Germany, for years an “economic superstar”, has become the “sick man of Europe”, says Martin Greive in Handelsblatt. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the country, deprived of the Russian gas it once depended on, should expect lower economic growth than any major nation bar Russia itself. The problems go deeper than the Ukraine war: exports have been stagnating since the end of 2017, and there is no German firm among the top 100 most valuable companies worldwide. “Made in Germany” no longer stands for a thriving industry, but “excessive bureaucracy”, a sclerotic tax system and “stone-age” digital infrastructure.
Its success in the 2010s was built on free trade, increasing demand from China and cheap Russian energy. Today, “each of these foundations has become brittle”: cheap gas from Russia has stopped flowing, China wants to become self-sufficient and globalisation “is on a disorderly retreat”. The strength of the German automotive industry is also under threat from the growth of electric vehicles, in which it doesn’t specialise. This economic decline will affect more than just prosperity. Because of their fraught history, Germans construct their “national consciousness” not from nationalistic pride, but from economic might. This strength, rather than military power, is also what defines Germany’s “strategic role in the world”. If that strength becomes a weakness, it will shake the nation’s identity to the very core.