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Germany: the reluctant leader

Published: Thursday, 14th November 2013

Towards the end of October, Ditchley hosted a conference which explored “Germany’s role in the EU”.

There was general agreement that Germany was now leading the Eurozone and EU, perhaps by default and reluctantly, but with little demur from other European governments.  As the biggest and most successful economy, and in the absence of any clear alternative, she had had little choice but to take the lead during the eurozone crisis in order to preserve the euro and EU, to both of which she remained fully committed.

However, it was also recognised that there were still limits to this leadership.  Negative populist views towards Germany, particularly within those countries on the southern periphery suffering the most pain from austerity policies, were worrying, and might have been avoided with a more sympathetic stance and clearer signalling of policy. Similarly, while participants fully acknowledged that Germany had so far steadied the eurozone ship in some very treacherous waters, it was not clear that this was as a result of any grand strategy.  In the foreign policy and security area, the German approach remained unpredictable, to put it no more strongly. Meanwhile, Germany’s own economy might not be as robust as many from outside believed.

The timing of this conference could not have been better, with the coalition negotiations just about to start in Berlin.  It was hoped that some of the ideas and recommendations included in the report from the conference will inform those discussions.

To read the full report click here.