In a time when the word globalization is in the mouths of many – for and against – Germany has been doing a little bit to both turn the tide, to reduce the number of borders and, at the same time, increase aid for those who haven’t been able to balance their books, let alone handle their cash-flow with anything like professionalism. The last major changes to borders within Germany happened in 1989, as we all know, with reunification. Prior to that the political map was changed considerably in 1977 as municipalities and regions were restructured, combined, split up and generally re-ordered in the name of efficiency.
These past few years have been much the same, but in the opposite direction to that of 1977. The smaller – newly created – municipalities have discovered that their size is a disadvantage and – with the promise of government financial assistance – have been encouraged to merge and expand. My local region has been through the process, two smaller municipalities fusing into one, as have other smaller regions close to us. The government financial aid, promised by the regional (conservative) government in Hannover, has not materialized thanks to some careful twisting of facts and figures which showed that the fusions didn’t need any assistance, they were self-paying.
Talk of combining larger entities – such as Berlin with Brandenburg – have been on the table, and off it, and on it, and … for quite some time. Neither is particularly rich – in fact Berlin has been running at a loss for many years – and neither is presenting a compelling attraction to the other.
Now, though, comes another offer at a far higher level, and it is presenting some problems.
Europe is gradually working towards a trade area without borders, with selected non-European partners relaxing their border requirements, and with a fairly strong – despite outside rumors – currency. This may be one of the reasons which inspired Lech Walesa to suggest, in a manner of speaking, that Germany and Poland combine.
Now it may be that he really is thinking of the two countries uniting under one flag, as the Daily Mail suggests, which would be something almost unthinkable at the moment. Or it may be that he is suggesting that the two countries remove all trade and movement barriers and combine with their mutual interests – Germany is strong in technology and industry where Poland could revive its strength in agriculture – to create a partnership mutually beneficial to both countries and, in the long run, to Europe as a whole.
The problem lies not just in their history. There are still enough people live today who remember the war years and the manner in which the Germans of that tie treated them. This prejudice against the Germans – which is not limited to Poland by far – is something which has been passed on to the next generation and will, undoubtedly, be passed on to the following. Their cultural interests, even their eating habits are completely different and, of course, there is a strong language barrier.
A financial and business combination, however, would be possible. There are already good trade relationships between Poland and Germany – and other European countries who use their still relatively cheap labor costs to best advantage – and their different areas of expertise complement one another. Poland’s agriculture effectively collapsed a few years ago, but could easily be revived allowing Germany to continue with its industrial expansion.
Perhaps Lech Walesa’s words have been taken out of context, or the true meaning lost in translation, but if the idea of forming a single country under one flag is left out of the equation, the possibilities are many and manifold.
- Viktoria Michaelis.