Thursday, June 21, 2007

Two Germanies

A brief timeline of the process that meant the division of Germany after the Second World War.

12 - 16 September 1944: During the Quebec Conference, the Morgenthau Plan for the occupation of Germany is approved. This plan aimed to dismantle the whole German heavy industry and transform the country into two independent "agricultural States", in order to avoid future rearmaments. The Plan was finally rejected, but was a guide for the later process.

8th May 1945: Inconditional surrender of Germany, carried out by marshal Doenitz. 15 days later, the German General Staff is arrested.

5th June 1945: Establishment of the Allied Control Council, based in Berlin, for the government of the occupied Germany, with shared powers among USA, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France.

End of May 1945: Brno Death March. 24000 Germans from the Sudetes are forced to walk towards the Austrian border, expelled from Checoslovaquia. Nearly 1000 die of violent treatment and disease.

17th July - 2nd August 1945: Potsdam Conference. Division of Germany and Berlin in 4 territories administered by USA, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France. The Soviet Union unilaterally modifies the German border with Poland to the Oder-Neisse line. Forced expulsion of the German and mixed population from all the Eastern Europe countries is agreed. This will mean more than 14 million migrations during the next 4 years. According to the Morgenthau Plan, the reduction of the German heavy industry is agreed, as well as a control to its Foreign Trade. However, no agrement is reached about occupation, as the Soviet Union claims a single demilitarized state under its rule.

January 1946: Beginning of the "denazification" process.

5th March 1946: Benes Treaties are ratified, which state that all property belonging to German residents in the Sudetes and expelled from Checoslovaquia are expropiated by the State as war payments. Germany starts becoming a country without practically any resource to fee an excessive and poor population.

29th March 1946: First Desindustrialization Plan for Germany begins, which aims to reduce heavy industry to 50% of the pre-war levels. Steel and automobile production is stricted, and the one for drinks, domestic goods, timber and Coke is promoted.

March 1947: The "Truman Doctrine" is made public, that defends contention towards emerging Communism. The Cold War begins.

Winter 1946-1947: A specially harsh winter, the situation of German population becomes unsustainable due to lack of food and fuel. Infant mortality in the country is double than that of Western Europe.

12th July 1947: Marshall Plan is proposed. The Soviet Union rejects it and forces all the States in Eastern Europe to do so, as a first relevant distancing between Allied powers.

July 1947: American occupation in Germny is more and more impopular. USA decides to cancel the current occupation directive, and substitutes it by another that aims the re-industrialization of Germany. The president Truman wants to recover an economically strong ally in Europe, over which to develop the damaged continental economy, and avoid that the low standard of living in the country leads to a Communist coup. France prefers keeping the hard directive. The Soviet Union is frontally opposed to the change, and goes on with desindustrialization (in its case, movement of German industry to Russia) in its zone.

January 1948: USA extends the Marshall Plan to Germany, and promotes the currency reform by introducing the German Mark in its occupation zone in June.

March 1948: The Soviet Union retires from the Allied Control Council, as a response to the economical measures taken by Western powers in their zones. A Communist system starts to be installed in its occupation zone and Eastern Berlin.

24th June 1948: The Soviet Union imposes the terrestrial Blockade to the three Western zones of Berlin through its occupation zone, alleging that the guarantee of this communication had never been signed. General Clay proposes the advance of an armored column towards Berlin, with orders to open fire if attacked. The Truman government rejects the proposal as "too close to a war". It is agreed instead to supply the city with three air corridors (one managed by each Western ally) using civil and military aircraft.

4th April 1949: NATO is created as a pressure means to the Soviet Union.

11th May 1949: The Soviet Union ceases the Berlin Blockade, due to its ineffectiveness and international pressure. 65 Germans, Americans and British have died during the supply operations, specially difficult due to obstructions imposed by Soviets.

23rd may 1949: The government of the Federal Republic of Germany is established in the territories occupied by USA, France and United Kingdom, with capital in Bonn. Western Berlin remains under the status of American military occupation, although its residents are granted German citizenship.

7th October 1949: The USSR creates the Democratic Republic of Germany, with capital in Berlin. The country, not internationally recognised, remains under Sovietic occupation.

1952: Due to the flow of Eastern Germans towards the West, the USSR closes the borders and establishes controls.

May 1955: Eastern Germany's status is switched from occupied territory to Soviet Union allied.

14th May 1955: The Warsaw Pact is created. Eastern Germany joins it in 1960.

13th August 1961: Thousands of Eastern Germans still trespass daily the border through Berlin. The government of East Germany, under the approval of the Soviet Union, starts boulding the Berlin Wall in order to close this hole, alleging the needs to raise an "anti-fascist protection barrier".

July 1962: The "Death Strip" is created, a fully watched space close to the Wall by its Eastern part. House suburbs are pulled down in order to leave an open space that eases shooting from watch towers. Until its destruction in 1989, it is calculated that around 200 people died tryin to jump the Wall.

21st October 1969: Willy Brandt becomes chancellor of Federal Germany. Under his rule, the Ostpolitik is promoted as a process of rapprochement and diplomatic normalization between the two Germanies. At a long term, this will mean the international recognition of the existence of two independent sovereign States, and the inmobility of their borders (after the Moscow Treaty in 1970).

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Europe of the Regions

The 1986 Single European Act was the first major revision of the Treaty of Rome that created the European Economic Community in 1957. The Act meant a commitment of joint progress, and a new manner of coordinating economic activities, after the failure of semi-plannified economy and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system (dependent on the dollar) that happened during the 70's.
The result of the Act was the creation of the European Monetary System (called "of the European snake in the tunnel", as European currencies were floating in group against the rest). This was the first step to the arrival of the euro economy.
Another wanted step was the administrative reform of the recently named European Union, which was becoming more and more complex when taking joint decisiones (the system of national vetoes made agreements very long or impossible).
However, no political topics were treated (the absence of a common Defense and Foreign Affairs) nor many economical (such as the aberrant agricultural budget applied since the entrance of Spain and Portugal). But the countries agreed on one thing: reaching a free market of goods and work.
So, the decision-taking system was almost only economic. In order to ease it, the national agreement system was switched into another one in which regions had direct access to the European Council in Brussels and could act independently from their corresponding national entity. The Europe of the Regions started existing.

A new imbalance

The result was a modification of budget decisiones taken by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which identified backward European regions and distributed investments in order to estimulate their economies. Now regions avoided their Governments, not generally very willing to cooperate in regional investments. Some of them, generally the richest (such as Catalonia and Baden-Württemberg), established their own offices in Brussels to constitute true lobbies.
Consequence? The richness desequilibrium was not reduced (rather the contrary), but it was redistributed by regiones instead of countries. Now, a group of first order regions existed (Lombardy, Catalonia, Flemish Region, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Rhône-Alpes...), and another group of poor ones (Andalusia, Scotland, Wallonia, Algarve...). A new, costly bureaucracy, that did not doubt when manipulating subsidy data, intensified the problem.
In conclusion, Europe, without solving its old defects of clientelism and corruption, just diluted them into a new structure where abuses still often happened. Economic rforms based in the 50's and 60's way of thinking (already shown inefficient) unlegitimated a bit more a Union that, nowadays, is clunking and needs real measures.
Definitely, it was successful in one thing: the appearance of a new way of regional sub-nationalism. It is not a coincidence that in the most subsidied European regions, this regionalism passed from a traditional reactionary folklorism to a conscience, sometimes independentist, in which a disdain towards governmental identity, but also an Europeist supra-national thinking has invaded their inhabitants.