Taking a Look at Germany’s Current Role in the EU

My name is Otilia Palea and I am 17 years old. I am an undergraduate student at the University of St Andrews where I have just finished my 1st year. I am currently studying International Relations and Economics, a thrilling degree programme which I am eager to get through. I have chosen this degree programme because of its complexity and the large array of topics that it covers. I believe it is the duty of those well-informed and educated to help make a difference and bring justice to those less advantaged. That being said, I believe that as an International Relations and Economics student I will be able to apply my knowledge, expertise and understanding in shaping my and the future of the people around me by the best possible standards. As the wise Gandhi said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Moldova / Scotland | June 27, 2020 | Student Essay

Being one of the first pioneers of unification, Germany has always adopted a significant role in the European Union; a role transcended across both economic and political discussions. Germany’s position on certain areas of EU policy and its course of action has undeniably received both commendation and critique. Nevertheless, a deeper look at Germany’s current role within the EU will help one realize the crucialness of this actor for such an organization, and start the discussion of whether Germany is able to take upon a hegemonial role in the European Union in the future.

Germany’s vast economic capacity is a well-established truth, which has unambiguously helped the country advance through the “ranks” of the European Union. Having the status of the biggest economy in Europe, Germany enjoys a dominant position over EU’s economic affairs, considering that the country is the possessor of the biggest share of European financial resources. This led to Germany being repeatedly recorded as the largest net contributor to EU’s budget, a staggering €12.8bn as of 2017 compared to the 2nd largest net contributor, UK, of €7.43bn (slightly more than half of Germany’s contributions).

Germany’s considerably larger input towards securing EU’s financial stability, has unsurprisingly positioned the country at the forefront of all economic discussions, providing Germany with an influential seat in the European Monetary Union (EMU). Such powerful standing in the EMU has enabled Germany to undertake a leading role in EU’s economic development, on both an individual-member-states level as well as a collective organisation. It remains then only natural that some refer to Germany as “the leader of the Eurozone ‘empire’”. An ambitious affirmation, but which nonetheless can be validated if one thoroughly analyses Germany’s economic efforts towards the EU; an analysis which creates the picture of Germany being an indispensable financial tool for the expansion of the European Union, firmly legitimizing its pivotal role in this organisation.

Germany’s strong financial role has attracted a lot of international recognition, with many states openly recognising Germany as EU’s most solid stability factor. That is why the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, has urged the German chancellor and the German state as a whole to undertake a leading role in the EU, expanding across international as well as internal frontiers. While Obama’s proposition can be by all means analysed under a strategic pretext, it can be argued that the former president has indeed possessed the strong conviction of Germany being the only natural candidate to assume the bigger, more hegemonial role in the European Union.

Germany’s reputable name is echoed amongst its fellow European colleagues also. A survey conducted by the ECFR in the summer of 2015, concluded that political establishments across the EU member states agreed that Germany is the most influential member of the European Union. Considering Germany’s front seat in economic debates and its traditional imposing leverage over agenda-setting, the survey’s results are at most impressive while generally very predictable. With such prominent notoriety, recognized both locally and abroad, Germany can justly assume a critical role in the EU, a role which will only further expand its economic and political dominance.

Despite Germany’s clear strengths mentioned above, there remains some criticism in regard to the eligibility of Germany assuming the leading role in the European Union. When discussing Germany’s power within the EU, nobody fails to mention its economic assets, but some also boldly point out its military restraint. While this limitation can be associated with Germany’s efforts of obliterating war initiatives from its agenda, considering their predominance in the country’s past, some states remain largely displeased with Germany’s lessened military involvement; as it was the case with the US-led Iraq war where Germany opposed the movement and consequently generated outrage in the American capital.      

Germany’s military stance, although stoic, has been however prone to change and reformation, exemplified by its engagement in Kosovo and Afghanistan; Germany involved itself in the conflict with the scope of protecting Europe’s stability (as well as its alliance with the US). This reason, along with the country’s compromise to change despite its principles, for the sake of the European Union, only highlights Germany’s altruistic motives and instinct leading capacity, which although the country’s leaders are eager to deny, represents an attribute which Germany must accept and employ in its daily policies within the EU.  

Regardless of Germany’s denial of its leading role within the EU, circumstances have forced the country into assuming a central role, even closer relating Germany’s fate with that of the EU. The leadership portrayed thereafter has been recognized as fractured, with Germany showing no attempt of leadership, a failed attempt or a successful attempt, each category providing extensive case studies. Although one can’t disregard Germany’s inconsistent record as the leader within the EU, it should be noted that when Germany did effectively assume such role, its performance gained worldwide praise; illustrated by the country’s reaction to the 2008 financial crisis, where Germany has largely promoted initiatives for effectively managing the situation. This example validates Germany’s strong capacity to lead, even further extended during the time of a serious emergency when the whole of the EU is affected in real terms.

This article has by no means aimed to cover the whole array of German capabilities and inabilities that certify or disapprove its leading capacity within the EU, it only pointed out some discussion points worthy of analysing when debating Germany’s possible hegemonial role in the European Union. Looking forward, an official appointment of Germany as the leading nation within the EU might encourage the country to reassess its strategies within the organisation, and perhaps focus on stabilising its leading record, that is, having mostly successful attempts rather than the former 2 categories.

Germany has all the potential and attributes to assume a central role in the EU, the only thing it needs being the conviction, determination and motivation of its own leaders to undertake this leading role in the EU.

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