Waiting for Germany’s European Choices
The election of the 18th German Bundestag has attracted more international interest than ever. Virtually no previous German parliamentary election has been watched in Europe like this one.
Merkel’s European and Foreign Policy Legacy on the Eve of the German Elections: European Hegemon or Global Player?
It is not easy to judge German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s European and foreign policy, as the picture is varied after nearly eight years in power. Outside of Germany, Merkel has been consistently and repeatedly blamed for a “too little too late” attitude during the euro crisis and for her tough course of austerity, especially by the Anglo-Saxon press and in Southern European countries. In Germany, however, a large number of people, 70%, approve of her crisis management and admire her for guiding Germany with a tranquil hand quite well through the crisis.
Germany’s Russia Policy under Angela Merkel: A Balance Sheet
Germany’s Russia policy is in flux. In the past, Germany has always been an advocate of Russian interests in the European Union and a strategic partner in energy and economic cooperation. Over the last few years, though, we have observed increasing misunderstandings in bilateral relations, with both sides speaking about the same topics but having different priorities and interests.
From One Electoral Campaign to Another: Franco-German Relations in Turbulent Times
Due not only to its importance but also to the place it leaves to symbolic politics, the Franco-German relationship is often described through emotions and in a Manichaean way, alternating between a description of two close friends and a nearly divorced couple. What is the current state of the Franco-German relationship regarding its old history and what are the new factors determining it? To what extent has the window of opportunity constituted by the Élysée Treaty been affected by the national and European contexts? What are its perspectives?
Germany’s Role and Strategy in the Euro Area—Determining Factors and Scenarios
Three years into the new debate on Germany in Europe, many questions remain to be settled. This article seeks to contribute to this ongoing reflection by first discussing Germany’s approaches to the management of the sovereign debt crisis and to governance reform in the euro area in order to highlight the underlying strategy, its preferences and the driving forces behind them. Second, it seeks to demystify the debate on Germany’s hegemonic strength in Europe by investigating its evolving power base. Finally, the article gives an outlook on possible upcoming challenges that German and European leaders will be facing with regard to European integration.
Marek A. Cichocki
German Policies Vis-a-Vis Baltic Sea Region Challenges
The policies pursued by Berlin have been increasingly focused on the Baltic Sea region, particularly in recent years. The reasons underlying such a state of affairs include the obvious interests of the Baltic coast, northern Länder of the Federal Republic—Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg and Hamburg—whose role and importance in the formation of pan-German policies have been clearly growing since the reunification of Germany. This has been clearly demonstrated by the involvement of the federal government to the benefit of the shipyard industry, development of port and transport infrastructure, as well as a comprehensive approach to social and economic development of the German coast along the Baltic.
Germany’s Foreign and Security Policy in the Western Balkans under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Leadership: Current Situation and Prospects
One is forced to wonder about Germany’s current motives and its future involvement in the Western Balkan under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership. In this context, the article aims to analyse the instruments of German involvement in the region under the government of the Grand Coalition of CDU/CSU-SPD and the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition of 2005–2013.
In Russia, It Is Deja-vu All Over Again: How Russians Fell Back in Love with the KGB and Stalin
Robert Kupiecki: Siła i solidarność. Strategia NATO 1949–1989 (Strength and Solidarity: NATO Strategy 1949–1989)
Alejandra Álvarez, Kinga Brudzińska
Gustavo A. Flores-Macías: After Neoliberalism? The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin America
PISM Director Marcin Zaborowski Interviews Lee A. Feinstein, former U.S. Ambassador to Poland
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Editor-in-chief: Marcin Zaborowski
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Cover design: Malwina Kühn
Typeset: Dorota Dołęgowska
Ryszarda Formuszewicz–analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs
Ulrike Guérot–representative for Germany and Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council for
Stefan Meister–programme officer at the Center for Central and Eastern Europe, German Council of Foreign Relations (DGAP)
Yann-Sven Rittelmeyer–research fellow at Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI) Daniela Schwarzer–Fritz Thyssen Fellow, Program on Transatlantic Relations; Head of Division, EU Integration, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin Marek A. Cichocki–research director at Natolin European Centre and editor-in-chief of the periodical “New Europe. Natolin Review”
Patrycja Sokołowska–adviser to the Secretary of State at the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister for International Dialogue, Chancellery of the Prime Minister
Publisher: Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych (The Polish Institute of International Affairs) ul. Warecka 1a, 00-950 Warszawa; tel. +48 22 556 80 00; fax +48 22 556 80 99; e-mail: email@example.com
The views expressed in The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs are solely those of the authors.
