upa-admin 07 Şubat 2018 3.577 Okunma 0

Abstract: Parallel crises in Europe and in the international system have forced Germany to become more active in the foreign and security policy of the EU and to become Europe. In this essay, the basis and historical background of the Germany’s role in the EU will be attempted to be analyzed and this essay will try to draw a map about this topic.

Keywords: Germany, The EU, Germany’s Role in the EU, German Foreign Policy.



First of all, before I start with penning the topic of “Which Role for Germany: A reticent hegemon or a hidden federator?”, I would like to structure my essay in three categories. First category is the introduction part that sheds light on the basis and historical background of the topic given. Second category is about functions/developments that provide information about Germany’s role in the EU within the framework of the topic provided here. Third category is the conclusion part within the context of the essay question.

To begin with, the foreign policy and security policy of the European Union (EU) has been going through a difficult period in recent years. The fact that the traditional French-German partnership has taken over, the orientation of Britain itself, and the failure of foreign policy by Brussels to respond to crises has made Germany active in EU foreign policy. With the new institutional structure established in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty[1], the EU intended to reinforce common European actions and revive the recently defunct security and defense policy. However, crises in the framework of Libya and Ukraine have revealed the inadequacy of the EU’s strategy for joint action. In addition to these two problems, parallel crises in Europe and in the international system, such as the Euro and the refugee crisis, have forced Germany to manage the EU’s external and security policy and to become Europe’s new political engine.

Germany’s quest with Russia for a diplomatic solution to the crisis between Ukraine and Russia, the refugee agreement made with Turkey were important steps made by Berlin. In addition to crisis management, Germany also plays a central role in the development of general EU policies, such as the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). Moreover, Russia, Turkey and the EU are taking the lead in relations with international actors like the United States. Germany’s role has not been regarded as the role of leadership in the context of military power, but in different approaches it has provided its ability for leadership. For example, despite limited operations in Syria, Germany tends to use its economic strength more than military power. It is in the effort to direct and strengthen institutions. Nonetheless, it is challenging diplomatic approaches within the EU and with third countries aiming at reconciliation. “Win-win”[2] diplomacy for Germany is becoming increasingly difficult in an international system where zero-sum game mentality dominates. Despite the divisions in the recent crises, it continues its efforts to preserve the unity of the EU and creates resistance against centrifugal forces within the EU. Berlin’s “Eastern Politics” (Ostpolitik) continues to keep its communication channels open with Russia and maintain its dialogue-based structure. In addition, Germany’s commitment to Transatlantic partnership continues in intensive cooperation. Therefore, Germany sees military experience as a last resort in the framework of historical experience and believes in the diplomatic priority.[3] However, it has come to the conclusion that being an active member of the Western alliance in foreign policy will give a more positive result.

As Josef Janning and Almut Möller stated: “Over the last decade, Germany has taken on its natural leadership role in the EU’s economic and monetary affairs. This has brought the ‘German question’ – how the rest of Europe should deal with Germany’s power – back to the center of the European project. More recently, Berlin has also taken a greater role in foreign and security policy, pushed by a series of crises to advocate for a joint European response to the conflict in Ukraine, the latest eruption of the euro crisis in Greece, and the refugee crisis. Merkel has no appetite for unilateral leadership, and nor will her successors. Anything that appears to be hegemony, even if qualified by the adjectives ‘reluctant’ or ‘benevolent’, repels the German political class. More than other large actors, German leaders feel the need to act within a consensus. They want coalition partners who share their preferences, burdens, and responsibilities. Germany has traditionally placed its faith in the ability of institutions to tame German power, both for its own benefit and that of the EU as a whole – Berlin knows that its power arouses suspicion and resentment from its neighbors. Ironically, the country has become one of the forces undermining the EU’s original structures by increasingly using its weight to veto decisions, and at times acting unilaterally. The German government remains committed to the EU as an umbrella under which European countries cooperate to strengthen security and prosperity. But even in Germany this argument has been more difficult to make lately.”[4]

