Germany: the end of illusions

Four years ago, Coralie Delaume published a book whose title was a provocation – The Franco-German Couple Doesn’t Exist: How Europe has become Germany and why that will not last. Taken by illness in December 2020, Coralie has not lived to confirm the pertinence of her prediction.

The false couple, where each party cultivates from its own side the illusory virtues of an imaginary model, is today confronted with a flagrant failure. Yes, it has not lasted. At Berlin, the givers of lessons are confronted with inflation in two figures and the prospect of a recession harshly marked by shortages.

Reputedly pragmatic, the German managing class tells itself stories of its past, and the French elites have had the naivete to believe that Germany had raised itself from the war by the singular efforts of a hard-working and disciplined people, guided by enlightened leadership. Rather, the dynamism of the Federal Republic is the result of other factors: the pillage by the German army during the war, US aid, the under-valuation of the mark, the effective erasure of the public debt and the absence of reparations towards the countries that it had occupied and martyred.

Reputedly realist, the German managing class has constructed, after the absorption and pillage of the GDR, a mercantilist system that could not last forever. In Paris one praises the merits of German industry as if its commercial success was a product simply of local management professionalism and the wisdom of unions.

It would have been necessary to stress, as we have done, the advantages constituted by the euro exchange rate, the low wages, the social precariousness, and the relocation of industry to Central and Eastern European countries where the workforce is readily exploited.

We have praised German budgetary rigor in forgetting that it has had as consequence inadequate public investment which drives the decay of infrastructure.

We have praised the financial prosperity and the robustness of national savings without wanting to acknowledge the fragility of the German banks.

And nobody has bothered themselves about the Russian gas supply, since free markets must necessarily engender prosperity and peace.

This rickety system corresponds to the ideology of the German managing class and to our own defects. Under the aegis of Angela Merkel, the German bourgeoisie imagined the end of history in transferring to the European Union the old conception of the German Reich, that they wanted to unify beyond politics by the general implementation of German norms. For the sycophants of the ‘Franco-German couple’ – a concept unknown in Germany itself – do not want to admit a truth however well established by specialists of that country: our German friends aspired to be the best Europeans because they were persuaded that Europe could function like Germany.

That’s exactly what happened by way of giving constitutional value to the treaties – that which we [the French people] had refused in 2005 – and by the weakness of the French elites, always concerned to obtain Berlin’s blessing. But the German leaders, well supported on the German norms that impose balanced budgets, low wages and unrestrained competition, devoted themselves to the defense and promotion of German interests.

The German mission has been pursued with disregard for the claimed ‘European solidarity’. It is without informing its [European] partners that Angela Merkel decided to exit nuclear power in 1999 and to welcome hundreds of thousands of migrants.

The German mission has been pursued with disregard for other peoples in the Union, and particularly the Greeks. The massive reduction of public expenditure and the extraordinary reduction in wages and pensions has produced impoverishment and the plundering of the country. Greece figures today amongst the poorest states of the EU, just ahead of Romania – with a public debt greater than in 2015. Other peoples of Southern Europe have also suffered from the Berlin-Brussels tutelage and the German people themselves have not been spared: we have noted in 2019 that poverty then touched 16.5 per cent of the population.

It is this ‘anti-model’ which is in the process of breaking up before our eyes. Germany confronts that energy becomes terribly costly when the sweet trade in gas becomes the stake in international relations of force. Its manufacturing sector is on the skids and the government counts the cost of the calamitous implications of a lack of sufficient supportive infrastructure, discovering, too late, the necessity to construct LNG ports [to accommodate US LNG imports]. Underpaid workers suffer the violence of inflation and the risk of unemployment grows if employers implement plans to relocate to Latin America.

Germany, virtuous and consensual in appearances, sure of itself but often indecisive and inconsistent, has not seen coming a crisis that has been brewing for several years and of which the Russo-Ukrainian war has exposed the scale. Let us resist the temptation of now giving lessons to Germany ourselves.


  • Translated by Evan Jones (a francophile and retired political economist at University of Sydney) and is published here with permission from author.
Bertrand Renouvin is founder and president of the Nouvelle Action Royaliste. He publishes a blog, where this article appeared on 9 October 2022. Read other articles by Bertrand, or visit Bertrand's website.