Twenty-Three Years on From the Fall of the Berlin Wall Europe Depends on Germany

Today Germans are
commemorating
23 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and
the subsequent events that allowed for German reunification. Among
the numerous events being held across Berlin today are remembrance
services for the 136 people who were shot dead by border guards
between 1961 and 1989.

German reunification was hardly universally welcomed at the
time. British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher
made her concerns over the wall coming down known to
General Secretary Gorbachev, making sure he knew that reunification
would not be welcomed by the U.K. and others in Western Europe.
Speaking with President Bush, Gorbachev, and French President
Mitterrand in 1995 Thatcher
said the following
:

Unlike George Bush, I was opposed to German unification from
early on for the obvious reasons. To unify Germany would make her
the dominant nation in the European community. They are powerful,
and they are efficient. It would become a German Europe.

But unification was accomplished, really, very much without
consulting the rest of Europe. We were always amazed that it
happened. My generation, of course, remembers that we had two world
wars against Germany, and that it was a very racist society in the
second. 

Mitterrand had
similar concerns
:

So the issue by 1989 to 1990 was not whether German unification
was good or not for France –
certainly it was safer to have a Germany of 60 million rather than
a nation of 80 million. It was more convenient to have Germany
divided.

However, despite the fears of some in Western Europe, Germany
has done well as a unified country. Indeed, in the midst of the
euro crisis Germany has been central to recovery efforts.

Germany is contributing 27 percent to the eurozone’s bailout
fund
, and some German politicians have done their best to make
it known to indebted countries like Greece that debt is a national
responsibility
. Back in February there were protests outside of
the Bundestag when German politicians approved a bailout for
Greece. In September European politicians and the markets held
their breath over a ruling from
Germany’s
Federal Constitutional Court on the
constitutionality of Germany’s bailout contributions. Although the
bailouts were ruled constitutional the fact remains that in many
ways the future of an entire continent’s recovery rested on the
shoulders of judges on a German court.

It is not only the indebted nations that Germany is concerned
with. An advisory panel was recently tasked to examine the
French government’s reforms
. France is currently not on
track to meet its deficit reduction goals.

Germany has come a long way in 23 years, and it turns out that
Thatcher and Mitterrand’s concerns did not become realized. Coming
from a position of such strict division to one of influential
dominance in such a comparatively short time is quiet an
achievement.