Germany is facing criticism from Brussels about its trade surplus. The EU is worried by the fact that its largest member state exports a lot more than it imports. The Commission wants to determine whether Germany's export surplus is having an adverse effect on the rest of Europe. Are Germany's surpluses leading to debts elsewhere? And will the debtor countries be able to pay what they owe?
Many economists have complained that Germany is bolstering its own economy at the expense of neighbouring countries. One piece of evidence: the low wage increases of recent years. Experts say that these have led to a huge increase in Germany's productivity compared with other countries.
Others see Germany's export strength as the bedrock of Europe's prosperity. They point out that Europe cannot be helped by weakening Germany. According to that view, market forces should be allowed to take effect, and Germany should be seen as a model by other European countries.
But Germany's large surplus is not only a sign of its competitiveness. It is also a source of problems, because a lot of wealth is being stored up, and there is not enough investment, either public or private. Jörg Asmussen, a German member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, says a large export surplus is a sign that too little is being invested in infrastructure or research at home.
Is Germany harming itself? Is it violating European agreements at the expense of the weaker economies? Could Berlin face a fine of billions of euros from the EU Commission? What can be done to increase imports from other EU countries? Or are other European countries actually benefitting from Germany's competitive edge?
Tell us what you think: Export Champions - Germany in the Dock
Theodore Kouvakas - studied art history in Florence and architecture in Venice, and trained to become a journalist. In the 1980s, he wrote for a range of media outlets. Kouvakas covered foreign policy and financial markets for Imerissia SA, a financial and business newspaper. Since 2010, he had served as Berlin correspondent for Real Media SA. Now he ist the Berlin correspondent for the Greek daily Eleftherotypia. His areas of expertise include European financial markets and foreign policy. Kouvakas also has a strong interest in cultural topics.
Ursula Weidenfeld - has a PhD in history from the University of Bonn and studied journalism at the Holtzbrinck School in Düsseldorf. She became Berlin correspondent and a deputy editor at the magazine “Wirtschaftswoche” before going on to head the corporations desk at the Financial Times Deutschland. In 2001 she took on the job of economics editor at the daily “Der Tagesspiegel” in Berlin. From May of 2008 until January of 2009, Weidenfeld was also editor-in-chief at the business magazine “Impulse “. The journalist regularly writes for the financial daily “Handelsblatt”, and a collection of those articles has been published in book form. Ursula Weidenfel was granted the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Commentary. She is currently a freelancer.
Andrew Bulkeley - he is a Berlin-based correspondent for "The Deal", a New York-based Mergers & Acquisitions newspaper, covering German-speaking Europe since 2002. His career starts as a financial journalist over a decade ago as a reporter in Bloomberg News’ Frankfurt bureau before helping launch FTMarketwatch, an Internet news venture between the Financial Times and Marketwatch. He acts as an English-language communications consultant for some of Germany’s biggest telecommunications and health care companies and regularly provides analysis on U.S. politics for German media.