Berlin — For more than half a century, the legacy of World War II has meant that the mere mention of a new rise of German power sent shudders through European nations. Now, Germany is increasingly calling the shots for the entire continent — and few seem to mind.
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski — whose nation lost millions of people in the Nazi invasion and occupation — shocked many this week when he made a dramatic appeal for greater German influence.
“You know full well that nobody else can do it,” he told a largely German audience in Berlin. “I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.”
European leaders are panicked over unsustainable debt that could take down the entire global economy. From the streets to the halls of power, all eyes are trained on Germany — by far Europe’s biggest economy — to lead the continent out of crisis.
“Germany should take on a leadership role because right now, economically, it is the one that can,” said Nacho Criado, 31, on his way to his job laying fiber optic cable in downtown Madrid.
On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed forward with a Berlin-engineered action plan for containing Europe’s crisis, calling for tougher rules to keep national budgets under control. She set the agenda for next week’s critical European Union summit, saying it would grapple with a strategy to make sure countries follow the rules and write those changes into EU treaties.
At the same time she talked down any fears of German preeminence in Europe.
“Our guidelines for next week are clear, but it is important for me to say that they have nothing to do with fears or concerns that we are reading about or hear that Germany wants to dominate Europe or some such,” she said. “That is absurd.”