Germany and the EU

As it began, our century drew to a close, with Germany once again the economic powerhouse and political hub of Europe. What is remarkable is how quickly this happened, how unbidden and unanticipated: the toppling of the Berlin Wall in November 1989; the reunification a year later; the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in late December 1991; a resurgent impetus to West European integration in 1992; and NATO enlargement, which was consecrated in April 1999. Unquestionably, this chain of events has profoundly affected Germanys situation over the past decades. For the first time since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in 1949 and the painstaking process of creating democratic institutions, the German elite must look beyond the continuing task of state building and deal with a set of formidable new problems.Germany is the only country in the world now having to deal with parallel modernization processes: the modernization of the former (West German) Federal Republic of Germany and, simultaneously, the transformation in the former German Democratic Republic from a Communist state-controlled economy to a liberal and social-market economy. Pressures induced by economic and political changes are currently being felt in many European nations, yet a reunited Germany faces a more specific and poignant challenge: In its role as a central power at the heart of Europe, Germany bears a tremendous political responsibility to itself and the whole continent, both for historical reasons and because of its geopolitical location. With that said, it is only through evaluation of the positives and negatives for both Germany and Europe as a whole that we can assess whether or not Germany should, in fact, adapt a policy towards European integration by means of the European Union. And, after examining the likely results of this globalization on the three most important aspects of a nations responsibilities the social, economic, and political spheres we will find that it is, indeed, to Germanys advantage to continue to be involved with and integrated into the European Union.

Politically, the issue essentially boils down to a question of national sovereignty. Naturally, no country in the European Union is willing to sacrifice, fully, the free will and power of their own governing body. Yet we are in a time where strides can be made successfully at keeping certain amounts of sovereignty while allowing for a larger, supranational organization to pick up the slack. The classical nation-state has long since reached the limits of its political and economic potential; in light of the recent terrorist attacks, it has become clearer that the serious problems faced by humanity can no longer be solved as isolated matters by a nation-state, but instead must be addressed by nations acting together. Clearly, then, it is important for the EU as a whole to have Germany, as a leading political (and recently even military) force, involved early and thoroughly in the Union.

Yet, what about for Germany? Almost for the exact reasons the rest of Europe would benefit from their involvement, it would seem that Germany would be held back by political involvement in the EU. As the strongest economically and politically, many assume that entering into a union with weaker countries would only serve to weaken Germany as well, especially with regard to its own national sovereignty. This is actually not the case. Over the past decade of talks and preparations for European integration, Germany has been vocal about, and has been successful, making sure that the countries involved are all represented fairly (and are therefore more powerful) according to demographics and population. After all, democracy requires that population size should affect who has more and who less say in Europe and fortunately, Germanys proportional representation would be significantly higher than any other nations its population being almost 20 per cent bigger than Frances, the next largest. Naturally the French were not only against but shocked by having to concede to this policy of voter weight when it became part of the agreement at the summit in Nice, but, in all fairness, their argument, for the old system of parity with Germany, only truly translated into the French themselves having the reigns of power. In the end, while each other country questions whether entering into the EU will force over sacrificing of national sovereignty, Germany is able to be confident in their ability to reap the benefits of a global political unit while simultaneously knowing that they can still wield the power and will of a continental powerhouse, a definite advantage.

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The political aspect of the issue at hand is only part of the equation, though. Both the EU and Germany (or almost any country, for that matter) can also be greatly benefited economically by integration and globalization. To start, the globalization process in trade and industry means that the influence that can be exerted by democratically controlled governments is drastically declining. The global competition for the best business environment does not generally limit the lines of action open to governments, but it does make a poor economic policy more difficult to maintain. Those who create a political framework that encourages an efficiently run economy are likely to be those who are best able to meet the challenges of globalization. In this respect, no country over the past decade has shown the effectiveness and efficiency of their economic system one especially formatted for the compensation of poorer and less productive regions, a skill that will come in particularly handy when being integrated into a unified economic system with countries of significantly weaker economies.

