For All Nails #289: Attending Union College
by Noel Maurer
"Sir," said the metallic voice of Guiscard, "a call from Herr Merkel iin Berlin. Line one."
"Thank you, Guiscard." It didn't take a Nostradamus to foretell what Merkel was calling about. With another sigh, Frederick picked up the handset and pressed the indicated button. "Good day to you, Herr Merkel."
"Your Eminence!" answered Merkel. "Good day to you."
"Thank you, Herr Merkel. Would you happen to be calling in reference to the Jelic resolution?"
"Why, yes," said Merkel. "How did you know why I was calling?"
"Well, Herr Merkel, I can only presume that you receive the same news I do about the workings of the European Union," replied the Chief Executive.
"I do, I do," said Merkel. "I certainly do. And I just want to tell you that my government thinks you are doing an excellent job."
"You're in a tough position," replied Merkel, "but I want you to know that my government thinks you are doing an excellent job."
Frederick began to doubt his initial conviction that Merkel had access to the same information that he did. "Uh, thank you, Herr Merkel."
"You're very welcome, sir. We have complete faith in you. Carry on."
"I will, Herr Merkel. Thank you." Frederick hung up the handset, looking perplexed.
"What was that about?" asked the ponytailed Bartolomeo Scavoni, who had been listening to Frederick's end of the conversation.
"I'm not sure," answered Frederick. "He called to tell me that he had complete faith in me, and I should carry on."
Scavoni nodded. "That is a good thing?"
"One would think so, but somehow," said Frederick, "I doubt it."
Chancellor Grauer was already puffing on a cigar, even though it was barely 10 o'clock in the morning. That meant he was not feeling like a particularly happy man.
Joshua Merkel entered his office with something approximating nervousness, but nothing at all like dread. He had known Adolph Markstein, Adolph Markstein was a ... colleague ... of his, and Grauer, Grauer was no Adolph Markstein.
This time, the office was empty save for the two of them. "A bill to partition Croatia?" asked the Chancellor, getting right down to business.
Merkel sighed. He had known that this was what the Chancellor wanted to talk about. "Yes, sir. One of the members of the Congress of Delegates has introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a separate Serb state."
Grauer puffed. "I know that, Herr Merkel. I just read it in my daily intelligence estimate. The question is, how worried should I be about this?"
Merkel rubbed his chin. He had thought long and hard about what he would tell the chancellor when the news hit his desk this morning. "It's a worry, Herr Chancellor. But it's also what the European Union is designed for."
"Huh," grunted the Chancellor. He tapped his cheroot against the ashtray. "Some nitwit gets up in Vienna and starts making speeches calling for the dismemberment of an Outer Empire state, and this is what the European Union was designed for?"
"Herr Chancellor," said Merkel, "it was a risk to try to" -- what was the strange word the Mexican ambassador had used? -- "multilateralize the Outer Empire nationalities question. Nevertheless, it was a risk that our government decided to take. I think you should give our political Zollverein a chance to work."
Merkel refrained from saying "your" political Zollverein. After all, the European Union was Merkel's idea, albeit one he never would have tried to implement had the alternative been something other than a complete German withdrawal from the Outer Empire.
The Chancellor puffed on his cigar. "Fine. But I want you to explain to me what exactly 'working' consists of under these circumstances." Merkel nodded. This was a difficult one, but the European Union had been carefully crafted. "Think of it as a series of stages, Herr Chancellor. At each one, the crisis has a chance of being resolved. More importantly, at each stage we commit more and more of the other states of Europe to a solution. This benefits us in two ways. First, the maintenance of stability in the Outer Empire no longer looks like a German attempt to maintain hegemony, but a European attempt to maintain peace. Second, it commits the other European states to take concrete steps to maintain the status quo. Burden sharing, the Mexicans call it, Herr Chancellor."
The Chancellor could barely be seen in the haze of smoke surrounding him. "Take me through these stages, Herr Merkel."
"Well, first there is the Congress of Delegates, which is directly elected by the peoples of the various states. There are a number of regional parties represented among the 850 delegates. Among them are our own French, Bohemian and Polish parties. Neither the Bohemians nor the Poles are likely to support a Serb move towards independence. The sight of regional parties directly denouncing unilateral separation in an international forum can only help to delegitimize the more radical movements in the East."
"Uh huh," said the Chancellor. "Sounds risky. What if it doesn't work? What if somebody less, well, crazy than the Serbs makes a bid for recognition?"
"Right. First, it's going to be hard to get through the Congress. After all, most European states -- save lucky little Holland -- have some sort of nationalities problem. The mainstream delegates won't be particularly enthused about setting a precedent that could affect them at home. Politicians who might otherwise support a unilateral independence bid in the Outer Empire will think thrice about doing so in the Union framework."
Grauer nodded. Merkel continued.
"Second, the Congress is only an advisory body. The most it can do is request that the Chief Executive propose legislation to the Council of Governments."
"So you're saying that we call up King Frederick and tell him to veto anything that comes along?" asked Grauer.
"Well, we could, Herr Chancellor, but I wouldn't recommend it. I don't think we want people thinking of the Chief Executive as nothing more than our flunky. No, should things get that far, let the bill go to the Council of Governments, and let it die there."
"We have a practical veto, don't we?" asked Grauer.
"Yes, the rules do give us a virtual veto, assuming two or three of the small states vote with us. And the state in question will obviously do so. But we don't have to exercise our veto. In fact, we could abstain. It is very hard to get anything passed in the Council. Unless countries with national problems of their own -- like pretty much the entire Roman Bloc, save perhaps Dacia -- all decide to vote to dismember a sister state, failure is certain."
"Thank you, Herr Chancellor. A lot of people in the Exterior Ministry worked very hard on the E.U. charter. The credit is not mine." The blame would be, of course, but Merkel preferred not to think about that.
"What happens if the nationalists don't take kindly to being told to stop worrying and be happy?" asked the Chancellor.
The Chancellor was blowing smoke rings, so Merkel knew that Grauer either knew the answer to that question, or was confident that Merkel would give him an acceptable reply. In many ways, Grauer was a better chancellor than Markstein had been, but Merkel missed the old man's inscrutability sometimes.
"Depends. If they do not get violent, then nothing. We channel more aid at the minority areas and lean on the government in question to compromise, basically the same as we're doing now. If they do get violent, well, then Article 13 kicks in."
"Article 13?" asked the Chancellor.
"Article 13, Section 4. 'The European Union shall mobilize all the instruments at its disposal, including military resources made available by the Member States, to assist a Member State in its territory at the request of its political authorities in the event of a terrorist attack, or natural or man-made disaster.'"
"You are a genius, Herr Merkel. We could ask French troops to suppress a Serbian uprising. And Fraulein Fanchon's government would go along, for fear of losing all that wonderful sausage the European Union brings them."
"And the worry that they might need to activate Article 13 themselves some day," added Merkel.
"Quite the tutorial in the workings of the Union, Herr Merkel. I feel like a university student again." Grauer smiled. "I would think it might be prudent to call up the Chief Executive and inform him that he has our utmost confidence, and should take whatever steps he deems appropriate, no?"
"That would seem appropriate, yes, Herr Chancellor."
"Let's make it so."
Forward to #290 (Germany, European Union): Joining Up is Hard to Do.
Forward to 10 April 1977: Easter Rising - Crack the Sky, Shake the Earth.
Forward to Frederick of Poland: I Will Let You Down.
Return to For All Nails.