Germany's Rising Economic and Political Power

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Germany's Rising Economic and Political Power

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A brief news item on the main evening news in early April left me stunned. It came halfway through the 30-minute program.

The short news clip showed Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, giving a press conference at which he announced a willingness to enter peace talks with the Palestinians. Absolutely nothing was said and no attention was given to the woman standing next to him. That's what left me stunned!

The lady was none other than the German chancellor and current president of the European Union, Angela Merkel.

It was as if she did not exist.

Given Germany's fairly recent history with the Jews, surely a visit by the head of the German government ranks a mention, showing at the very least that German-Israeli relations have come a long way since the Holocaust.

But, putting aside history, Chancellor Merkel is one of the most important personages on the world stage. What was she doing in Israel and was she the one who brought the prime minister to the negotiating table? America has been Israel's main source of support for five decades. Only the United States has previously had the clout to lead Israeli leaders to peace talks. Does the European Union now have the same power?

These are questions that, at the very least, should have been asked on that evening news broadcast. But they weren't. It's as if Europe doesn"t count and is of no relevance to the United States or the Mideast.

But Germany, with a population about 27 percent of America's, has been the world's biggest exporting nation for four years now, accounting for 13 percent of the world's trade. With the German dominated euro slowly increasing in value against the American dollar, you would think that Germans would be having difficulty selling their goods internationally, but this is not the case. German products are among the best in the world and last a long time.

Germans have no difficulty selling the items they produce, even when the price internationally has risen by 30 percent due to the rising value of their currency. "There's no better proof that our products are superior than to have an indirect price increase of 30 percent without losing any sales," said Alexander von Witzleben, the chief of Jenoptik, which makes lasers and sensors.

"Von Witzleben notes that Germany now exports more to Russia and its former Soviet satellites than it does to the United States. It ships nearly as much to Britain as to America, and its total exports within Europe are five times greater than its shipments to the United States" (Mark Landler, "German Economy Booms as Exporters Extend Their Reach," International Herald Tribune, April 11, 2007).

Contrast the United States, where American manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to sell their products, even with the competitive advantage of a fall in the dollar. Japanese car manufacturers are selling record numbers of autos in the United States at a time when American car companies should show a competitive advantage.

The euro is another reason for Germany's increasing clout. The euro is now used by 13 European nations. Worldwide, cash transactions in euros are now greater in number than those in dollars. Europes market capitalization total is also now greater than that of the United States, for the first time since 1914, when World War I broke out and ended Europe's global supremacy.

"Europe, of course, benefits from a resurgent Germany simply because of the country's size. It accounts for a fifth of the economic activity of the European Union, and its trade within Europe is booming" (ibid.).

It should also be noted that "Germany's rise has set it apart from its European neighbors. While Italy struggles to regain its export groove and France waits for a presidential election that could reshape its political and economic landscape, Germany has doggedly molded itself into a globally competitive player" (ibid.).

EU at 50

For the first six months of this year, Germany has been presiding over the EU's rotating presidency. This gives the country and its leader much greater clout on the world stage.

Germany was one of the six original signers of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, along with France, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. Berlin hosted the anniversary celebrations in March and is using its influence to push through a revised European constitution that will create a federal European government. This will not only increase Europe's power and effectiveness, but also that of Germany, the dominant country of the 27-nation trading bloc.

Little realized is that Germany is on track to achieving peacefully what it failed to do in the two world wars of the 20th century.

"France created the European Union both to protect and assert itself in the geography of the Cold War—and in that it was wildly successful. But that geography no longer exists, and the union now not only has grown beyond Paris" grasp, but also has fallen under the influence of a power that until recently France controlled" (Peter Zeihan, "EU: A Golden Anniversary—and a Hard Reality for France," Stratfor: Geopolitical Intelligence Report, March 27, 2007). That power is Germany.

France's domination of the European Union naturally followed from Germany's defeat at the end of World War II. Having been invaded by Germany three times in 70 years, France was determined that never again would the two countries go to war. This was the inspiration for the EU, formerly the European Common Market. As long as Europe was divided, France's lead continued. But the end of the Cold War changed everything.

"The pond in which France swam enlarged, and the Soviet Union's imperial debris has since proven to be more than Paris can manage.

