European Council on Foreign Relations

Go to ECFR's "Germany in Europe" page, where you can find publications, commentary pieces and podcasts abut the role of Germany in Europe.

Germany in Europe: Trading East and Thinking West?

As Karl Marx said, history is not repeating itself, but sometimes one seems to find similarities. At the moment, there is sort of a trend-inversion going on with respect to the question of with whom the EU should build a free trade zone. The current thinking seems to reflect a 1000-year-old European tradition of looking eastwards, rather than the focus on freeing trade across the Atlantic that we have seen in the recent past.

In 1995, there was hype about the transatlantic market place. A Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) was set up; hundreds of conferences and meetings took place that aimed at overcoming non-tariff trade barriers. The emphasis was on the importance of the (still) impressive figures generated by the transatlantic trade relationship between the US and EU, which even today is the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world, worth almost a third

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Germany in Europe: California Dreaming

If you were wondering what the German minister of finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, thought about European integration, there was an intriguing clue from the eve of the G20 summit in Seoul. Mr Schäuble, when asked about the contribution of the German current account surplus to global current account imbalances, said the following:

“Since the day we introduced the Euro to European countries, it is no longer US-trade with Germany that has to be looked upon, but trade with the whole of Europe. Here, trade is relatively balanced. So, where is the problem?”

And he added:

“After all, neither do we complain about the export success of single U.S. states.” (SPIEGEL 45/2010)

Mr Schäuble, are you aware of how clearly you have drawn the comparison between the EU’s member states and the 50 states of the US? Where are the remaining differences between California in the U.S. and Germany in Europe? Between

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Germany in Europe: the French phallus is back!

In the 80s, Lothar Baier, a German left-wing intellectual, wrote a book on France (Firma Frankreich; Wagenbach Verlag 1988) including a chapter titled ‘The nuclear Phallus’ in which he tried to describe and understand why the French defended the US-Pershings and their own nuclear weapons to the great dissatisfaction of the – then and still today - mostly anti-nuclear German left, both in civilian and in military terms. I remember that I quite loved the book, and thought it was rather funny. Linked to the subcutaneous feeling of inferiority of France with respect to Germany, which always was perceived as economically more powerful, this helped explain French desire to have something powerful, too.

Yesterday, at the 11th Franco-German strategic forum in Paris, organized jointly by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the IFRI (Institut français des relations internationales), the

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Re-heroisation or splendid isolation?

Recently at ECFR we’ve been discussing defence reform quite a lot – see my colleague Nicholas Walton’s recent post about the debate in the UK. I recently returned from a few days in Berlin, where the debate is both similar and different. It’s similar because Germany, like Britain, plans to cut defence spending and reduce the size of the Bundeswehr (the German armed forces). It’s different, however, because Germany has a quite different and in some ways diametrically opposite view of its role in NATO and in the world.  Where we Brits like to talk endlessly about “punching above our weight”, the Germans are often accused of not pulling their weight – see for example in Afghanistan, where the Bundeswehr operates under particularly strict caveats in the relatively peaceful north of the country. The UK still believes in power projection, but Germany prides itself on having put

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Germany in Europe: Berlin is the new capital of Europe

Yesterday the EU President Herman van Rompuy made his first ‘State of Europe’ address – in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The date and the setting were perfect: The pathos of Greek frescos in the back, cello music from Bach and the date of 9th November that made, in 1989, Europe ‘whole and free’ possible. Also the date of one of the most sinister chapters of German history – the Nazi pogroms of Kristallnacht in 1938 – and therefore an excellent reminder of what post-war Europe was made for in the first place: peace and freedom! All this is very good!

All this is also surprising. Or at least a very clever and perfectly choreographed move of a German government that has been put on the defensive for months. The times before the summer break, when Germany was reproached to ‘not lead’ the European Union any longer, to act ‘too little and too late’ with respect to the Greek and Euro crisis,

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