The EU is in the country’s DNA. But global threats mean a strong transatlantic western alliance has never been more vital
Happy birthday, Germany: 30 years old on 3 October, the anniversary of German unification in 1990. But hang on a minute, isn’t Germany 71? Counting, that is, from the foundation of the Federal Republic in 1949. Or 149, if we go back to the first unification of Germany, in 1871? Or 1,220 years old, if we take the coronation of Charlemagne, in 800, to be the beginning of what Germans call the Reich, more widely known as the Holy Roman Empire? Or some 2,000 years, if we detect in the brilliant former FC Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger a remote descendant of those warlike but also proto-democratic tribesmen that Tacitus described in his Germania?
Answering the apparently simple question “How old is Germany?” is far from simple. But let me venture this bold claim: the last three decades have been the best in all that long and complicated history. If you can think of a better period for the majority of Germans, and their relations with most of their neighbours, I’d be glad to learn of it. In today’s world, roiled by populism, fanaticism and authoritarianism, the Federal Republic is a beacon of stability, civility and moderation – qualities personified by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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