Three Different Periods After the Integration in Foreign Policy

After the provision of a brief historical background about Germany and his role in the context of the EU and so forth, there have been three stages that were crucial in terms of German’s role in the EU. On September 12, 1990, the “Zwei-plus-Vier-Vertrag”[5] signed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Democratic Republic of Germany (DDR) and Germany for the first time has gained full international independence after the Second World War. Since then, there have been three brief periods in German foreign policy.[6]

At the beginning of the 1990s, Germany was busy with the problems brought about by the union; the use of military power and allied solidarity were at the forefront. In this period, the united and dominated Germany was also emphasized to be a strong member of the EU. At the end of the 1990s, Germany had to make important foreign policy decisions under the influence of international developments. These took place within the framework of participation in the NATO intervention in the framework of the 1999 intervention debate in Kosovo.[7]

The second period can be described as the first decade of the year 2000. This period is a time when foreign policy is disinterested: the Iraq War has created deep disagreements in Europe; France and Germany’s opposition to the occupation of the United States has not prevented it. Apart from participation in the war in Afghanistan, Germany’s main concern[8] during this period was to carry out reforms in the weak economy and strengthen the global export industry. At the end of the decade, while Germany showed a rapid improvement in the economy, foreign policy and security strategy.

Germany’s lack of a foreign policy strategy to avoid voting for the creation of a no-fly zone in Libya at the UN Security Council in 2011[9], criticisms of the bad management of the Libyan crisis and the government’s change in 2013 revived the foreign policy debate and accelerated the start of the third period. The strengthening of the German economy also made it necessary to increase international initiatives. In the crisis that occurred in and around Europe, the economic strength of Germany was the most important. During the Euro crisis,[10] Germany’s strong economy and balanced budget enabled it to greatly influence the financial conditions for the affected countries. Within the tension surrounding Russia and Ukraine, Germany’s policy of enforcing sanctions against Russia’s large trade volume has led. When the refugee crisis intensified in 2015, Germany was the most attractive country for refugees in Europe. In this case, Berlin has no choice but to find a solution to this problem on the European and international level. As an economic power, Germany has become increasingly influential in foreign policy.

Types of German Leadership within the framework of the EU and his Foreign Policy

According to German outstanding in terms of his foreign policy and role in the EU, there is also another important point that Germany’s leadership be taken into consideration.  To start with, naturally, with the German domination on the EU, there has also been a debate about the character of his leadership. For example, some analysts stressed that in the Ukrainian crisis, Germany did not lead because of its military intervention and its refusal to transfer arms. [11] The point to be emphasized at this point is that leadership can be implemented in different ways; not using military force should not mean that leadership is not automatically shown. Germany uses different tools within its leadership framework. In the context of power and leadership, Germany’s power military or economic power sources are enriched and tend to leverage them as a lever for reconciliation with other parties’ positions. Economic and military instruments can be considered as hard power sources; but they are often avoided for reasons that have been emphasized before they are often resorted to. Germany is unwilling about using military force and is following a peaceful policy. Economic power, in particular, is manifested through sanctions and is more suited to Germany’s anti-militarist attitude. Naturally, the effect of economic instruments may be limited in some cases: Iraq is ineffective in situations such as the ISIS is faced with asymmetric threats. Within the framework of reconciliation and leadership, Germany does not impose a definite position; struggle to soften the antagonism and strives for a common approach to key alliances within the framework of Europe and Transatlantic partnership. Within the EU, reconciliation with France has traditionally been the best way to achieve a strong European position. However, after the last period of expansion and with the decrease of France’s power, the French-German partnership has been in the field. Germany, for the third countries, would rather prefer to cooperate rather than antagonism.[12] Berlin often abstains and prefers to use force to enter into the consensual struggle.

