greece are to resume exploratory talks over territorial claims in the Mediterranean on January 25th, glimmers of astounding results are on cards in the arching diplomacy of Europe.

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