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Friday, 13 February 2015

Mergers between countries

When this topic entered my mind, my initial thought was that it might be too academic. After some research it became clear to me that this topic is far from academic and has been tried multiple times in history, both successful and unsuccessful.

The idea of country mergers entered my mind given the small size of our country, intended de-mergers (e.g., Belgium), and the increasing likelihood of EU disintegration. It is better to consider a merger while not standing with your back against the wall.

The most recent - successful - merger is the one between East and West Germany into Germany (1990). Some other more or less recent country mergers are: North and South Yemen into Yemen (1990), North and South Vietnam (1976), Tanganyika and Zanzibar into Tanzania (1964), Malaya and North Borneo and Sarawak and Singapore into Malaysia (1963) although Singapore left 2 years later, Canada and the Dominion of Newfoundland into Canada (1949), Ukraine and West Ukraine into Ukraine (1919), and lastly Queensland and New South Wales and Victoria and Tasmania and South Australia and Western Australia into the Federation of Australia (1901).

These successful mergers clearly have some common features: they were split-up in the past by others (e.g., Germany, Vietnam), they have the same language (e.g., Germany, Australia), they share a similar territory (Australia).

De-mergers also have some common features: earlier forced upon (post-war) mergers by others, no common language. Examples: Czecho-Slovakia (1918-1993), Yugoslavia (1918-1991). Clearly Belgium also qualifies for a future de-merger at it is also a country based upon a forced post-war merger with no common language (i.e., Dutch, French and German).

Could a merger between Germany and The Netherlands become successful?

Such a merger would be voluntary and thus not have an in-built destructive mechanism. The languages are not entirely common but have a high similarity. The Netherlands shares most of its borders with Germany. Many foreigners do not even understand the difference between the words Deutsch and Dutch. Both countries share a common minority being the former famous Frisian tribe. The Dutch and German economies are highly intertwined. The main trading partner of Germany is The Netherlands (source: cbs.nl). Post WW-II sentiments would probably be used against such a merger but they may no longer be effective. However, it is quite likely that the Dutch would prefer Angela Merkel above Mark Rutte (or any other Dutch politician).

In respect of size The Netherlands would be the 3rd largest state of Germany (12%). Only Bavaria (20%) and Lower Saxony (13%) would be bigger. A combined Flanders / Netherlands would even be the second state of Germany (15%). Little would even be changed as every German state has its own government, parliament and cultural identity. The only serious change would be our passport.

Even without a disintegrating EU such a merger would probably be beneficiary for both countries.

Wishing you a happy Friday the 13th !

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