The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs is regularly presented in the catalogue of International Current Awareness Services, in Ulrich’s International Periodical Directory, and in International Political Science Abstracts/Documentation Politique Internationale. Selected articles are included in the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences.
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I want Germany to assume its leadership role in Europe.
I want Germany to contribute to the unity of Europe and not its division.
Angela Merkel in her speech “Quo Vadis, Germany?” on the Anniversary of Reunification in 20031
A decade ago, when Germany was the “sick man of Europe,” an ambitious opposition leader gave one of her most important speeches, asking in lofty tones “Quo vadis, Germany?” During the euro crisis, this question has been directed back to Angela Merkel from all across Europe. In the intervening years, Germany has been raised to the position of top EU economy and a political powerhouse, so the definition of Germany’s role in Europe has again become crucial.
The eurozone turmoil has left its mark on Merkel’s second term as chancellor and her first as head of a black-yellow government. Yet it was not the first time for Merkel at the helm of a Europe struggling with a crisis. When Germany held the rotating EU presidency in 2007 during her first term, this time with a grand coalition, Merkel struck a deal overcoming the bloc’s reform deadlock and paving the way for the Lisbon Treaty. On that occasion, German leadership was based on a formal European mandate and it earned a broadly positive verdict. The situation in 2013 could hardly be more different – turbulence in the eurozone has exposed contradictions in the German attitude towards the European Union and the future of European integration. The pressure from partners expecting a commitment to joint action and solidarity has clashed with Germany’s economic interests. As a result, the joint European strategy to overcome the crisis is being forged only with much hesitation and numerous delays. The constant wait for Germany’s next move has become the leitmotif of Europe’s attempts to overcome its current difficulties.
Against this backdrop, the election of the 18th German Bundestag has attracted more international interest than ever. Virtually no previous German parliamentary election has been watched in Europe like this one. The German electorate’s choices about Europe as well as the effects of European influences on the country’s political processes are most clearly evidenced in the selfimposed quiet of the once omnipresent discussion on the management of the crisis and its impact on the economic condition of the eurozone and its prospects. While waiting for the German voters’ decision, various expectations have been raised and political calculations made. These are based on the assumption that once the elections are held, the government in Berlin will be free to take new steps to resolve the crisis. Question marks hover over the country’s strategic intentions as to the future of the European Union and the resolution of the euro crisis. Pundits ask how the composition of the future coalition will influence further steps towards European integration and solidarity.
Nevertheless, those who expected a deep electoral debate on the leading role of Germany may feel disappointed. Admittedly, the Federal Government has made some efforts to improve the diminished reputation both at home and abroad. Merkel hosted a high-level conference in Berlin devoted to the reduction of youth unemployment, an issue particularly important to Southern Europe where the high rate of young people without work is ascribed to an austerity course imposed by Germany. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble went to Greece, where he is something of a hate figure, to “express German confidence and support” for the crisis-hit country. Generally though, Europe has not become a prominent topic of the campaign.
The simple fact is that the main political forces are not truly interested in competing over European issues. The CDU’s focus remains on the personality of Chancellor Merkel, who enjoys high support despite her eight years in power. This popularity owes much to her sticking by her principles in dealing with the eurozone debt crisis, including by pressing indebted eurozone members to carry out austerity measures as well as resisting radical proposals such as Eurobonds. However, campaigning on those same European issues could highlight the differences in opinion within the ruling coalition and remind voters of so-called red lines that were later crossed. The liberal coalition partner, FDP, gained little by instrumentalising European issues in the election campaign in Berlin in September 2011. Furthermore, the two governing parties want to avoid a discussion of the real costs of the crisis.
