In 1919 John Maynard Keynes wrote a book entitled: ‘The economic consequences of peace’ with which he contended with the governments of the United States, England and France, guilty – for him –  of having imposed too harsh conditions on Germany in the Versailles Conference.

The British economist, not very famous at the time, had participated alongside the British Chancellor in the peace conference but, embittered by the results, abandoned the work in controversy.

Keynes argued that despite the German responsibilities in triggering the world conflict, the winning powers would have had the opportunity to forgive their war debts and, indeed, especially on the American side, to prepare a ‘credit program’ for Germany and the Post-war Europe.

We know perfectly how it went and how, at the end of the Second World War, Its advice was followed in retrospect.

Today Germany has the future of the Union in its hands.

I write it without rhetorical emphasis and with absolute realism with respect to the German leadership and leadership-related responsibilities.

Germany, too big for the old continent, too small for the world, can decide whether to become a bulwark of democracy and the integration of the European community, or protagonist of its dissolution and the acceleration of the already clear prodromes of democratic decay of the European community.

More than being involved in “games” of credits and debts, Calvinist or compassionate approaches, progressive or conservative positions, the democratic system is at stake. Put in test by three elements and one temptation.

The three elements are the social precariousness that will result from the dramatic economic crisis at the gates, the pervasiveness of digital control of the masses, the affirmation in the heart of Europe of an incipient dictatorship such as Orban.

The temptation is constituted by the experiment of English isolationism whose exit from the Union, although simpler because it is not conditioned by monetary affiliation, however, represents the demonstration that it is not impossible to get out of a union that is no longer adequate.

So, let me explain better.

If Germany does not push for an economic recovery plan based on a common debt guaranteed by the EU, the most affected Member States will be left only with minimal and ungenerous solutions. The increased unemployment in these Member States will results in a dramatic crisis. In the history of people, in particular in the history of European people, dramatic crisis have always found solutions that are incompatible with democracy.

We are facing a new course.

In this new course, it will not be enough to suspend the fiscal compact for a few years, but it will be necessary to overcome it. It will not be enough to prepare public subsidies, but it will be necessary to rediscover the role of the state in the economy. If it were to be done, it will not be enough to issue bonds for health expenses, but a European health authority will be needed.

And I could go on and on.

Either the leading states of the Union, and Germany in the lead, can plan with responsibility and foresight this new course or we will be crushed by history.

History will mark the return to the borders, to a merely intergovernmental Europe, to a widespread risk of emptying the institutions of democracy.

It is time for Germany to assume the burden of driving, otherwise its historic compulsion to repeat will condemn the entire continent to irrelevance and stagnation.

Member of the Italian Senate, Former Vice President of the European Parliament & former Leader of the S&D Group in the European Parliament