Joined: EU 1958 Eurozone 1999 Schengen 1995 In a sense the European Union is the story of Germany. The bloc came into existence intially as a way of controlling West Germanyís use of its coal and iron resources and then with the Treaty of Rome it became a way of tying it into the Western system. By the time the European Union was up and running the German economy was booming and it would be the economic powerhouse for the bloc from that point onwards, even though France dominated the bloc politically for the first decade of its existence. German guilt over occupying most of Europe in the early 1940s led to a desire to blend the country into a greater Europe, just as the German states had come together in the 19th century to create Germany. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 moves were quickly begun to reunite West and East Germany, which convinced the German chancellor Helmut Kohl to push for a quickening of political and monetary union in order to avoid fears of a rejuvenated Germany. By the time the single currency came into existence in 1999 Germany was all powerful in the Eurozone and that power was exerted by Angela Merkel in the response to the sovereign debt crisis that set in from 2010. In an early response to the British vote to leave the European Union the German chancellor Angela Merkel commented that it was disappointing because the primary aim of the bloc was to bring peace. What she did not add was that it was to stop Germany warring against the rest of the continent. The origins of the European Union lie in a 1950 to prevent a return to what happened in the 1940s when Germany invaded and occupied more than half of the present members of the European Union. With the exception of the neutral countries of Sweden, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, the only countries in the European Union to avoid German conquest where the United Kingdom and the islands of Malta and Cyprus, which were defended by the British military as part of the British Empire. That is a context much forgotten by many commentators, including Merkel, about why the United Kingdom voted to leave a union now dominated by Germany. West Germany was one of the founding members of the European Union and the reunified Germany is considered to own that heritage as part of the Inner Circle. That reunification caused a problem in that it made Germany much larger by population than France or the United Kingdom, although the Germany population is projected to go through a sharp decline in the next 40 years unless there is a very large level of inward migration. The reunification chancellor Helmut Kohl was careful to underplay Germanyís hand, but that has not been the approach of Angela Merkel. The financial collapse of 2008 changed everything in that regard and the Eurozone has struggled since to rescue its weaker members, including Italy one of the European Union founders. The financial crisis in the Eurozone has led to German efforts to force strict austerity on other countries and in the case of Greece to a, thankfully failed, attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government. That was followed in 2015 with Merkelís disastrous policy of announcing that any Syrians who reached Germany would be granted asylum. This led to a march of thousands through south eastern and central Europe that has ruptured relationships between those countries and Germany and led to a rise in support for Eurosceptic parties and policies. It is that ill thought out policy rather than the refugees themselves that lay behind Nigel Farageís much misunderstood Breaking Point poster. Television images of Merkel giving her initial responses to the Brexit vote suggest that she was in a state of shock. She was possibly reflecting that if she had not played so hard in David Cameronís re-negotiation in February that the narrow leave victory might have been a narrow remain victory instead. Her stance changed quickly as European Union bureaucrats went on the offensive against the British electorate and government. She urged calm and patience as the British government worked out what to do next. In doing so she pulled the centre of gravity away from the European Commission and towards the European Council, although with her not Donald Tusk taking the lead. Germany has given mixed reactions to both Greece and Brexit. Finance Minister Wolfgang

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