Meanwhile, the SPD is reluctant to present a clear and convincing alternative to the government’s strategy. The Social Democrats cannot properly distance themselves from the government’s course on crisis management without risking their own credibility. The SPD, after all, has given Merkel formal approval for all of the related measures voted in the Bundestag to date. Campaigning on domestic topics (social justice, tax, social security, criticism of costly electoral promises made by the CDU) or using the revelations about bugging by the NSA, the American spy agency, are more promising tactics partly because of the electorate’s assessment of the parties’ expertise in dealing with the euro crisis. Of all respondents in a recent poll, 45% attribute the best competence in this area to the Christian Democrats and the chancellor, while only 14% cite the SPD, despite the professional profile and experience of the main candidate, Peer Steinbrück.2
The decisive reason for minimising the European component during the electoral campaign, however, is probably the newly-founded anti-euro party called, provocatively, Alternatives for Germany (AfD) – a clear allusion to the “there-is-no-alternative” justification of the government’s crisis management. In its unusually short election manifesto, this newcomer to the German political scene advocates an orderly dissolution of the eurozone. The party’s founding meeting was held in mid-April in Berlin and enjoyed significant public attention and wide media coverage, which lasted for a while but has now visibly decreased. The relative publicity success at the start came because of two important amplifiers: the Cyprus bailout and the publication afterwards of an ECB survey on the wealth of European households, which showed German households were amongst the poorest. Both issues provided fuel for heated discussions about burden-sharing during the euro crisis and played into the hands of the AfD. In the meantime though, the novelty-appeal has depleted and the anti-European sentiment in the German society has proved to be insufficient. Having lost momentum, the new party hovers at around 2-3%, far below the 5% threshold for the Bundestag. The containment tactic adopted by the mainstream parties – worried about the swing voter risk–seems to have worked well.
Europe in Election Manifestos
The political manifestos of the German parties offered no surprises as far as European policy is concerned. They keep to familiar paths and reconfirm present stances. Yet, even if the main parties toned down their treatment of European issues, that does not mean that the opportunity to uphold their own pro-European image was wasted, in particular by labelling themselves as “European parties.” The CDU and CSU put a commitment to Europe and the euro at the beginning of their manifesto.3 The programme for European policy, however, delivers nothing more than confirmation of current policy. What is recognisable is the reluctance to red lines–evidence of lessons learnt after many were previously announced then subsequently abandoned. That said, an exception is made in the case of Eurobonds and also in the rejection of a common European banking deposit guarantee scheme as part of a banking union. The two parties say that supervision by the European Central Bank should be limited to large, systemically-important banks, and demand that individual Member States and the European Commission must agree on a pact on competitiveness. A more detailed concept of European policy, in particular as to the vision of a future political union, will be presented by the CDU and CSU later in the run-up to the election to the European Parliament.
The current coalition partner, the FDP, though this time not clearly the Christian Democrats’ preferred partner unlike in 2009, would secure the stability of the EU via sanctions for excessive national debt.4 The Liberal manifesto gave a clear “no” to Eurobonds and to a redemption fund for old debts, while the European Stability Mechanism is treated as a temporary solution. The party suggests that rules for state insolvency should be elaborated, advocates a strict separation of the ECB’s functions in monetary policy and supervision, and is against a common European banking-deposit guarantee scheme and the single-resolution mechanism. The Liberals also maintain their opposition to European taxes. As far as the EU’s institutional framework is concerned, the FPD advocates for a smaller but more efficient European Commission and foresees a federation that should be legitimised by a Europe-wide referendum and come equipped with two parliamentary houses in the form of the EP and the Council. The Liberals call for a court to decide if the subsidiarity principle has been observed.
Committed to a “Social Europe,” the Social Democrats criticise the government programme for an austerity-driven course in the crisis management of the eurozone that puts democracy at risk.5 The party advocates boosting growth and increasing social spending. Eurobonds are not mentioned but the SPD supports a European debt fund and proposes “project bonds” to finance common European investments. Banks would still be held at gunpoint and should pay more in the event of future crises. The resolution fund and authority should be financed by a bank levy, according to the SPD manifesto, and ECB supervision would be only a temporary solution–creating a separate institution is a better option. The Social Democrats support greater harmonisation of European labour, economic, financial, tax and investment policies. With reference to the EU’s institutional framework, meanwhile, the SPD calls for the full parliamentarisation of the EU and for European economic government. The SPD considers, as do The Greens–a potential SPD and CDU coalition partner–the possibility to repatriate powers from the EU back to the Member States.
Clearly pro-European, The Greens is the only party that explicitly mentions Eurobonds as well as the debt redemption fund, which it advocates despite the critical stance of the German electorate.6 One should bear in mind, however, that support for the common currency is highest amongst voters of this party. The Greens want the ECB to be democratically accountable and they would like to see a true banking union. The manifesto points at the need for the establishment of an independent ratings agency as well as the introduction of state-insolvency rules. The separation of commercial and investment banking is demanded as alongside a “debt brake” for banks. The party also advocates a “tax pact” and wants to see the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs become the Eurogroup chief. Furthermore, in relation to the further integration process, the party calls for a European convention with the participation of representatives of civil society and social partners, and for Europe-wide referendums.
