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Reuters, Pearson Education, London 2000
Author : Tom Heneghan


The following review was written afer the author gave a talk to the Cambridge University German Society on 14 November 2000 entitled "Ten years of reunited Germany. Where has it been, where is it going?"

Last autumn, our University magazines did not linger a lot on the tenth anniversary of German reunification, but the Nice summit drew once again public attention to the key role of this country in the decision-making and future of the European Union. Now, a book recently published by Reuters on this major issue deserves room in this section. Unchained Eagle. Germany after the wall, written by Reuters American Correspondent from Germany Tom Heneghan (Reuters, Pearson Education, 2000), is a collection of sharp thoughts and vivid pictures of people, economics and politics in the last decade of the central European country. Not long ago, an open event organised by the German Society, together with Reuters Press Agency, gave Cambridge students the opportunity to hear a live presentation of the book. Showing himself an approachable talker as well as a brilliant and competent reporter and skilled writer, Mr Heneghan addressed, very lively and lucidly, the topic Ten years of reunited Germany. Where has it been, where is it going? Sharp in his judgements and analysis of events but at the same time passionate witness on the issue he was tackling, Heneghan kept the preciseness of a historian and the acuteness of a diplomat that characterise his own book. It is a portrait of contemporary Germany, stressing the country's efforts to achieve a major position in Europe while guaranteeing democracy. So, rather than a commemoration of ten years of reunited Germany, or an anthology of gossip about its political leaders, Heneghan's work resembles more a scientific research, accounting facts, names, figures about this country. And at the end of the story, the expression "Unchained Eagle" proves an appropriate - slightly worrying - reality rather than a metaphor.

Tom Heneghan's friendly talk summarised the content of his book. After exposing the frenzied international atmosphere at the dawn of the German reunification, with heads of state fearing the resurgence of a German superpower (and Mrs Thatcher in particular bringing with her, to several international meetings, maps of Europe showing the area that German enlargement could possibly cover), the journalist went into analysing Kohl's attitude. Apparently, the cunning Chancellor caught the right time to accomplish his ambition together with that of his country, let's say, not exactly driven by pure spontaneity. Until the summer 1989, explains the journalist, "Kohl had not been very charismatic and particularly appreciated. But running for the elections with the reunification of Germany on his agenda, he revived his fortunes and could fulfil his dream of being the head of a big state". At that stage, still according to Heneghan, "reunification could not be delayed: it was necessary to avoid internal instability and unrest. Moreover, East Germany would not have survived: its economical and political apparatus was too weak". On the other hand, he continues, "had Germany waited another twenty years, the reunification would have not happened. In 1989 there still were German politicians and citizens that could remember the war years, whereas the new generation - having not experienced it - might not have felt the impelling need for unification". At the same time, Western Germany would have probably developed a selfish attitude, argues Heneghan, "keeping aside from her sister country, most probably running into the present cold relationship between Austria and Germany".

Coming to terms with common life to be shared with the newcomers, he notices that West Germany at the beginning had a suspicious and detached attitude: "After the euphoria of the first months, Kohl himself stepped back and even did not pronounce himself against the cases of neo-nazi intolerance towards Turkish immigrants. Up to March 1990, 100.000 immigrants kept moving from the East to the West every month. It was a crazy pressure about these people that the German job market could not absorb and that caused an overvaluation of German labour". Nevertheless, as far as the so-called "war" East/West is concerned, Mr Heneghan sounds quite positive, since he merely sees a conflict of mentalities in financial matters at present.

What seems to have been worrying Europe in the last ten years has been the ghost of the resurgence of a Germany as the ruler of Europe. The expert journalist has dedicated a whole chapter of his book to "Germanised Europe or Europeanised Germany", without considering this a realistic fear: "Of course Germany will tend to have a superior role in Europe because of its strong economy and size, but is not big enough to dominate its neighbours".

All in all, even in spite of Kohl's slush funds scandal, Heneghan does not seem to spot many drawbacks in the reunification process. The final evaluation of reunited Germany has therefore something of an apologetic tone in the book's last paragraph (Welcome to the Berlin republic), where the new republic is described as "more open... more competitive... more European... more lively... more reliable".