Germany And Now There Is One

Unification is a fact at last, but Europe's new power faces years of labor to make the merger work for Germans and non-Germans alike

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Outside Britain there is still some worry about German ambitions. Poland and Czechoslovakia are anxious; France, the Netherlands and others are uneasy. The more realistic concern is that Bonn's agenda may be so filled with intra- German and East European issues that Germany will lose some of its eagerness for economic and political integration in the E.C. Jacques Delors, the Community's chief executive, is challenging Germany to prove that it is still determined to go forward. "Are the Germans truly interested in economic and monetary union?" he asked last week. "We need clear, unambiguous political commitments." The time has come, he said, to "fix the dates."

Though the Germans go to great lengths to reaffirm the strength and durability of the Bonn-Paris axis, France is fretting about the possibility of a Europe dominated by Germany. "What worries the French," says Gerald Long, former managing director of Reuters, "is the success of their own policy of locking Germany firmly into the European Community." It is not admitted publicly in Paris, but French officials shudder at the numbers: unified Germany's gross national product is $1.1 trillion, France's $762 billion. Almost 70% -- or $62 billion -- of the Federal Republic's trade surplus of $90 billion is with members of the E.C., an imbalance that is likely to increase.

Until this year, it was the Soviet Union that most opposed German unification; now Moscow sees Germany as an economic life raft. Actually, says Vladimir Shenayev, deputy director of the Soviet Institute of Europe, "we understood that solving this question was in our interest long before we made it public." According to Shenayev, Moscow wanted to get out from under the cost of maintaining its army in East Germany but had to figure a way to get the Western allies to withdraw as well.

Unlike Moscow's policy, Washington's never wavered. From Nov. 9, 1989, Kohl's strongest ally in the drive for unity was George Bush. Kohl last week expressed "deep gratitude" for the President's support and added, "I want to single out in particular the contribution made by the U.S." One risk is + that Washington might press too hard for German repayment -- in the gulf, in NATO, at the U.N. But Germany will be preoccupied with German and European tasks for years to come, and putting forward new demands could create unnecessary tensions.

A great many West Germans of the postwar generation feel real regret at the passing of the Federal Republic in which they grew up -- a prosperous demistate, secure, moderate, perhaps even a bit dull. That sort of constructive nostalgia will color the new Germany and probably should be encouraged -- even by friendly countries like the U.S. and the European neighbors, all of whom hope for great deeds from the new power.




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