This past week saw an interesting documentary appear on the UK`s BBC Radio 4. Presented by Allan Little, it explored Germany’s relationship with the former ex-communist states in central and Eastern Europe. In particular, economic relations were discussed.
Germany, of course, has powerful economic interests in those states. The documentary pointed out that this is in complete contrast to Britain. With the fall of communism, the UK was well regarded in the ex-communist states. Margaret Thatcher established the Know-How fund in order to bring expertise to the New Europe. Since her departure, however, this has not been built upon.
Unfortunately, the documentary took a pro EU propagandist line, effectively suggesting that the UK should strongly plunge itself into the EU – a policy that would not in itself rectify the issue of Britain’s poor position in relation to the ex-communist states.
One problem must surely lie with policies and poor quality people. During the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Major government was sympathetic to Belgrade – with disastrous results. Later, we had the Labour minister for Europe, Denis MacShane – man very strongly pro-EU in the manner I am sure this documentary would approve of. His tenure did not improve the UK’s position in the New Europe. He then turned out to have been fiddling his expenses, which says it all.
Despite the flaws, the documentary was an intelligent one. Germany’s influence in the New Europe is not unknown – the Financial Times Central and Eastern Europe supplement a day earlier ran an article on the matter. However, this documentary was aimed at the broader public.
Much of the audience will be aware of Germany’s role as an economic superpower but not its role in Central and Eastern Europe, let alone the UK’s failure to make major inroads there. The idea of a Berlin/Warsaw axis will certainly be news to people used to hearing only of a Berlin/Paris one.
What the programme says holds true for Croatia. Germany is a benign major economic and political partner – the UK is not. Austria is an even bigger partner, but Vienna’s major role in the ex-communist states was not mentioned. This was unfortunate, but hopefully this documentary will see a trend towards better-informed commentary regarding ex-communist states, and the role of Berlin and Vienna.
In the meantime, keep coming to Croatia Business Report, where such issues would not have been a surprise to our regular readers.