Germany – a post-modern Cinderella?

A few days ago, Germany (well most of it) celebrated 25 years of unification. In 1990, the former East-German GDR was incorporated into the West-German Bundesrepubik (FRG). A national spring was promised, however a lot of investment a troubles lay ahead.

Externally, German regained its full sovereignty in a period where global flows were superseding sovereignty more and more. But, after a quarter of a century of growing into a new role, it appears Germany is now being viewed differently. In the Eurocrisis, Germany played the roles of the older brother and the villain. In the refugee crisis, it took a lead as well, without really knowing where to go. Since 1990, German troops were deployed abroad for the first time post-WW2. Despite this, it resisted agreeing with military actions against Iraq and Libya. In the 5 + 1 (or 3 + 3) format, Germany was part of the possibly successful Vienna agreement on Iran, and it also inspired the Normandy format, achieving a Minsk agreement (however shaky) on regulating the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Furthermore, it may become part of a new 3+3+3 process on Syria despite not being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Finally, the country also did not shy away from conflict with the US on issues of data protection.

Still, doubts are lingering. Some are welcoming a greater German role in global politics, yet others are skeptical. Some are calling for Germany to accept more responsibility, while others think there is already too much of it.

What should the proper message to the Germans be in year 25? What do you wish them to do?

By Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers – Program Director of the Center for Global Politics

  1. Dimitrios Triantaphyllou 1 day ago

    Quo Vadis Germany? Niccolo Machiaveli has written that “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.” The 25 years since the unification of Germany have coincided with the development of a new order of things in the continent which Germany calls home – Europe – and the entity where Germany is the biggest state – the European Union. Yet all is not rosy as the quarter century anniversary coincides with a lack of confidence in the European Union. The latest crisis of confidence stems from its inability to handle the refugee crisis; at a time when the Union has barely regained its footing from the economic and financial crisis that made its appearance in the Fall of 2008. The expectations for more Europe are there and Germany always seems to be in the center of the process of further European Integration.
    At the same time, the 25th anniversary coincides with deep-seated changes in perspective regarding the European construct, the future of democracy, and the role of Germany in this process – an era where centrifugal forces of nationalism and exclusion are giving the centripetal forces of integration a fight for their lives. It is an era where Europe needs more leadership, the type of leadership Germany could provide but it does not want to, as it seems to prefer to primarily pursue its national interests. Jurgen Habermas puts it best when he suggests that Germany has lost its ‘post-national identity’ – i.e., it has lost its desire to correlate its national interests with the EU.
    If Germany is the reluctant leader of a new Europe in search of itself, then what does it stand for? Can it afford to pursue only its national interests much as other smaller EU member states seem to be doing? Its involvement in reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, negotiating the Minsk Accords, attempting to address the refugee crisis, putting the European economy back on track, among other things, suggests that it cannot. The challenge it faces is to lead without being perceived as imposing its will on the rest. The most telling example of this challenge is the ever-growing tug of war between the European institutions in Brussels and the national capitals over who leads the integration process. The relative weakness of successive European Commission Presidents – whether they are called Jean-Claude Juncker or Jose Manual Barroso – and the towering steadfastness of Angela Merkel imply a tilt toward Berlin (and other satellite capitals). This cannot be sustainable. Germany needs to become ‘post-national’ again by strengthening the continental institutions that hold the glue together. There is no alternative.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 1 day ago

    No other big European country acted so prudently, constructively and fruitfully over the last 25 years as Germany did. It is therefore understandable why its role and authority has grown a lot in our continent and in world politics. The main secret to this success is the fact that Germany is a “gebrandtes Kind” – a country which has made the necessary conclusions from the lessons of its sad past. As later events showed, its position was correct in opposing military campaigns against Iraq and Libya, in striking the Vienna agreement on Iran and in inspiring and achieving the Minsk agreement.
    It is much more difficult to solve the refugee crisis. Neither Germany nor Europe really know where to go. Germany together with the Nordic countries are on the right track by showing more compassion and desire to help people who are in trouble. But what happens if it is to these countries, due to their particularly generous social welfare, that many of newly-distributed refugees run to? I hope very much that in Germany, unlike in Sweden and the other Nordic countries, there will not emerge a strong far-right anti-immigrant party. However, this risk is very real. It would be even worse if the sporadic neo-Nazi attacks would intensify and threaten internal stability.
    Summing up, I would like a larger German role in global politics – keeping the “gebrandtes Kind” approach. If United Nations Security Council would be expanded, Germany, I am sure, along with India and Brazil would be the first candidates.

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  3. Alexei Voskressenski 1 day ago

    25 years ago Germany made another step towards overcoming the patterns of the past. Now, 25 years later, it is clear that notwithstanding all difficulties (Eurocrisis, conflict with the US, refugee crisis, etc.) the transformation of Germany is generally successful. Though there is still no consensus on the role of this new Germany in global politics and also some skepticism about alleged German lack of responsibility, Europe itself would be different without the new Germany, less viable, with less vitality and less hope for a better future. Indeed it is not possible to speak about Europe without this new Germany that is a cornerstone of this new Europe. If I would be asked to wish something to the German people in this 25th year of the reunification, I would wish more patience and self-reflection that may help to configure an evolving sense of this new German responsibility and generosity that will be more accepted in Europe generally and also worldwide, and also help Europe to overcome all difficulties that it faces in this new and challenging epoch.

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  4. Shen Dingli 1 day ago

    Twenty five years after reunification, Germany has risen to be a key player in the world. With the integration of FRG and GDR, the united Germany has acquired its combined sovereignty and lifted its competence, enabling itself to better present its entire nation in the international arena.
    The united Germany has played a crucial role in international security, fully abiding by the UN Charter. It joined the international force to combat terrorism in Afghanistan, but declined, along with the other “Old European” France, to join the US “preemption” in Iraq. It is also the only non-P5 state to help defuse the Iranian nuclear tension, within the P5+1 format. Despite its economic growth, contemporary Germany has taken a persistent and respectful stance in addressing its role during WWII.
    Germany has also been a mainstay of principled European integration. When Greece challenged the stability of the EU with the Eurocrisis, Berlin seemed unyielding in order to protect the majority of the institution. With refugees pouring out of MENA in the millions, it is Germany that is willing to take one million of them over just two years for humanitarian reasons.
    By every measure, Germany is now a top class state in the world. In the next 25 years it should become a new permanent member of the UNSC, especially if Berlin would pursuit it independently.

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1 Comment

  1. Rado Kovacs 1 day ago

    While over the course of the last 25 years, Germany has risen to become a ‘great power’ – at least economically, it has failed to grasp the responsibility that comes with it. While a smaller, or less infleuential nation has the luxury of remaining neutral on many issues, Germany’s reliative influence makes this impossible.

    Despite this we continue to see a country which shirks international responsibility, in favour of misguided ‘restraint’. This is approach is evident in the country’s weak response to Russian agression in Ukraine, as well as its failure to take part in interventions in Libya and Syria that involved its fellows France and Great Britain. The latter is made yet more bizzare when Germany accepts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, but does nothing to solve the root cause of the problem and stabilize Syria.

    In the future, I would hope to see a Germany that steps up to the plate politically and militarily, in order to advance its own expoused views, as well as those of the EU and the collective ‘West’.

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