Germany itself has a strong interest in maintaining as broad an international engagement as possible. With a high dependency on energy imports, an export-based economy, a special relationship with Israel and a large community of immigrants from the Arab world, Germany has an inherent interest in participating in and influencing how international crises are handled, not least in the Middle East. (Dalgaard-Nielsen 2003, p110)
However, other problems now face the new Germany. Economic and social problems will remain paramount for some years. The main challenges to Germany are still in the East, not the West. Germany has a strong vested interest in stabilising her nearer eastern neighbours. If unification within the EU can help reduce the threat of a too-strong Germany, this is only half the problem. Germany can only remain happy with an enlarging EU so long as Eastern and Central Europe remain stable - and this means a major rise in economic and living standards throughout that region. Here Germany cannot provide solutions alone - active European and American involvement is required. To date, processes within the EU, NATO, the Partnership for Peace programme, and the OSCE have begun to address these issues. These problems are the main reason why former Chancellor Kohl had so strongly supported the aim of expanding the EU eastwards, though recent German policy has allowed Germany to control movement of peoples out of new European member states in the east for up to seven years (European Report 2001).
Certain signs of internal political turmoil remain. The rise of an extreme right, the violence between unemployed youth and guest workers in Berlin, the intense debate (2001-2003) over whether German culture verses multiculturalism should be supported, all suggest that the German political system is beset by numerous complex demands. While joined to a relatively stable economic system, it is likely to meet the basic needs of many Germans. However, it has been suggested that in large measure this liking is due to the output effect, that is, Germans like the jobs, relative security and material success of Germany, and it is less certain that they are deeply attached to the political system as such - this 'output effect' seems particularly strong for ex-East Germans (Roskin 1992, p173). The future of an open and progressive Germany depends very much on this linkage between expectations and reality, and on the prospect of a developing European culture as distinct from a more narrow definition of national identity. The Christian Democrats, in particular, have been willing to play the nationalism card, arguing that the question of what it means to be a German in today's Europe needs to be openly discussed (see Cohen 2001 & Vandenberg 2000). Through 2002, efforts have been made to deepen the grass-roots democratic culture of Germany by trying to persuade young voters to be more active, and to find ways for the political system to be more responsive, e.g. through the possible use of referendums (Deutsche Welle 2002d & 2002e). Recent debate in the German parliament has suggested a stronger role for direct democracy via referendums (Deutsche Welle 2002e)
Two other factors will influence Germany in the immediate future. The first of these is how Germany moderates is relative economic dominance within Europe. Germany, in particular, has reduced some of these tensions through the use of two key processes. First, by the process of 'semi-sovereignty' Germany has reduced the centralisation of its state structure, opting for a federal structure with a strong central