When I graduated from high school, my career aspiration was listed on my diploma: Habermas wants to become a journalist, it said. Yet once I began working for the Gummersbach section of the Cologne daily Kölner Stadtanzeiger, and then again when I wrote under Adolf Frisé for the culture pages of the Handelsblatt, it was repeatedly made clear to me that my writing style was far too complex. Even the extremely charitable Karl Korn, who fervently urged me to practice during my time as a university student in Bonn, later declared that I should perhaps stick to my academic proclivities. It is a critique that continues to be reflected in reader mail, and at my age, improvement isn’t likely. All of which makes me even more delighted about the invitation, extended to me by the director general of Saarland Broadcasting in conjunction with the German-French Journalism Prize, to follow in the footsteps of such distinguished predecessors as Tomi Ungerer, Simone Veil and Jean Asselborn. My connection to Asselborn is that he too prefers blunt honesty when speaking of Europe. With the prize presenter and laudator having found such complimentary words for my efforts – endeavours which are otherwise simply derogated as euro-romanticism – you will certainly not view it as a transgression of good taste if I, against the backdrop of our disintegrating continent, merely repeat that which I have often stated before on this subject.
I will refrain from addressing the symptomatic clamouring coming out of Bavaria, a ruckus that triggered a government crisis while shoving the more pressing issue – the lack of cooperation in the EU – into the background. The culpability lies with that sort of pro-European who shies away from admitting to the real reservations they in fact hold against a Europe of practiced solidarity. Jean-Paul Sartre explained the term mauvaise foias an elegant contradistinction to bonne foi. Who among us is not familiar with this quietly murmuring uneasiness? We act bona fide, in good faith, but in moments of reflection, we sense a gnawing doubt about the consistency of the assertively argued convictions we hold – as if there was a weak spot in the river bank over which the waters of our argument are flowing unnoticed. My impression is that Emmanuel Macron’s appearance on the European stage has exposed just such a weak spot in the self-image of those Germans who patted themselves on the back during the euro crisis, convinced as they were that they remained the best Europeans and were pulling everyone else out of the quagmire.