In the complex game of international relations, deciphering real powers from wannabes is sometimes as simple as paying attention to seemingly dull facts. Sometimes it’s as easy as taking note, as Suddeutsche Zeitung recently did in Europe, of what brand of vehicle people prefer to drive (translation ours):
On the [European Commission] parking lot it looks, for about three years now, as it does on the European soccer fields: German brands dominate. The EC fleet has 29 vehicles, one for each of the 26 commissioners, one for the president, and two in reserve, in case one of the cars breaks down. All 29 cars are German brands.
Up until three or four years ago, European statesmen would almost always drive vehicles from their home state: “Italians had their Lancias, the French their Citroëns, Peugeots, Renaults, and the British the Jaguar.” Today, European elites only drive bmws, Mercedes and Audis. Among European bureaucrats, it’s virtually unanimous—a term rarely deployed to describe any decision by the European Commission—that when it comes to luxurious, reliable vehicles, German is the only way to go.
Apparently it’s not just EC elites who prefer German car makers: “German car manufacturers have taken over the vip and bureaucrat market in Brussels 100 percent,” wrote Zeitung. It’s the same in other European cities.
Maybe it’s a trivial observation. So what if European bureaucrats prefer to drive German vehicles, some will say. Okay. But it’s worth noting: A sure sign of a genuine power—be it on an individual, national, regional or international level—is the ability to shape and influence the behavior of others. Germany’s ascendency in the parking garage of the European Commission, and on the streets of Brussels and other European capitals, is tangible evidence of Berlin’s economic supremacy.
Too many people fail to see the depth or scope of Germany’s power. Berlin is no wannabe. Its power is authentic and far-reaching. Most Europeans have yet to realize it, but, like the parking lot of the European Commission, their continent is almost wholly ruled and dominated by Brand Deutschland. ▪