Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the power in Europe is now in the hands of Germany, and not in Brussels, Paris or London, and the ongoing crisis in the eurozone only reinforces this position, say analysts.
“We beat the Germans twice and they are coming back here,” prophesied the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, fearing that the reunification would lead to a predominance of Germany in Europe.
Just remember Athens in 2012, the worst of the crisis in the euro area, to admit that her fears have materialized: Chancellor Angela Merkel had been taunted with Nazi images and greeted by a hostile demonstrations against austerity efforts widely considered as a Berlin regime.
“Before the Wall fell, Germany was a bit on the margins of Europe. Today it is at the center of Europe geographically, economically and politically”, says Karel Lannoo, Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels.
“It is the reactor core of Europe. During the financial crisis, we have seen that Berlin was the most important place in Europe, not Brussels,” added Lannoo.
Germany was reunified and in fact emerged as the giant of the European Union, accounting for more than 27% in the production of the eurozone.
And in terms of its economic importance, Germany has been called on to help more than any other partner countries to bail out collapsing under debt and prevent Europe collapses.
Fearing the wrath of his constituents, Angela Merkel was initially reluctant to use taxpayers’ money to feed a bailout fund intended to restore confidence in the European currency, which earned her the nickname of “Madame No “.
But the Chancellor finally relented and promised the support of Germany to establish a financial firewall to protect the most fragile states. She simultaneously took the head of a small group of countries, mainly in Northern Europe, to demand a stricter fiscal surveillance and unpopular austerity measures.
“Since the beginning of the crisis in the euro area and the debate on the power of Germany in Europe that followed, the consequences of the fall of the wall appear as a day other than on the 20th anniversary of this historic event in 2009,” said Hans Kundnani of the European Council on Foreign Relations based in Berlin.
Analysts point out that the current strength of Germany derives from its recent economic success, there are still a few years in the early 2000s, the country was even dubbed the “sick patient” of Europe.
The power of Berlin is “probably temporary,” said Lannoo, citing “economic problems in the long term” Germany, in particular the declining population and low birth rate.
The expert also noted that the current economic weakness of France has turned the Franco-German couple, traditional engine of Europe, into a particularly unbalanced tandem.
Paradoxically, while the economic crisis in Europe has strengthened the role of Germany, many voices regret that Berlin is reluctant to take a leading role on the international stage.
In foreign policy, Germany is considered outside of Europe as a dominant power. For example, it was Merkel who engaged in discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis much more than any other European leader.
However, within the EU it is criticized for its sometimes timid position. While France was one of the first countries to deploy aircraft to participate in strikes against the Islamic state in a coalition led by the United States, Germany has limited its commitment to training in the use of weapons of Kurdish fighters.