Where does Germany stand in Europe? And are its downtrodden southern neighbours justified in comparing its current dominance to the dark days of Nazi rule? These are the questions that a group of journalists attempt to answer in a special enquiry for German weekly Der Spiegel. They draw from Germany’s troubled past to argue that Europe’s “reluctant leader” paradoxically considers itself both too big and too small to fulfil its current role:
The eurozone is clearly ruled by Germany, though Berlin is not unchallenged. It does, however, have a significant say in the fates of millions of people from other countries. Such power creates a significant amount of responsibility, but the [German] government and other policymakers nevertheless sometimes behave as though they were leading a small country.
Germany has gained de facto political dominance through economic success, but is largely unprepared to take up real political leadership by compromising on its short-term interests, Der Spiegel‘s writers argue. Its diplomatic brashness is born out of an intransigent desire to see all eurozone members adhere to the German principles of thrift and efficiency. This is grist to the mill for the increasingly vocal opponents to German hegemony —
For almost all critics of German policy, a single word has become the focus of their complaints: austerity. It refers to policies of thrift, a concept that has positive connotations in Germany. But in European countries hit hardest by the debt crisis, it stands for a bleak policy of externally-imposed deprivation. Germany isn’t just exporting its goods anymore, it is also exporting its rules.
Full article: The Fourth Reich, really? (VOXeurop)