A Tale of Two Germanies
This article originally appeared in CNN World. Click Here to read the full article.
Once again, the world is populated by two German entities. You cannot draw them on a map this time, but their contours are still clear.
The first Germany is heading for general elections on September 22. It is a nation self-absorbed by the bread-and-butter issues that form the baseline of economic livelihood. Politics being local, some of the items on the agenda appear quirky to outsiders, such as the discussion of a “veggie day” in state canteens. From minimum wages to rising inequality, this Germany is preoccupied with similar things to any post-industrial democracy, plus a touch of trademark Teutonic rigor and angst.
The second Germany doesn’t need to go to the polls to be crowned Europe’s paramount power. This is the country with an aggressive commercial diplomacy that dictates policy on the profligate nations of Southern Europe. The Economistrecently wrote about Berlin’s reluctant hegemony; others call it a “geo-economic power.” The key question for this other Germany is whether and how it will take up the mantle of leadership, in Europe and beyond.
Each of these two versions has its detractors: The first version is mocked as an isolationist big Switzerland. The other has been the object of scorn throughout the euro crisis, with Chancellor Angela Merkel unflatteringly portrayed in Nazi fatigues. No one questions that Berlin has basically weathered the Great Recession relatively well. Still, rarely have the mentality of a nation and the world’s expectations of it seemed so far apart.
Click Here to continue reading.
Fabrizio Tassinari is head of foreign policy at the Danish Institute for International Studies and senior non-resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Berlin. The views expressed are his own.