Reconsidering the Value of European Integration
The political challenges of euro stabilisation with an increasing need for public backing as well as calls for the introduction of referendums in Germany (which are now legally limited on the federal level to changes of the constitution or of state territory) put the spotlight more and more on the popular attitudes to the “European project” in Germany. A positive side effect of the euro crisis has been increased popular interest in European issues, reflected by wider media coverage in particular of hotbeds of crisis that have appeared, starting with Greece. The public’s rather critical stance at first influenced the readiness of Merkel’s government to engage in crisis management. German society has undergone a surprising evolution in attitude about the EU in recent years, as proven by surveys by the Allensbach Institute.7 Since 2002, when 49% of respondents declared a high degree of trust in the EU, the mood has continuously dropped to reach 24% in 2011. From that moment, however, the number of Germans trusting the EU rose again and reached 33% in 2013–the same as in 2007. The number of those who distrust the EU increased to 68% in 2011 but dropped in 2013 to 60%. This shift within German society can be illustrated even better by survey results concerning the former German currency, the Deutschmark. The number of those who would prefer the old currency has since 2002 (when it was 54% of respondents) constantly exceeded the level of support for the euro. However, in 2011 a turning point was reached with an even split of 44% each way. In 2013, the number of respondents saying they favoured the euro rose to 50%, compared to the 35% nostalgic for the old currency. One could further paraphrase the question asked by Merkel in her speech in 2003: what would Germany be missing if Europe had not been united? According to the Eurobarometer survey, if asked about the most positive result of the European Union, 71% of German respondents point at peace among the Member States (the EU average is 50%), followed by the free movement of people, goods and services within the EU with 62% (EU average, 52%) and in third, the euro with 38% (EU average, 25%).8
The changing social attitude to the European project has been interpreted as a result of the euro crisis and a new clarity about how much is at stake. Nevertheless, German public sentiment differs fundamentally from the rest of Europe. According to a Pew Research Center survey of eight European Union nations, Germans feel better than other respondents about the current state of the economy (by 66 points over the EU median), about prospects for the economy (by 12 points), about the European Union (by 17 points), about the impact of European integration (by 28 points) and finally about their own leadership (by 48 points).9 This perception gap could significantly influence the next important vote–the election to the European Parliament in May 2014.
Introductory Remarks and Basic Questions
It is not easy to judge German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s European and foreign policy, as the picture is varied after nearly eight years in power. Outside of Germany, Merkel has been consistently and repeatedly blamed for a “too little too late” attitude during the euro crisis and for her tough course of austerity, especially by the Anglo-Saxon press and in Southern European countries. In Germany, however, a large number of people, 70%, approve of her crisis management and admire her for guiding Germany with a tranquil hand quite well through the crisis.11 Interestingly enough, in eight of all European countries, Merkel ranks first in popularity.12 Among many European leaders and countries, on the other hand, she is both feared and disliked. Merkel herself is (still) a mystery to many. German European and foreign policy is another mystery. “Is there any?” could be the first question. If there is one, it is one of the chancellery and not of the foreign ministry which has not been in the driving seat for German European policy in recent years.13
One of the most often heard criticisms is that Merkel is a pragmatic person driven only and exclusively by the desire to maintain her power. In May 2010 she postponed a safety-package for Greece–risking the unravelling of the euro – because of elections in the Federal State of North-Rhine-Westphalia. Only a year later, this time because of elections in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, she made Germany abstain from joining the West when it came time to vote in the United Nations Security Council on Resolution 1973 on Libya. This decision is probably the German foreign policy choice in recent years that has triggered the most possible astonishment, if not even anger in the Western world, especially the U.S.14 Germany had become unreliable and was in a normative way sort of no longer part of the West. Germany as a BRIC was the question of the moment.15 New German provincialism was another way to look at it.16 Whereas in the whole Cold War era, foreign policy was basically structuring German domestic policy, German domestic policy has–since reunification in 1989–been structuring German foreign policy. This is in total contrast to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s or 1980s, when questions related to The Stalin Note, Westbindung (anchorage to the West), Elysée-Treaty, the Basic Treaty from 1972, Pershing missile deployment, etc., structured and dominated not only elections, but made chancellors fall or retire (remember the defeat of Helmut Schmidt in his own party, when defending the U.S. Pershing missile deployment in 1982?). Today the whole of Europe lives in the rhythm of German regional elections and priorities and all eyes will be turned to Germany in September 2013 for its general elections–but Germany seems no longer that much disturbed by what is happening in the outside world. In short, Germany feels empty of European or global strategy and thus, has in a way not only an unambitious foreign policy but also no clear strategy or global German narrative or story detectable nor does its citizens. What today’s Germany stands for in the world is less clear today than during the Cold War and before 1989. Obviously, this impression is reinvigorated by the global trend of institutional breakdown or meltdown touching all international institutions, from NATO to WTO, that leaves a huge normative political vacuum in foreign policy and international relations, and which is an expression for the current global shift from geostrategy to geo-economic and the loss of primacy of politics and strategy in foreign relations.
