Judy Asks: Can Germany Provide Leadership to Europe?

Carnegie Europe - Sep 30, 2021

Pol Morillas, director of CIDOB, answers to this question in Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe section: “Angela Merkel’s auctoritas and gravitas in the European Council has run in parallel with the transformation of European power along the lines of the German one.

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Pol Morillas, director of CIDOB, answers to this question in Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe section: “Angela Merkel’s auctoritas and gravitas in the European Council has run in parallel with the transformation of European power along the lines of the German one. 

Germany remains a formidable economic player, internally and externally. But it punches below its weight when it comes to embodying a strategic foreign policy. Germany’s leadership in Brussels and the transformation of the global order, thus, go hand in hand with a lack of a strategic position of the EU in global affairs, a deficient security and defense toolbox, and dysfunctional institutional and decisionmaking structures. 

For that to change, Germany needs to redefine its problem-solving approach to European affairs in favor of a more strategic one and also come to terms with the renewed centrality of geopolitics in global affairs. 

Germany—and Merkel—have been effective EU crisis managers. But Berlin has underperformed when it comes to harnessing the necessary political leadership for pushing through sustainable reforms. 

All recent European crises have been overcome, but major reforms linger on. The renegotiation of the Stability and Growth Pact, a permanent common debt scheme, a common asylum and migration policy, and a strategic partnership with the UK are all in the to-do list of the next government. 

What is needed is not a ‘new Merkel’ that impersonates her political leadership, but a better set-up for the post-Merkel era. This means a constellation of political leaders, all equipped with political will. 

The next chancellor will also realize that European leadership requires a good dose of traditional power tools, including security and defense. A ‘German Europe,’ high on economic power and trade but low on foreign policy, will not suffice for strategic autonomy, not to mention for a ‘geopolitical’ EU. It is probably here where more radical changes involving mental, operational and political will be needed.”