Nowadays, Germany is taken for granted as a Western European country. But will it remain so?
Historically, the area that today forms the state of Germany, as well as the people from which the German nation emerged, has mostly seen itself as Central European or as a specifically German cultural area. The commitment to the “West”, i.e. to the liberal sphere under the aegis of the United States, was only made by the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer. Therefore, at first only the FRG was meant, the former GDR has only been counted as part of the West since the beginning of the 1990s.
Today, the geopolitical construct of the West is under intense pressure. Brexit, the political upheavals in the USA including Donald Trump’s presidency, but also the ongoing economic problems of the Eurozone and the systemic competition with China are putting pressure on it. Should Marine Le Pen be elected president of France next year, one of the EU’s two most important states would also be on a direct path in a different direction.
Apart from that, Germany has long since reoriented itself more towards Central and Eastern Europe than is often perceived. Poland has already overtaken France in the volume of interstate trade with Germany, and considered as a unit with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, it represents Germany’s largest trading partner. In addition, there are the close ties with Austria, which has traditionally been oriented towards South-Eastern Europe. And Germany is also becoming less and less comfortable in its increasing role as financier of the Eurozone, as the legal disputes over the Corona Bonds show. Often overlooked is the fact that only five of Germany’s nine neighbours use the euro; all its northern and eastern neighbours use their national currencies.
It could soon be normal again to think of Germany as primarily a Central European country.