As I returned from my trip to Germany, some of my work colleagues and friends ask me many questions about that country’s political situation, it’s posture towards the Brexit nightmare and the increasing role of far-right parties.
Germany is a distant country to most Mexicans, but not to me. My father was German, and I do have family there.
So, what happens in Germany has always been of great interest to me.
Yet Germany has changed so much over the past 25 years, that even Germans struggle to assimilate their own reality.
When I lived there back in the 1990s, Germany’s main strategic concern wasn’t a resurgent Russia or an assertive China, but how to speed up the economic development of the regions that once belonged to the German Democratic Republic.
However, just as Paul Lever greatly explains in his book “Berlin rules: Europe and the German way”, everything changed at the beginning of the past decade.
Putin’s Russia reclaimed its place in world affairs, China began its unparalleled geostrategic rise, religious fundamentalism aroused as a clear danger to Europe’s security and, more importantly, Globalization eventually forced Germany’s economy to undergo a massive refurbishment towards innovation.
The Merkel years may be remembered as the turning point in Germany’s entrance into the 21th. Century, for they set the political and economic fundamentals that Germans will use to address the future.
First of all, Germany will have to come to terms with its past. The horrors of WWII are still imprinted in the people’s mindset, more as a self-imposed burden than what it really is: a thing of the past.
But make no mistake, the Germans are good at overcoming pain and sorrow, and I do believe that the younger generations have a clearer perspective towards how to address the nation’s past than their parents.
Yes, it was horrible. Yes, it is finished.
A new political elite is also arising, one that will have to cope with huge geopolitical challenges such as China’s rise, Britain’s self-imposed irrelevance, an assertive Turkey, global warming and, more importantly, a post-Trump America. And the list goes on and on.
There is no time to waste, and Germans seem aware of that.
In my perspective, alongside coming to terms with its past, Germany will have to define what role it wants to play in the world (and the world is much more than just Europe).
What does it want from the European Union? Is the EU the very end of its Grand Strategy or just part of it? How to address the economic and political stagnation in regions such as the Middle East or Northern Africa, the main sources of Germany’s security concerns? What to do with NATO once the world’s strategic pivot shifted to Asia at least a decade ago? What kind of military power does Germany need to address the 21th. Century?
Yet all these questions will remain unanswered if Germany’s political and economic elite don’t accept -once and for all- that their country can’t keep pretending it doesn’t exert power well beyond its borders.
Because it does.
Germany is not just the workhorse of Europe, but a beacon of economic, cultural and political success to the world.
The world needs Germany just as Germany needs the world.
The younger generations of Germans do have a great challenge ahead, perhaps even bigger than what their parents and grandparents faced during the past century.
In the next decades, Germany will undergo a huge transformation that will have an impact not only to Europe but the world.
And the 21th. Century will be defined, at least partially, by that.
Photo: Bundestag. Berlin, August 2019.