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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Economic Nationalism Made Eastern Europe More Resilient

Germany’s economic troubles are more painful for some ex-Communist countries than for others.

Economies like Poland are proving resilient to Germany’s economic malaise.

Economies like Poland are proving resilient to Germany’s economic malaise.

Photographer: PIOTR MALECKI

Whether eastern European economies are dragged down by a likely German recession is a good way to test the idea that they are effectively colonies of their much larger neighbor, or “foreign-owned countries,” as some economists have dubbed them. So far, it looks as though the nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary have managed to reduce their dependence enough to build up resilience to spells of German economic weakness. Others should take steps in the same direction.

Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania all owe their spectacular recent economic growth at least in part to Germany. German companies have integrated these countries into their export-oriented production chains, helped drive down unemployment rates and set standards for labor conditions and quality. Collectively, these five countries’ trade turnover with Germany reached 325.3 billion euros ($360.8 billion) last year, 63% more business than Germany did with China. For all five economies, Germany is the biggest export market.