MoMoreover, within the framework of leadership with institutions; Germany constitutes an important part of the reconciliation and cooperation strategy, Germany invests in the development of institutions and strives to establish norms of cooperation within and outside the EU. Constructed structures are considered to have a positive impact on German interests in the long run.[13] In other policy areas such as the Common Security and Defense Policy, Germany’s focus is on building structures and tools. Leadership with institutions is not limited to just the EU. Germany’s efforts to strengthen the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as a framework for dialogue and confidence building.

Another leadership characteristic of Germany is the tendency to act as a model. In this context, Germany is striving to ensure that the EU acquires a proactive approach in the international arena. As for Russia, sanctions have been successful; in the refugee crisis, other EU states did not participate in the open door policy. An important point to be emphasized is that Germany does not actively assume the leadership role. However, actual developments and crises are pushing Germany to this position because of the lack of capacity of other actors. In the past, Germany has been reluctant to fill the vacuum of leadership and has struggled to share responsibility. However, this situation is changing: due to its size, geographical location and economic status, which is considered as an appropriate country, Germany seems to be in a position to be a leader, whether he accepts this situation or not.

Germany: ‘A Reluctant Hegemon Power’?

Germany and France has been the locomotive of the developments in Europe since many decades. The recent debt crisis, however, has shown that in rescue policies, Germany is in possession of financially stronger position. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had to play a pivotal role in the crisis, has often been accused of abstention and hesitation in helping countries in crisis. Smaller countries have not concealed their anger at repressing large Germany’s views. However, as long as the debt crisis is Europe’s main agenda, national governments, particularly the German government will continue to exist at the center of Europe’s power.[14]

As Sten Rynning also states: “Germany’s equivalent to a national security strategy—its white paper on security and defense of June 2016—makes two things immediately clear: that Germany is ready to assume a more active role in matters of security and defense, and that German activism will always be channeled through the familiar key institutions—the UN, NATO, and the EU. In other words, Germany is increasingly willing to assume responsibility for the grand edifices of Western cooperation. If Germany pulls it off, it will become a powerful force of integration opposed to the above-mentioned forces of fragmentation.”[15]

In addition to that, Germany has an opportunity to provide a counterweight to long-standing British objections to a unified foreign policy. By putting its considerable influence in the service of a cohesive, strategically focused foreign and security policy, Germany would simultaneously achieve two key objectives: a stronger and more capable EU and a more European Germany.[16] Another important issue is that the euro crisis revealed not only Germany’s economic weight, but also Europe’s socio-economic heterogeneity. The southern and eastern expansions of the Union led to the accession of countries whose economic power and prosperity are far removed from those of the European center. It was imagined that they would be gradually led towards this center. People assumed this would be a long-term process that would be supported by the experience of gradual convergence. This is where the euro crisis interrupted and replaced the prospect of convergence with an experience of increasing divergence. The potential for conflict within Europe, previously dampened by hopes for the future, broke out into the open, making necessary decisive German political action on the European stage. That provoked objections and opposition and very soon some attempted to use German history, namely the Second World War, for their own political purposes.[17] The project that was set in motion to overcome the causes and consequences of this war became the setting for its political instrumentalisation.


It should be noted that, Germany, despite the differences in opinion within the EU in the recent crises, aims to protect and strengthen the unity of the EU. Germany’s structural strength has also led to perceived as an effective leader in the economic and financial crisis. In this period, with the emergence of numerous crises such as the Euro crisis, Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the refugee crisis, the EU has been pressured to respond to these crises and produce solutions. Following the Ukrainian crisis, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel ruled the EU’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. Under the leadership of Chancellor Merkel, Germany played an important role in shaping the European response to the Ukrainian antagonism. Germany and the EU foreign policy are closely linked. Indeed, building a common European foreign policy is an ongoing project in Germany, France and other European partners. Germany’s leadership role will influence the direction of European foreign policy. It will also determine the balance of power in Europe, which operates with the French-German engine.

