The German Incapacity to Deliver Strategic Vision for Europe

September 23, 2013 • Online Content, The World at Yale • Views: 870

BY HANNAH FLAUM

On Monday evening, Ulrike Guérot, the Representative for Germany and Senior Policy Advisor at the European Council on Foreign Relations, gave a talk entitled, “Germany in Europe: The German Incapacity to Deliver Strategic Vision for Europe” to a collection of Yale professors and students.  As today’s federal election approached, other European nations had expressed – frequently and fervently – their desire for Germany to take a more active role in European integration and in managing the euro crisis.  Chancellor Angela Merkel’s minimalist approach at tackling economic emergencies one step at a time has disappointed the rest of the Eurozone.  Expectations for Germany going forward are high, but still grounded in both frustrations from the past and fear for the future.  However, after today’s reelection of Chancellor Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union party, the Eurozone’s disappointment may be likely to continue.

The cultural gap between Germany and its neighbors is growing larger.  While France, for example, focuses on politics and strategy when deciding how to tackle the euro crisis, Germany focuses on law and business.  In her article that Guérot supplied to the audience as a supplement to her talk, “The German Election: What Europe Expects – And What Germany Will Not Do,” Guérot writes, “…the European debate that is taking place in Germany is so often misunderstood or overlooked abroad…Germany and the rest of Europe are operating on different frequencies.”  The German perception of the euro crisis is different from that of its neighbors and thus, Germany’s desired course of action differs from that of its neighbors.

Additionally, Germany faces domestic problems that the outside world, including many economists, fail to consider.  Guérot noted that the outside world often characterizes Germany as a wealthy, export nation and euro crisis benefiter, but ignores the fact that these “benefits” are not distributed to the German public.  Income disparities and poverty are the reality in much of Germany, notably among retired Germans.

Ulrike Guérot giving a speech (Courtesy of Creative Commons).

Ulrike Guérot giving a speech (Courtesy of Creative Commons).

Guérot explained that although other European nations want and expect Germany to declare a clear course of action, German citizens do not feel inclined to sustain the Eurozone and to put themselves at such a high risk given their own domestic issues and their cultural disparities with the rest of Europe.  What other nations can expect from Germany, according to Guérot, is for Germany to “continue to play it German” and to be a role model for its European neighbors.  Germany does not want to involve itself further, but instead seeks to become an economic and political teacher that its neighbors can learn from and follow.  An active, aggressive vision for Europe is simply not something Germany is capable of or willing to give.

Finally, Guérot concluded her talk with an important notion: that despite the hesitation to become more involved in the euro crisis or integration, Germans are pro-Europe and Germany is very dedicated to ensuring that the Euro does not fail.

Hannah Flaum is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at hannah.flaum@yale.edu.

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