"Yes, Germany remained critical in French thinking regarding Europe; but unlike the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s, when Paris largely determined the German position, reunified Germany began to inject its own preferences—very quietly—into European processes…During this time, Franco-German relations remained cordial, but the European project began to take a new (German) direction" (ibid.).

Among other things, it was German meddling in the Balkans that "ultimately blossomed into the Yugoslav wars"; and "German diplomats took the lead in crafting the euro—a currency governed by the same conservative policies used in German, not French, monetary management."

Germany was the most enthusiastic about EU expansion to the east, of which Berlin, at the center of Europe, could take maximum advantage. Eastward expansion "diluted France's political control of the organization," which has expanded from 15 to 27 countries since the fall of communism (ibid.).

Germany is the number one trading partner of all the new EU member nations and most of the older ones. Germany is also the international economic powerhouse. After the United States and Japan, it is the third biggest single economy. When its dominance of the EU is factored in, it could be said to be the world's number one economy. Certainly, the euro is rapidly replacing the American dollar as the international currency of choice, though most commodities remain priced in dollars.

This brings us back to the Middle East and Chancellor Merkel's visit to Israel. "Germany, not France, is able to hold—indeed, demand—a robust discussion with any major power of the world on any topic" (ibid.). Also, a German refusal to cooperate can be problematic for the United States and Great Britain. Germany failed to support the two coalition partners in Iraq, and Germany refused to put economic pressure on Iran during the recent seizure of the 15 British sailors.

Indeed, it is in the Middle East that European and American interests most differ. The EU's policies embrace the Palestinian cause much more than America's do. Though both have ties with Israel, America's are generally perceived as much stronger. Also, closer proximity to the Middle East and a greater dependence on Mideast oil means that European countries have a greater stake in seeing the area at peace.

Added to these factors is concern over Europe's growing Muslim population and the increasing threat from domestic terrorism. The German chancellor announced early in April plans to boost state-controlled day-care facilities in the hope of boosting the German birthrate, one of the lowest in the world.

Germany at center of European history

Not only is Germany at the geographical center of Europe, it has also been at the political center. In the last 100 years, rapid growth in German economic, industrial and trading power was quickly followed by rising German militarism, which resulted in the two world wars.

In fact, Germany recovered amazingly quickly from the devastation of the Great Depression. Early in 1933 its economy was in a collapsed state. Within six years, it had become the economic powerhouse of Europe, able to take on the military might of the British and French empires and later, the United States. It was far from a foregone conclusion that the Allies would win World War II.

Germany seems set to once again become a major force in the world.

The Bible prophesies a coming union of nations in Europe that will be the next global superpower. This final resurrection of the Roman Empire (remember, the EU was formed by the Treaty of Rome 50 years ago) will comprise 10 European nations or groups of nations.

"The ten horns which you saw are ten kings [or leaders] who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast" (Revelation 17:12 Revelation 17:12And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
American King James Version×
). The "beast" can mean this revived Roman Empire or its leader; the government will be a successor to the ancient Roman Empire pictured by a "beast" in Daniel 2 and 7.

"These [10 leaders] are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:13 Revelation 17:13These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
American King James Version×

We know that this is an end-time prophecy as the next verse, verse 14, prophesies that this combination of nations "will make war with the Lamb" (Jesus Christ) at His return.

The push by Germany for the full unification of Europe could be a stepping-stone to this union of nations. The European Union is based on democratic principles, although many of its citizens are dissatisfied with the power and the pettiness of its bureaucrats.

The Stratfor article concludes with the following two paragraphs. "There is a reason why Merkel's first summit in her current role as EU president focused on energy security. There is a reason why Germany is the only major eurozone economy that has not called for more political oversight of the European Central Bank (ECB). There is a reason why it was a German who negotiated and wrote the Maastricht Treaty on monetary union. There is a reason why ECB policymakers look first and foremost at German economic data. And there is a reason why the ECB is located in Frankfurt.

"So, when thinking of evolutions in the European Union, consider the implications of having the word "euro" replaced with "deutsche mark." For all practical purposes, that is what the euro is."

In other words, Germany is at the head of the European Union. Looking ahead, that means Germany will be in the leading role when the European nations achieve their full union and become the global superpower the Bible shows is on the way. WNP