As a consequence, Germany visibly seems to have, to a large extent, replaced foreign policy with trade policy, if not trade alone (without policy). The relationship goes where German exports goes (especially to China), whereas before 1989 one paradigm of German foreign policy was that the most important trade partners should also be the best strategic allies and vice-versa.17 Thus, the strong German economic power and weight in the world today has no clear normative binding that would be recognisable to its partners, nor does the third largest economy in the world have any universal goals to which it would dedicate this economic strength.18 The dream behind is the one of a “big Switzerland,” a country that wants business (including an increasingly criticised arms business that ranks Germany the third biggest arms exporter worldwide) without engagement, that wants to be loved and admired for its wonderful cars and engineering machines, that does not harm anybody and that would love to, as the German saying goes, “in-Ruhe-gelassen-werden” (“to be left in peace”). No, Germany does not want to govern Europe, nor to rule the world. With respect to Europe, it only would love everybody to obey the rules; and in the world, it would love to take second place, best in each domain but without being ultimately responsible. The real problem today is that Germany is too big and too important for such a “Swiss dream.” The country’s elite are slowly coming to grasp its core difficulty: Germany has a problem with power as it has been taught for five postwar decades that it better refrain from power, strategy, and above all, use of its military. Germany is today thus dealing with a hegemony problem in Europe, produced by the euro crisis, and its increasing importance that it did not ask for and that comes to its own surprise–and which it cannot handle. Neither its elites nor its citizens are accustomed to this new focus on Germany; they both need to get acquainted. There is an obvious lack of a strategic community in Germany that would combine the economic weight of the country together with a global vision.
This is precisely why German foreign policy today seems at best random and in search of a strategy. There are arms sales (Saudi Arabia)19 but no military engagement (Libya, Mali). There is German participation in the EU mission to fight piracy near the Horn of Africa (EUCAP Nestor)20 and protecting trade ships, but in 2010 German President Horst Köhler had to retire because he said that it was in the interest of Germany to defend trade routes in the Far East.21
The hesitation to deal in a natural way with power, including military power, has obvious historical reasons. The derailment, the German hubris in its use of power in the 20th century and the nightmare this caused for the entire continent has created for five decades a “culture of reserve” (“eine Kultur der Zurückhaltung”). In other words, Germany has been taught, mainly by the U.S., to stay away from power, away from the use of military forces and away from leading. Germany has been taught to keep strategy out of its vocabulary. The problem is that many in Europe today expect leadership from Germany, as Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski expressed in his powerful speech in November 2011: “I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear its inactivity.”22 Who could have imagined half a century ago this coming from the mouth of a Pole?
Needless to say that what is happening–or has already happened–during the Merkel era is that Germany, under both the influence of unification and the influence of globalisation, has grown out of its two key foreign policy paradigms of 1949 and 1989, Yalta and Maastricht, because the country, Europe and the world have changed so much. After being tempted in recent months and years to go global alone,23 the choice Germany faces on the eve of its federal elections is either to definitely wind itself out of these institutional and normative determinations from the past and define a global strategy for itself or roll back from unilateral global ambitions and readjust its relationship with Europe on a more serious basis by opting for (small, but) definite steps towards more economic, fiscal and political integration, and by the same token, reconfirming its relationship with the U.S. This would most prominently be launched through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which has just been announced,24 in order to reinvigorate the West and to make it fit for a globalised and multipolar world. This article will argue that the latter option is the one the German strategy is now taking. To formulate it in a more subtle way: Germany will again go vigorously with Europe and the U.S. but on its own terms and without renouncing the world. The foreign and European policy of Germany today is more an add-on policy than an alternative approach. It is Europe, the West and the World. Do the one, but do not leave out the other.
