Germany, ever since its first unification in 1871 under the Kaiser and the guidance of Otto von Bismarck, has been a power to reckon with in Europe and, on occasion, globally.
Germany, ever since its first unification in 1871 under the Kaiser and the guidance of Otto von Bismarck, has been a power to reckon with in Europe and, on occasion, globally. Ironically, it was France (Napoleonic period) that led the German Principalities and Kingdoms to unite as one powerful nation. Germany was then suppressed after the First World War and finally split in two by the Allies after the Second World War. Both the West and East German states continued to be formidable political, economic and cultural hegemonies within their spheres of influence until 1990 when the collapse of the Berlin Wall led to reunification. From then, Germany needed to continue its strong position economically so as to enable the financially depressed East to reintegrate with the West German state. Germany was a founding member of the European Community in 1957 and since 1999 has been an anchor member of the EU and the Eurozone.
Germany and the phrase Lebensraum (“living space, i.e. land and raw materials…”) are often associated with Nazi expansion and the Second World War. The concept of seeking to ensure a self-sufficient, autonomous land – albeit not the negative associations with the expression used in the past by Germany to describe that concept – represents a desire shared by most countries. Germany may no longer feel the need to implement that aspiration through military strength but by using other countries’ economies to fuel their own, Germany does appear to be implementing an efficient socio-economic system. Building a highly technical work force in industry and agriculture allows for a well-oiled, industrially productive country and the ability to sell its exports within the Eurozone, tariff-free, to less productive nations. Wouldn’t all countries wish to be in that position?
Not all countries have the resources to be as industrially productive as Germany, but in the southern sphere of Europe, we at least need to consider a better work ethic and social responsibility. We need to pay our taxes, not cheat the system, and ensure that education is based not only on completing a high school diploma or baccalaureate, but also on bringing up socially responsible adults. If a population wishes to mirror some of the social benefits that northern European countries such as Germany, Denmark, and Sweden enjoy, then they must also recognize the need to be responsible to themselves, to their neighbours and to their governments. Similarly, governments can no longer try to gain votes by promising deals that will eventually bankrupt their own countries. We cannot expect to receive and not give back in sweat, innovation and social unity. As the late John F. Kennedy famously said, “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”.
Germany may be perceived as seeking to reconquer Europe, but this is arguably only because it has been allowed to do so. In my role as Agora Eurocrat, I would suggest working with Germany for a better Europe and a better internal structural system. Complaining and cheating will eventually implement a command structure from Brussels (and Germany), that dictates to weaker states how to behave. We can all split up and go our separate ways and although that may allow each of us to preserve our national pride, it may be at the expense of going back to battling one another or fueling extremist movements, and none of us wants that any longer. Let’s put our pride behind us, work with the system and in turn show Germany that we are all worthy of equality and economic gain but not of economic suppression.
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