When I was a correspondent in Germany two decades ago, in the run-up to unification and thereafter, interviews with Helmut Kohl, Hans-Dietrich Genscher and other senior politicians – such as Wolfgang Schäuble, who negotiated the two Germanys into one – would always end with the mantra: “We want a European Germany, not a German Europe.” It was true then but it is not true now.
Almost 25 years on from that October night in 1990 when I wrote the Guardian splash with the headline “A New Colossus is born in Europe” the Greek crisis has laid bare Germany’s transformation from “political dwarf, economic giant” into a “political and economic bully” that provokes fear and loathing among its victims and anxiety among its friends.
For Germanophiles such as me the country won huge admiration for its at times savage, even exaggerated honesty in dealing with its terrible past. There were setbacks: the murderous arson attacks on asylum centres or on Turkish homes; Kohl’s execrable use of “sympathy tourism” to explain away his absence from such scenes; the odd march by a bunch of lumpen skinhead Nazis – all grotesquely over-played in the foreign media as if the “brown flood” was on its way back. In 2006, in the World Cup, we watched and celebrated a New Germany: young, relaxed, at ease with itself (and its national flag) – and open to the world.
Read more: Germany Undoes 70 Years Of European Policy