Germany and Europe First
1. Merkel’s first term 2005-2009: a growing nation, a vanishing European dream. Merkel’s European and foreign policy obviously needs to be divided into two phases, before and after the euro crisis as it is the most important game changer to German European policy. Her two legislative periods are thus pretty distinct. Although alarms were sounding for a while, few predicted the outbreak of the financial and euro crises, which dramatically changed the European project and Germany’s role in it after 2008-2009. But even before then, though in a much more subtle way, things had changed earlier in Germany than was noticed.
It is fair to argue that reunification–we need to go back up a second to this moment – changed Germany in a lasting way, and Merkel’s changes in foreign policy need to be read against this backdrop. Without going too deep into sociological details, reunification changed the political elites: in the legislative period 2009-2013, only 72 of the 620 Federal MPs had been in parliament before 1989. This means that only a few deputies possessed the institutional memory of the former pre-reunification Federal Republic. This triggered a loss of historical memory among those who entered politics after 1989 (the so called “Generation ’89”), including the loss of the former foreign policy paradigms. These paradigms, which had applied for four decades, consisted of the idea that transatlantic relations and European relations are two sides of the same coin. In the early years, around 2000, they questioned whether they had more sympathy with the U.S. or with Russia, and German citizens provided a result of nearly 50:50.25
Fast forward to the events of 9/11 and after, which also left a mark on Germans who had lost their instinctive alignment with the old American ally–the young generation did not know why it had to be transatlantic and, thus, pro-Bush Junior26 in the first place. Germany would lose its intuition about its role in partnerships, alliances and institutions, which had become debatable. The same thing happened to the EU, and this largely before the euro crisis.
The “normalisation” discussion launched by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 1998 affected the way a united Germany thought and discussed Europe.27 To become a “normal” country in Europe became the German dream, and it meant defending the national interest (whatever that was). Enlargement and the talks about the Turkish entry of 2004 were the next step in Germans’ alienation with the European project before Merkel stepped in. When she took over in September 2005, the French and Dutch had just voted against the European constitution (May 2005), and Germany was sort of left alone with its ambitions for Europe, if it still had any. None of this really happened on purpose or through clear decisions. There was no turnaround in European policy. It was just a situation in which nobody would hold the strings of the project and the Franco-German tandem from then started to be defective.
In fact, France started around 2006/7 to lag Germany in economic performance. Germany was finally back to a 3%-deficit line in 2008, despite the costs of unification, whereas France’s deficit had even increased to some 8%.28 This economic gap impacted the symmetry, and thus the political power of the tandem for Europe. The tandem started to quarrel and to compete on such things as the Mediterranean Union, the French reply to the Eastern Partnership, or on French reintegration into the military structure of NATO–France wanted to outperform Germany as the most important junior ally on the European continent.29
While the traditional Franco-German contentment and European affiliations were vanishing, more by default than on purpose, a German dream came true: a 3rd place finish in the 2006 World Cup. It was a breakthrough for a new, however innocent and not politically driven national feeling. For the first time since 1949, German flags were covering German streets and houses. In 2010, the young singer Lena won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Satellite,” reaching a big international audience.
Thus, already around 2006 Europe was far away from Germany, politically as much as emotionally. This happened much before the international community wrote and thought that Germany was going global alone.30 Germany had built a national identity on unification as it was about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.31 This new identity was an innocent one. It had no political mastermind hidden behind it, no political ambitions, no intellectual framing, let alone the ambition to lead. It was just feelgood nationalism, underpinned by national campaigns such as “Land der Ideen” (“Country of Ideas”) or “Ich bin Deutschland, weil…” (“I am Germany, because…”). Retrospectively, these were honeymoon years for Germany.
To be fair, Germany did, without emotions or noise, what was very necessary for the EU to avoid creeping disintegration: a few months after stepping into power, Merkel fixed the EU budget in December 2005 to the amazement of many. She came up with a compromise on the Lisbon Treaty in 2006 that allowed a “yes” vote in a second Irish referendum and a validation of the reform treaty in 2007. It was a European obligation, though, and not a cure. The Lisbon Treaty, despite long-awaited reforms, remained underperforming for years – even though the European External Action Service (EEAS) had been launched, a real Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) did not leave the ground.
Only three European missions were launched between 2008 and 2011, in comparison to about 20 between 2003 and 2008.32
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