Leading from the Center


BERLIN (Own report) - The Berlin office of an EU-wide think tank, is warning of how the "frustration over German dominance" is growing among EU member countries. Over the past ten years, the Federal Republic of Germany has become the EU's undisputed strongest power, according to a recent analysis of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). The "EU partners" must now "decide how to handle Germany's power." Some have expressed resentment; others have "centered their EU strategies around Germany," and look for "ways to influence Berlin's policy machinery." None of this leaves any doubt that "Germany's political class" continues to see the EU as "the best available framework for the articulation of its national interest." Whereas the ECFR's analysis concentrates its attention primarily on the political establishment of the other EU countries, the supplementary question to be raised in how to deal with German dominance is becoming increasingly urgent. Berlin is impelling the militarization of foreign policy as well as domestic surveillance and repression, measures, serving the preparation for war - a concern of everyone.

The German Question

As the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a think tank, with offices in seven EU capitals dedicated to questions of foreign policy, has confirmed in a recent analysis, over the last decade, Germany has completely taken on "its natural leadership role in the EU's economic and monetary affairs." This brings "the German question" - how the rest of Europe should deal with Germany's power - "back to the centre of the European project."[1] More recently, Berlin has also "taken a greater role in foreign and security policy." Berlin has "played a pivotal role" in responding to Europe's three "major foreign policy challenges of 2015" - the conflict in Ukraine, the latest eruption of the euro crisis in Greece, and the refugee crisis. Berlin's "leadership model" has, at times, appeared "unilateral," observes the ECFR analysis, which recommends that Berlin rather "lead from the center."

Frustration over German Dominance

In the summer 2015, the ECFR had conducted a survey of experts and policymakers across the EU member states focused on Germany's role within the EU. The survey indicated, according to the think tank, "that political elites in all states agree that Germany is the most influential member state." This view "was also shared" by German participants. Recently, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, Norbert Röttgen (CDU), confirmed in an interview in the media: "We must get used to the fact that we clearly have a leadership role in the EU."[2] At the same time, the ECFR notes, however, the question remains of whether "EU partners" think that German power benefits "the European interest as a whole." There is "another story about German power," - "the story of frustration over German dominance." The ECFR survey revealed that though governments across Europe state that they feel the need to engage with this crucial gatekeeper, they tend not to articulate their dissatisfaction about effects German power has had on their own influence within the EU.

German Interests

According to the analysis, there is no doubt about the EU's significance for German policies. "Germany's political class" continues to see the EU as "the best available framework for the articulation of its national interest," according to the ECFR paper. German experts concur with his assessment. "By itself," Germany is "too small to effect global policy changes," according to a summary made two years ago during a broad-based debate initiated by the Foreign Ministry in the leading journal of Germany's foreign policy establishment, "Internationale Politik." "Only when the [EU's, editor's note] member countries pull together in questions of integration and foreign policy, will Europe have the political clout that Germany [!] needs to achieve its [!] interests." Therefore, Berlin is "well advised to continue to politically invest in Europe."[3] This was recently confirmed by Röttgen: "Our interest is to ensure that Europe works."[4] Simultaneously, the ECFR notes that in spite of its focus on the EU, Berlin has begun taking a more pragmatic approach toward NATO. It is no longer insisting upon solutions being sought within the EU framework, which insure German predominance. Berlin is also prepared, when necessary, to resort to NATO resources, when more feasible. The recently launched NATO operation to ward off refugees demonstrates this.[5]

Understand Germany

Berlin's partners in the EU will have "to decide how to deal with Germany's strength," suggests the ECFR. German dominance will not go away any time soon, and it "will not be balanced in the ways it was before unification in 1990," when Germany was junior to France and constrained by its dependence on integration. But it is clear that a number of EU member states have started to centre "their EU strategies around Germany" and think about finding "better ways to influence Berlin's policy machinery," reports the think tank. "Europeans" are investing in "better understanding" and reading the German political elite, and governments, as well as actors in the worlds of finance, business, and the media, have beefed up their analysis of German policymaking and their presence in the country. In fact, contrary to the general trend, some media organs have recently increased the number of their correspondents in Germany.

War Preparations

Whereas the ECFR concentrates its attention on the political establishment of the EU member countries, the question of how to deal with German dominance has become more urgent even beyond political elites. Berlin is pursuing an openly heralded globalist policy, (german-foreign-policy.com reported [6]) a massive military and intelligence service buildup,[7] and is demanding the same of its "EU partners." "The objective must be a common European military," declared Germany's Minister of the Economy and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) in July.[8] Berlin is simultaneously preparing excessive defensive measures for the eventuality of war. Wednesday, a new "Concept of Civil Defense" was passed, which also includes a state of emergency constitution, (german-foreign-policy.com reported [9]) and calls for steps leading to a new height in domestic surveillance and repression throughout the EU. Tuesday, Germany's Minister of the Interior and his French counterpart presented a paper, calling for an increase in domestic surveillance and repression. It prescribes not only "intensification of exterior border controls," but even an "entry and departure index," wherein even citizens of EU member countries will be systematically registered every time they cross a border. A "European identity management" should be established, to comprehensively network the "international border and security systems." Cooperation in police work will be reinforced, networking of intelligence services expanded [10] - proposals, when taken together, point toward preparation for war, which is a concern for not only the political elite, but everyone.

[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden: Josef Janning, Almut Möller: Leading from the Centre: Germany's New Role in Europe. ECFR Policy Brief, July 2016.
[2] Norbert Röttgen (CDU): "Deutschland hat klare Führungsrolle in der EU". www.presseportal.de 30.06.2016.
[3] Annegret Bendiek: Abschied von der Juniorpartnerschaft. Für mehr deutsche Führung in und durch Europa. Internationale Politik September/Oktober 2014. See Leadership In and With Europe.
[4] Norbert Röttgen (CDU): "Deutschland hat klare Führungsrolle in der EU". www.presseportal.de 30.06.2016.
[5] See NATO-Einsatz gegen Flüchtlinge.
[6] See The European War Union and Deutschlands globaler Horizont (I).
[7] See Auf Weltmachtniveau and Das neue Direktorium.
[8] Sigmar Gabriel: Egoismus macht Europa kaputt. www.noz.de 02.07.2016.
[9] See Zivile Kriegsvorbereitung.
[10] Ein Beitrag zur Erhöhung der inneren Sicherheit in Europa. www.bmi.bund.de 23.08.2016.