Yet, just as Germany already has established part of why globalization would be advantageous to her economically, the process will also force certain beneficial changes to their economy. For example, the level of government spending in Germany is presently above 50 percent of the GNP; i.e., more than one of every two marks is spent by the public sector. As globalization forces people to show more personal responsibility, creates new systems of incentives, and is generally encourages innovation, those nations that oppose the globalization process will fall behind economically. It is wholly inevitable that this process of economic globalization will lead to Germanys addressing a host of important issues concerning the free will and power of an unfettered marketplace. In short, integrating into the EU, for Germany, could not only be a smooth and beneficial transition, but could also produce the necessary adjustments to Germanys economic policies, possibly boosting Germany even further into the forefront of world powers.

Lastly, a nation state must also concern itself with the promotion of its citizens socially and culturally. This includes social modernization, an area in which Germany is in dire need. The relationship that many Germans have to modern technology is ambivalent. On the one hand, they reject large-scale technologies; on the other hand, they use high-tech products in every area of daily life. Why is it that Japan and the United States are market leaders in information and communication technology, when it was Konrad Zuse who built the first computer in Germany all of sixty years ago? Germany was once hailed as the pharmacy to the world, because Germany was where state-of-the-art medical and
pharmaceutical research was to be found. Today, however, there is a brain drain of
researchers and a migration of research facilities to other countries. Plainly said, there is a level of criticism in Germany that goes against things modern, against progress, and against technologyand it carries more weight than elsewhere in the world, thus preventing much social progress. Again, as economically and politically, Germany only stands to gain socially through globalization.

With a united Europe, freer flow of migration will be inevitable. With that naturally comes the greater possibility of the movement of students, researchers, and facilities back into Germany. Moreover, computerization and new transmission technologies will soon make it possible for us to have access to fifteen thousand TV channels, several hundred million unabridged books, and billions of newspaper pages from all over the globe (for the purposes of this argument, that is a good thing), and globalization will undoubtedly help speed up the process for all countries involved. Yes, through integration, it seems Germany is able to better itself socially, as well.

Germany, then, shouldnt have any qualms about entering the EU, then, should it? Well, not quite. It is true, though, that all of these points can in fact be disputed. Politically, one could argue that autonomy and sovereignty are the single greatest assets of a governing body, but if balanced correctly, politically unity does produce some benefits. Economically, it is also hard to make a concrete claim. Some believe, especially with recession looming, that an economic system of welfare and state involvement is the best policy, no matter what globalization dictates. But the issue is not whether to drop social welfare altogether, but rather to balance once again, freeing the market enough to make it flex to the ever changing world economy while keeping intact the social welfare programs needed to support the nations population. Finally, socially, there does in fact seem to be a recent addition to arguments against globalization. With the growing anti-capitalist-imperialist attitude growing around the world, entering into a free market contract while opening ones borders makes a nation a clearer and more vulnerable target to terrorist organizations. Once again, though, this is a true but hasty argument, as it looks as though open borders and global contracts have not yet been the channels and excuses used by terrorists for their attacks.

So should it be, EU or not? For now, there are no concrete answers. Even though they must sacrifice some autonomy, globalization doesnt seem to affect Germanys standing as a political power. While social welfare programs are unarguably beneficial, it also seems as Germany would grow exponentially greater through a more integrated economy and currency. Lastly, although the EU might make Germany a target for terrorism, the greater cultural advancements brought on open borders and freer flow of information make the EU a very tempting organization. It is with all that said, then, that this scholar concludes that it would, ultimately, be more beneficial to Germany (and many other countries, for that matter) to join and strengthen the European Union.

nPulzer, P.; Germany 1945-1990: Politics, State Formation, and Reunification; Oxford University Press, London; 1997
nLandgguth, Gerd; Germany in the Age of Globalization; Washington Quarterly v22 no3 p91-108; Summer 1999
nLawday, David; Lovers Meet Again, Over Sauerkraut; New Statesman (London) v130 p21-22 F 12 2001
nRubinstein, Alvin Z.; Germans On Their Future; Orbis v43 no1 p127-43 Winter 1999