FRG since 1990

The FRG since 1990

Foreign Policy : The European partners did not share the enthusiasm of the German populace for German unification. Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterand were opposed to the project, but as long-time allies and, in case of France, as a beneficiary of EU subsidies for her agriculture, to a considerable part paid for by German EU contributions, could not openly argue against it. Because of unification, the FRG, by population moved up from 61 to 81 million (France 60 million, UK 59 million, Italy 57 million); the FRG, as the paymaster of the EU, already had a political weight stronger than her profile in international diplomacy seemed to show. Germany was the third largest contributor to the UN (after the U.S., Japan).
In order to assert Germany's western allies, Helmut Kohl confirmed Germany's commitment to European integration. Germany signed the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, took on the obligation to continue her contributions to the EU (i.e. the role as EU paymaster). Germany, which had recognised (for West Germany) / confirmed her recognition (for East Germany) of Poland's western border in 1990, reduced the size of her armed forces to 300,000 and declared she had no enemy (pre-unification : FRG 500,000, GDR 170,000).
The German government guaranteed bank credits to the USSR (Gorbachev) and, since 1991, Russia (Yeltsin), an investment few western banks were willing to make at that time, as Russia was in a transition and the risk was regarded too high. Russia returned the archive of Walter Rathenau; other documents and treasures taken by the Russians from occupied Germany in 1945, for the return of which Germans had hoped, stayed in Russia.
In 1992 FRG foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher, whose role in bringing about German unification is underestimated, declared the German recognition of the independence of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (declared in 1991, but not recognized by any nation until then, and rejected by (Rest-) Yugoslavia. Within days, most governments in Europe followed; also within days, the Yugoslav War of Disintegration broke out. A stream of refugees spilled into Europe. Germany was criticized for her action and took it upon hersaelf to take care of the bulk of the refugees.
Following the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center etc. on September 11th 2001, and international forces invading Afghanistan, ousting the Taleban regime blamed for harboring the terrorists, Germany altered her constitution (which barred German troops from serving outside NATO area) and sent a troop contingent charged with maintaining order in Afghanistan. In the discussion preceding the invasion of Iraq 2003, Germany expressed her opposition; chancellor Schröder ran an election campaign on the promise not to commit German troops in Iraq - and, after initially trailing 20 points behind in the polls, was narrowly reelected.

The Economy : The events of 1989-1992 - costs of reunification, continued commitment to the EU, credits to Russia - proved a heavy burden. While considerable progress was made, the ecology in the former GDR cleaned up, the infrastructure in the former GDR modernized, as were industrial facilities and housing, unemployment in the 'new lands' remained double the figure of the 'old lands'.
German taxpayers not only carried the burden of regular and irregular taxes (solidarity surcharge on taxes), but also experienced a drastic increase in (mandatory) deductions for health insurance, pension fund etc., cutting down the disposable income. Since unification, Germany continuously was a strong export economy, but her market was sluggish. The reluctance of Germans to spend is one factor; another outsourcing. During the Cold War, the economies of Eastern Europe were not competitive; now, at low wage levels, they were eager to become part of the world economy. German businesses relocated their production facilities into the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania etc. Often only the final composition of the elements is conducted in Germany, to maintain the label 'Made in Germany', recognized worldwide as a guarantor for quality. The German export figures distort. Germany sufferes from extremely high labour costs. Volkswagen, which bought Skoda, negotiates with the labour unions in order to cut down on labour costs in Germany, the alternative being to relocate more and more of her production out of Germany. The railroad, the postal service have been privatized, at the expense of the quality of service provided; they suffer from a lack of personnel, such as do Germany's (still mostly public) schools; universities (again mostly public) complain about cuts in funding. Today the railways often are late, school, university facilities, the railroad often look neglected, run-down.

Society : In former East Germany, a spirit of resignation spread; the hopes of joining the Golden West had not been materialized. Ostalgia (nostalgia for a romanticized GDR) spread, largely illusory as the East Germans were fully aware of the flaws of the old system. More of a concern was the growth of Neonazism. For young Germans it has become extremely difficult to find an apprenticeship; many of those not heading for university regard themselves as part of a no-future generation, some of them express their frustration by fashion (skinheads), association (often in gangs under the cover of soccer fan clubs) and acts of violence.

Domestic Policy : After 16 years in office, Helmut Kohl was succeeded by Gerhard Schröder (SPD) in 1998; Schröder headed a coalition of SPD and the Green Party, the first time in FRG history that parties of the left, without center-right partners, formed a government. Schröder was portrayed by the press as a German Tony Blair, a person who would shake up his party as well as German politics; while he made some effort in that direction, disappointment spread as taxes and unemployment remained high. Schröder did move the government to Berlin.
In September 2005 the CDU won the election and Angela Merkel (CDU) formed a new coalition government, joined by the liberal FDP.

Article Gerhard Schröder, from Wikipedia; Profile Gerhard Schröder, from BBC News
Timeline Germany, from BBC News
Article Politics of Germany, from Wikipedia
Article Economy of Germany, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS List of Statesmen, from World Statesmen, by Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics : Germany, from Population Statistics at Univ. Utrecht
Election Results, from Psephos; from IFES Election Guide
Elections and Electoral Systems : Germany
REFERENCE Gerlinde and Hans-Werner inn, Jumpstart. The Economic Unification of Germany, Cambridge Mass., MIT Press 1992 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1991-1992 pp.526-560, 1992-1993 pp.598-633, 1993-1994 pp.604-638, 1994-1995 pp.596-629, 1995-1996 pp.594-627, 1996-1997 pp.538-571, 1997-1998 pp.547-581, 1998-1999 pp.595-632, 2000 pp.683-729, 2001 pp.661-709, 2002 pp.689-739, 2003 pp.691-741, 2004 pp.692-743, 2005 pp.693-743, 2006 pp.688-738 [G]
Entry : Germany, pp.494-501 in : IMF, International Financial Statistics Yearbook 2001 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Americana Annual 1992 pp.253-257, 1993 pp.254-257, 1994 pp.254-257, 1998 pp.255-258, 2006 pp.193-195 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1991 pp.450-453, 603-604, 1992 pp.426-429, 602-603, 1993 pp.436-439, 612-613, 1994 pp.434-437, 613-614, 1995 pp.409-412, 613-614, 1996 pp.407-410, 613-614, 1997 pp.421-425, 611-612, 2002 pp.428-430, 612-613 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 31st 2006, last revised on March 6th 2006

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