In Germany, defence and military policy is rarely a subject of great interest to the general public. The pacifist mainstream view and the “friendly disinterest” in the Bundeswehr means that military matters are seldom discussed in detail by the general media.
At last: Leading German politicians, first and foremost the Federal President Joachim Gauck, are setting the tone for a more engaged and higher-profile German foreign policy.
In his well-received – perhaps historic – speech at the opening of the Munich Security Conference President Gauck called for Germany to play a more responsible role in the international community – commensurate with its economic standing and political influence in the world.
Even more remarkable is that it is a well-coordinated approach by the German government and not simply a Sunday’s address by a figure-head President devoid of any legislative powers.
PARIS – While Europe’s citizens largely support the establishment of a common security and defense policy, most European leaders have demonstrated a clear lack of interest in creating one – including at last month’s European Council meeting. What accounts for this paradox?
One possible explanation is that financially strained European governments lack the means to fulfill their citizens’ expectations. But that is unconvincing, given that the issue was framed in almost identical terms three decades ago, when budgetary constraints were not a problem. In fact, it could be argued that such constraints should spur, not impede, the creation of a European defense structure. After all, member countries would then be able to pool their resources, harmonize programs, and rationalize costs, thereby reducing individual governments’ financial burden.
Another, far more credible explanation is that Europeans’ interpretations of “a more active and stronger security policy” differ widely. Indeed, current discussions in Europe concerning the use of force are dominated by three main perspectives, championed by France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
After two months of haggling, a final coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and the SPD has been hammered out. The 185 page- document is with the title “Shaping Germany’s future” is supposed to set the tone for Germany’s new ‘grand coalition’ (in Germany the coalition is also known as GroKo which stands for Große Koalition). However, the deal sends a clear message: Merkel still holds the reigns and we are not about to witness a volte-face in German policies on Europe and foreign affairs.
The broad consensus established in the coalition agreement means that there is little sign of major innovation or a drastic change in direction in terms of European and foreign policy. On one hand, this can be seen as uninspired as the incoming German government demonstrates no real ambition for leadership in European and international affairs – with the notable exception of the euro crisis. On the other hand, as long as nobody moves, nobody gets hurt; Germany remains a reliable and unobtrusive partner in the world.
In a recent article, Alexander Reisenbichler and Kimberly J. Morgen argue that ‘Germany won the Euro Crisis’[i]. I doubt that any country can be the winner of a major economic crisis, especially if we are talking about an exporting nation. Of course Germany does benefit from some economic developments of the current Euro Crisis–in particular the low interest rates for German government bonds which reduce public spendings for interets payments on public debt. However, as an exporting nation, Germany depends on stable economic conditions in Europe. Thus a sluggish economic situation in several European economies has a negative impact on German exports and thereby on Germany’s real domestic product (GDP) and labour market. Hence I would argue that Germany benefits from the Euro, not from the Euro Crisis.