Sunday, 4 March 2012

For the past 2+ years Europe & the world have been analysing Greece. It's time they start analysing Germany too.

The following thoughts were promoted, partly, by my post yesterday on Ordo-Liberalism and the question of its influence in modern (2012) Germany (NPthinking, March 3, 2012, "Is Ordoliberalism the key to understanding a) the German or b) the Merkel way in Euro-economics"), but the issue has been lingering in my mind for quite some time.

Since the beginning of the so called Greek crisis, more than 2 years ago, economists, financial analysts, journalists of various specialisations and commentators of all kinds in Europe, the US and the rest of the world have been analysing Greece. Its economic, political, policy, social and other systemics and dynamics, some in a systemic, some in even anecdotal ways.

In addition, the economic, political, policy, social, pop cultural and other systemics and dynamics of the US, the UK and maybe a small number of other countries/economies are also a popular subject of scrutiny by   economists, financial analysts, journalists of various specialisations and commentators of all kinds. France is one of them. China is another. Russia, in mostly political matters (not too much economic analysis, IME at least in the non-specialised media). Maybe the rest of the BRICS. The rest of the "PIIGS", ie Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy as well.

Of course the "lights" of publicity and the ensuing commentary focus on most countries periodically, in other words, for a day or at most a few days, depending on other news/current affairs.

So, other than Greece in the last 2+ years,  the US and the UK are the perennial "champions" of world  attention. Their political, economic, social, pop cultural and other dimensions are always in the news, someway, somehow. Part of the reason is that English  (be it US, mostly, or UK) is the lingua franca and in spite of the rise of English speaking media in all countries around the world in recent years, plus blogging, tweeting, etc, most of the most read media in Europe and the world remain American and British at least in terms of HQs. Plus the US and English speaking ads are still dominant as markets in the world. These and many other parameters have led to a situation where the "global  community" has or thinks it has a pretty good idea - knowledge of the US and the UK.

Recently, Germany has been an often mentioned word in the world media and public opinion agendas, but to a large extent the topics are IMO narrow. Too narrow and not enlightening enough for a country of 82 million, ie 16% of the EU population and  25% of the Eurozone population and about 20% of the EU's GDP (adjusted for PPP, purchasing power parity).

The culture of Speaking, Thinking, Discussing, Conversing, Synthesising:

"Suddenly Europe is speaking German" argued Volker Kauder, conservative parliamentary group leader, at the  CDU's annual party conference in Leipzig last November (see eg coverage by Spiegel Online). Although it seems that his comment refrreed specifically to the adoption of "budget discipline" as a policy philosophy by other member states, his statement, as can be expected with such remarks, was more widely interpreted,, as Germany wanting to have its Euro and EU partners adopt its "language" (actually thinking) in most/all matters Euro and EU!

For Germany to wish to be heard in all matters Euro and EU, that is a fully valid wish that should be the right and reality for every member state, large or medium or small!

That is though quite different than expecting Germany or any member state to have its way on all or any issue courtesy of mere "size", be it population, GDP or contribution to the EU budget (the "paymaster" rhetorical premise or the "our taxpayers one").

So I think that Germany has to up its efforts in presenting, explaining, discussing with an open mind (in human relations terms as they used to call it in team dynamics and HR) its ideas, its thoughts, its concerns. In other words, an extroverted approach to EU affairs. Capitalising on the art and science of synthesis too. There is after all decades of experience by now in the meetings of the Council of the EU (Ministers) as well as their working groups, staffed by national admin officials mostly posted at the country's Permanent Delegation to the EU, just to mention a few "forums" of discussion, synthesis, and co-decision in the EU and EZ.

But I argue, there is one more thing that needs to be done not only in reference to Germany but all the 27 of the EU. It is even more imperative in Germany's case because of its weight in population and GDP in the EU and the Eurozone or the Europlus: The rest of Europe (and the rest of the world) must start investing more time and effort in analysing - understanding Germany, economically, sociologically, politically, philosophically, etc. Language is an issue, compared to the cases of analysing the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zeeland, but  not one that cannot be bypassed.

The other issue is that Germany and all Germans, much like the Greeks in that respect, must get used to the idea of being the subject of monitoring, examination, analysis by other Europeans and other humans. In the way that Britons are, to some extent, and some of the Americans. To get used to having their personal views and thoughts asked by media, researchers, analysts, bloggers, tweeters, et al. Like the Greeks these past 2+ years!

But there are 27 different countries in the EU, soon 28! Well it could be harder, the US has 50! The language issue? It exists and can be bypassed and after all, IME, the best kept secret is that most Germans speak English quite well. Maybe more programmes in VO on TV and cinema would help!

Can Germans expect other Europeans to learn German? Well, after English, maybe. Maybe more cultural products like music can help the average European get acquainted with the German language.


PS. As I have tweeted in the past, US and UK business school rank mostly at the world top but it is German businesses that are masters at exporting. By the way, one of the issues that I wish to research more and in  detail (after all I am a geek) is that SME manufacturing exporting model. Germany does have enough interesting things that are worth the analysis of other Europeans as well as the rest of the world, including German rock!

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