Germany: Special Report

"For the first time in Germany's post-war history, the black, red and gold of our flag didn't represent a political ambition, as it did in 1989 (the year of reunification)," the popular news weekly Der Spiegel reflected after the World Cup.

"It became the national symbol for positive thinking and good-spiritedness. This is the sort of patriotism to which we should aspire."

Germany is a country reborn. After so many years in the doldrums, burdened with the problems of joining East with West, a stagnant economy and high unemployment, there are strong signs that Germany is finding its feet again. Staging the World Cup provided a helpful boost, although the post-tournament glow isn't expected to last much beyond this year (this page). But this summer's football fillip was never expected to work miracles - the underlying signals have been positive regardless.

The number of jobless, while still high, is falling. Exports (and not least those of media companies, such as the mighty Axel Springer - see page 37) are booming, helping to fuel GDP growth of 2 per cent for this year, and 4 per cent over the most recent quarter of this year. Europe's lumbering laggard of the past decade is resuming its role as the region's economic pivot.

Most encouraging is that the Germans have rediscovered their trademark swagger. "In a funny sort of way, we have found ourselves," Thilo Kramer, the chief executive of Mediaedge:cia Germany, muses. "The World Cup helped us see that being enthusiastic and hopeful is not just something that you do on holiday. We have shrugged off the old view of ourselves, regained our self-belief and have started to talk about the phenomenal assets this country has to offer the outside world."

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