Germany and the EU: Motive Power or Hegemonic Risk?

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-7-24-32
University of Pisa, Via Filippo Serafini, 3, Pisa, 56126, Italy;
Moscow State Institute of International Relations, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (MGIMO University), 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation.

Received 18.10.2021. Revised 04.03.2022. Accepted 29.04.2022.

Abstract. The German position has played a central role in the European integration process from the earliest stages – both in the sense of strengthening and deepening integration and, especially after the adoption of the single currency, in that of imposing a particularly rigid economic and financial paradigm, while being accused by some member states of pursuing a hegemonic design that could even lead to a serious crisis in the Union. A heated debate has developed on this interpretation, not lacking in political polemics, which calls for a more in-depth assessment of the determinants of Bonn’s and then Berlin’s European policy, of the relationship between the choices considering integration and general lines of the German foreign policy as they develop. In addition, the theme of Reunification and, in parallel, of national identity, that have decisively conditioned the life of post‑1945 Germany, is crucial. In particular, it is interesting to note how Bonn made Western anchorage, both in the transatlantic and EU spheres, some of the cornerstones of its system, while at the same time, skilfully exploiting these choices to regain a place on the international scene. With reunification of 1990, Germany regained full sovereignty and tenaciously worked to assert its role as the continent’s Zentralmacht (central power) – a role that has been characteristic of the Germanic world since the Holy Roman Empire. This determination, albeit in different tones and colours, has seen substantial continuity between the CDU/CSU, the Social Democrats and Greens, and then with the “Gro.e Koalitionen” led by Angela Merkel. “Extraordinary responsibility”, “pivot”, “engine”, “vanguard”, “centre of gravity” are the different definitions that chancellors and foreign ministers have used in the last 30 years to define Berlin’s role within the European Union. Different expressions, but always intended to emphasise a special position and declined in such a way as to be useful to Germany’s “Vitalinteressen”, whether it was a question of the enlargement of the Union, its legal structure, the principle of subsidiarity or the creation of monetary union. It resulted, though not without contradictions, in a shift from the idea of “europaisches Deutschland” (European Germany) to that of “europaisches Deutschland in einem deutschen Europa” (European Germany in a German Europe). This contribution is devoted to the historical and political dynamics of this development.

Keywords: Germany, German Foreign Policy, European Integration, Reunification, German Question


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For citation:
Giannotti A. Germany and the EU: Motive Power or Hegemonic Risk?. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, No 7, pp. 24-32.

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