Germany, the superpower which does not want to rule

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We’re all in Brussels for the annual Council Meeting, and we’ve just had a session looking at how we should all deal with Germany’s resurgence. It’s something we’re all looking at here at ECFR, but, from Madrid via Brussels, here are my thoughts…

Do we love Germany? Or do we just fear her? We need Germany to lead; we want them to lead. But we also want to tell them where to go and what to do. This is not the way hegemony works, so there is a fundamental contradiction in what we expect from Germany.

We are not grasping the fundamental chance in Germany. Germany is the hegemon, but only by default - they never wanted the role when they first inherited it, and they do not want it now either. They just want everybody to go by the rules, as they do, rather than being asked time and again to provide the public good so the others can free ride on it.

So, even if one can be critical of Germany’s actions, it is hard not to sympathise with a country that has gone through ten years of adjustment just to see that the others were not doing their homework. So, when Germany rules, we protest because we have been left aside, and when they do not want to rule and provide the public good, we too protest.

Still, Merkel has to make her mind and stop hiding behind the Constitutional Court. Even if they did not ask for it, hegemony is there: do they want to make use of it and shape Europe for the next two decades or pass and do an alleingang?

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