European Council on Foreign Relations

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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Burma’s elections - a glimmer of hope?

After months of speculation about the potential or lack thereof of the Burmese elections, Sunday 7th November came and went, and what votes were cast are now all in and being counted. The main military party - the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)  report that they have 'won' 80% of the votes, even before the 25% guaranteed for the army. Turnout was certainly low - although there is hardly a trend to compare it with, given that the last election was twenty years ago - and there were widespread reports of intimidation of voters at the polling stations, and coercion in advance of polling day. Many ethnic minority groups were disenfranchised anyway as their regions were deemed too unstable for a polling station. Foreign journalists were not authorised to go into the country and report, but those who did so anyway, undercover, described a very subdued atmosphere. There are no

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Uncomfortable moments with Putin

The Council Meeting is over and I’m back in rainy old London, within earshot of Big Ben’s chimes, and able to put a little more work into getting lift-off with the blog.

One important aim of this blog is not just to provide the analysis (see Francois Godement’s blog post about Hu Jintao’s European tour for an example of that) but also to point our readers in the direction of what we ourselves are reading or listening to - so this morning I’ve been working on the Blog Roll.

The limited list of blogs that I’ve put up there are a testament to how important blogs have become in disseminating information - for the real inside track it’s not just a question of picking up the Economist or the FT and reading the formal thoughts of Gideon Rachman or David Rennie. It’s now even more useful to hear what they’re saying in a format that’s sometimes rather closer to having a

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Of state visits and public diplomacy…

Is soft power enhanced by state visits in this day and age, or are these official events a liability for more significant forms of influence in this day and age? One can wonder indeed about this, as President Hu Jintao nears the end of his trip to France and Portugal.

President Hu’s reception in Paris had the quality of a ritual to atone for the recent past – the treatment of the Olympic flame by demonstrators in 2008, at the height of the public emotion over Tibet.  The state decorum, the public signature of contracts demonstrating a form of tribute diplomacy,  and most of all what was clearly deemed to be publicly unmentionable – human rights and its many declinations.  It all felt clearly somewhat awkward for the principals. So there was no background spin on the French side to put all of this in perspective with previous policies, just silence. And on the side of the visitors,

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Germany, the superpower which does not want to rule

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

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