Moreover, Germany, one of the EU’s most influential members, has a federal governance model, and according to this model, federal governments have a wide liberty. However, particularly in the 1960s, welfare state-oriented practices strengthened the centralized tendencies of the federal government. In addition, due to the EU’s state-centered approach, the inability of the federal administrations to actively participate in EU processes at the beginning also weakened the positions of the federal administrations. Under these circumstances, the federated administrations have worked very effectively in the EU while struggling with the federal government on the one hand in order not to narrow their jurisdiction. As a result of these efforts, they have played an active role in shaping the regional policies of the EU beyond opening up a wider field of activity, and they have also made important contributions to the development of regional governments in the member states.


Cihad Furkan ELİAÇIK




[1] HEPPLE, Bob, “Fundamental Social Rights since the Lisbon Treaty”, European Labor Law Journal, Vol. 2, Issue: 2, p. 150.

[2] NYE, Joseph S. Jr., “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power”, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 616, Issue: 1, p. 96.

[3] BÜYÜKBAY, Can, “Germany’s Leadership Role In The EU: Continuity And Change In Foreign Policy In The Context of International Crises”, Ege Stratejik Araştırmalar Dergisi, Vol. 8, Issue: 1, 2017, p. 20.

[4] JANNING, Josepf & MÖLLER, Almut, “Leading from the centre: Germany’s role in Europe”, European Council on Foreign Relations, 2016, http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/leading_from_the_centre_germanys_role_in_europe_7073, Accessed on 21.01.2018.

[5] DEACADEMIC, Zwei-Plus-Vier-Vertrag, http://deacademic.com/dic.nsf/dewiki/1554342, Accessed on 20.01.2017.

[6] HELWIG, N., “Introduction: Germany – Rising to the challenge, while maintaining the balance”, Niklas Helwig (eds.), Europe’s New Political Engine Germany’s role in the EU’s foreign and security policy, Helsinki, FIIA Report, No: 44, 2016, p. 24.

[7] HENDRICKSON, Ryan C., “NATO’s Secretary General and the Use of Force: Willy Claes and the Air Strikes in Bosnia”, Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 31, Issue: 1, 2004, p. 99.

[8] KÜMMEL, Gerhard & LEONHARD Nina, “Casualties and Civil-Military Relations: The German Polity between Learning and Indifference”, Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 31, Issue: 4, p. 527.

[9] HELWIG, 2016, p. 25.

[10] WESSELS, Wolfang & KUNSTEIN, Tobias, “What we hope, what we fear, what we expect: possible scenarios for the future of the Eurozone”, Springer, Vol. 31, Issue: 1, 2012, p. 6.

[11] KRAMER, Andrew E. & HIGGINS, Andrew, “Ukraine Leader Was Defeated Even Before He Was Ousted”, The New York Times, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/world/europe/ukraine-leader-was-defeated-even-before-he-was-ousted.html, Accessed on 23.01.2018.

[12] FEDERAL FOREIGN OFFICE, “Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship in 2016: Building bridges of cooperation”, 2015, http://www.auswaertigesamt.de/EN/Aussenpolitik/Friedenspolitik/OSZE/151112_Steinmeier_Bundestag_OSZE_Vorsitz.html, Accessed on 24.01.2016.

[13] See; Federal Foreign Office, 2016.

[14] The Economist, “Germany and Europe The reluctant Hegemon If Europe’s economies are to recover, Germany must start to lead”,  2013, http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21579456-if-europes-economies-are-recover-germany-must-start-lead-reluctant-hegemon, Accessed on 25.01.2018.

[15] RYNNING, Sten, “Germany’s Return to European Leadership”, E-International Relations, 2017, http://www.e-ir.info/2017/01/05/germanys-return-to-european-leadership/, Accessed on 25..01.2018.

[16] ISCHINGER, Wolfgang, “What is Germany’s role within the EU?”, World Economic Forum, 2014, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/09/what-is-germanys-role-within-the-eu/, Accessed on 25.01.2018.

[17] MÜNKLER, Herfried, “Germany’s new role in Europe”, Deutschland, 2015, https://www.deutschland.de/en/topic/politics/germany-europe/germanys-new-role-in-europe, Accessed on 24.01.2018.

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