It's our dream house," says Tomasz Pawlik, clicking through the slides on his laptop. In a few days, the 33-year-old restaurant owner in Szczecin, Poland, expects to sign the contract that will make him the owner of a handsome two-story country house, built in 1917 for a Lutheran parson.
BRACE FOR THE DELUGE, the newsweekly Der Spiegel recently warned Germans. A wave of modern-day "serfs" is heading your way. Migrants from Poland and the Czech Republic--working for as little as 3 euro an hour, one third the standard wage--are coming to steal jobs from hardworking Germans.Far-fetched?
He won't start his job until February--and Wolfgang Bernhard has already earned his future employer, German auto giant Volkswagen, many times his salary. When, in October, VW announced the 44-year-old turnaround specialist would become the new No. 2 under CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder, investors celebrated by raising VW's market cap by 1 billion euro in a single day.Volkswagen obviously needs a shot in the arm.
Beneath its perpetual sense of malaise, a quiet revolution is sneaking up on Germany. Two weeks ago the upper house of Parliament passed the final phase of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Agenda 2010, the landmark reform package aimed at getting Germany back on the track to growth.
It is a spectacular tale of incompetence, greed and charges of corruption. It has pushed one of Germany's biggest banks to the brink of collapse. It allegedly involves ingenious pyramid schemes, runaway debts and uncovered losses concealed in a maze of shadowy companies and Cayman Islands trusts.
Like most of Western Europe, Germany considers itself a secular democracy. Article Four of its Constitution guarantees equal treatment of all religions. But that hasn't kept the governments of Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and five other German states from drafting laws that treat different religions very differently indeed.
Europe's cherished dream of ever-closer union is dead. That's not just because the European Union's draft constitution fails to mention that now dirty word, "federalism." Nor does it have much to do with Iraq, and the division of Europe into feuding pro-American "New Europe" and a more skeptical core of "Old Europe." It doesn't even have that much to do, long term, with the latest flap du jour in Brussels over voting rights.
Chancellor Helmut Schmidt called her "a rhinoceros." His conservative successor Helmut Kohl scarcely concealed his dislike, virtually hissing her name when forced to discuss the ruthless, unbridled capitalism she epitomized--and that he was determined Germany should never emulate.Left, right or center, Margaret Thatcher has long been the politician Germans loved to hate.
To get a sense of how deep mistrust of the United States runs in Germany, take a look at the bookshelves. Two years after September 11, German bookstores are flooded with such works as "The CIA and September 11," in which a former government minister of Research and Technology, Andreas von Bulow, insinuates that the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services blew up the World Trade Center from the inside.