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Thatcher and the Germans

The Iron Lady’s approach to Germany was limited in flexibility and rooted in history.

It is not just in the UK that Margaret Thatcher’s passing has provoked a mixed response. Former Chancellor Kohl, who will not be able to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral due to ill-health, has been brave enough to go on record in an interview saying that she was “difficult. Our relationship was difficult,” and that the British Prime Minister’s hostility had greatly slowed progress towards an integrated Europe. And indeed, recently released papers show how vehemently she opposed the reunification of East and West Germany, wanting Soviet troops to remain in occupation.

Angela Merkel, in many ways a softer form of the Iron Lady herself, has chosen to take a more positive line, suggesting that “the liberty of the individual stood at the heart of her convictions – Margaret Thatcher recognized the power of the freedom movements of Eastern Europe early on and lent them her support.”

But the fact remains that she had a very distrustful approach towards Germany, fearing its economic and political power. Online news-magazine The Local has selected some of her quotes on the subject.

“By its very nature, Germany is a destabilising, rather than a stabilising, force in Europe.”

“What you Germans are doing is not good for Europe.” (To Die Zeit publisher Josef Joffe in 1996).

“Germany has veered between aggression and self-doubt. The true origin of German angst is the agony of self-knowledge.”

“We beat the Germans twice, and now they’re back!” (On the subject of reunification, as quoted in the memoirs of former Chancellor Kohl).

All in all, these are utterances from woman who knew her own mind, and wasn’t afraid to stand her ground. But time has proved these kinds of attitudes to be rooted in the past, not in the present or the future.

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