The Leadership Gap: Germany’s Self-Conception and the Persistency of its Euro-Policy
Leadership of powerful states is considered crucial to the success of regional integration. Since the European Union (EU) entered a ‘polycrisis’, many eyes have thus been on Germany. This talk therefore addresses the questions to what extent (1) German political elites perceive themselves as a potential leading power in the EU and (2) Germany actually performs a leading role in crisis-prone EU policies.
(1) To date, it has not been empirically investigated whether the German political elites have cast off their much-cited ‘leadership avoidance reflex’. This question is crucial, though, as it would be pointless to speculate about Germany’s leadership in the EU if not even the political elites themselves saw their country in such a role. Based on the results of an original elite survey, I show that there is a high level of agreement across EU policies that Germany should take on a leadership role. However, the survey also reveals a gap between leadership aspiration and (perceived) reality among German elites.
(2) In its second part, the talk zooms into one concrete EU policy, namely the governance of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the return of inflation have posed serious challenges to EMU. This raises the question of whether and how these challenges have led to a policy change in EMU’s most powerful member, Germany. Original interviews with German political elites, which have been conducted to answer this question, do not reveal any substantial change in Germany’s EMU policy. This remarkable continuity can be explained with the pervasiveness of ordoliberalism in German economic thinking, the success logic of the German model, and the presence of powerful domestic veto players. The talk concludes by drawing the implications of Germany’s unwavering policy stance for future integration in the EU and EMU.
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