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The European Union / The New Europe                R. James Ferguson © 2004

Week 6:

The New Germany - Transforming the European Landscape

Topics: -

1. Germany as the Centre of Europe and its Dismemberment

2. Ostpolitik and German Unification

3. The Changing Nature of European Relations

4. New Challenges Under the leadership of Gerhard Schroeder

5. German’s Prospects in the 21st Century

6. Bibliography and Further Resources

1. Germany as the Centre of Europe and its Dismemberment

Modern Germany not only has the dimensions of a virtual economic 'superpower', it is also one of the key drivers of European integration. Over the last decade it has increased its international engagement in regional and foreign affairs, and has also begun to deepen its security cooperation with the new NATO and proposed European Defence Initiative and the European Rapid Region Force. Germany has  been extremely active in the wider European setting, and has begun to play a stronger role in global affairs through the late 1990s: -

Since 1989 the leitmotif of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) has been stability at home and in Europe. It has practised contrition and reconciliation as a matter of deep conviction and official policy. . . . Germany has become the strongest economic force in the European Union (EU), providing two-thirds of its funding and possessing the largest currency reserves. It is the second largest trading nation in the world, the most important trading partner of Russia in the West, and has the world's third largest economy. Its soldiers served with NATO in Kosovo . . ., its medics worked in East Timor, and it sends United Nations (UN) observers as far field as Abkhazia. (Thompson 2001).

This progress, deepened through stronger cooperation on the European Security and Defence Policy through 2001-2004 to take on more tasks and form EU ‘battle groups’ of up top 1,500 troops that can be quickly deployed (Strategic Comments 2004). In recent years three distinct trends can be noted: strong engagement in deepening and expanding the EU, including support in 2004 for an EU Constitution that tends to be compatible with German foreign policy; a tensions in trans-Atlantic relations, with Germany pushing for a more voluntary an elective form of Atlanticism in which the EU and Germany would have a strong say in world affairs; and through late 2003 and early 2004 some return to strong trilateral dialogue with France and UK, partly reducing the distance from the UK over its Iraq engagement (see below).

Growing German influence, however, has been highly controversial due the legacy of history, which still influences attitudes today in a Europe which is keen to seek a 'new' future in which errors of the past are not repeated. In this context, a brief comment of some features of European and German experience is needed before proceeding to current factors that are shaping Germany's role in wider Europe.

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