Feature

Germany: A fault at the heart of the EU

Germany’s reunification is partly to blame for the euro crisis.

Wolfgang MünchauDer Spiegel

Germany’s reunification is partly to blame for the euro crisis, said Wolfgang Münchau. The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall launched a heady time, but then–Chancellor Helmut Kohl moved way too fast in absorbing communist East Germany into a mega-Germany. The “hasty reunification” of the two Germanys, which cost more than $2.5 trillion in transfer payments from the rich Westerners to the poor Easterners, amounted to “the greatest example of economic mismanagement in the history of the world.” No wonder Germans don’t want to fork over more cash to the poor elsewhere in Europe. And money is not the only problem. German unification upset “the European dynamic, which was based on a balance of the five largest member states: West Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and Spain.” It’s no coincidence that the U.K. lost interest in the EU soon after, leaving Germany to make up fully one quarter of the euro zone’s economy. Germany accrued a leadership role it never sought and for which it’s ill-suited—particularly under Eastern politicians, such as Chancellor Angela Merkel, “who had no personal relationship with the EU and were strangers to the idea of European integration.” The plain truth is that unification didn’t work—either for Germany or for Europe.

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