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court and division powers within its political system (Katzenstein 1997). This has been combined internationally with the strategy of associated sovereignty whereby Germany has developed its national policies alongside an integrating European Union, with a strong emphasis on running foreign policy approaches through multilateral organisations (Sverdrup 1998). On this basis, until the late 1990s Germany has opted for the use of soft and civil power, using a series of overlapping competencies and abilities rather than using the dominant power of a great state, thereby reducing tensions between large and small states within the European system (Sverdrup 1998). On this basis, Germany has been one of the main financial sources for the budget of EU institutions, also supporting the development of weaker economies during the 1980s and early 1990s, e.g. Greece, Ireland and Spain. At the same time, Germany has tried to project a cooperative image, one which has been sustained in the 1997-2004 period, especially in relation to cooperation with Eastern Europe. In this area, it has now moved to some greater use of military and defence capabilities, but only within a multilateral context. German power is linked deeply into the emerging power of the EU.

The third major component of this German moderation has been its strong cooperation with France, providing in many ways the engine for the emergence of a singe Europe (Calleo & Staal 1998). This is linked to other themes in German foreign policy. 'Atonement' and 'reconciliation' remain key themes of Germany foreign policy, especially in relation to France, Eastern Europe and Israel (see Phillips 2001; Feldman 1999). This atonement, however, constrains German policy from being too assertive or unilateralist, and often tightly binds Germany in certain sensitive areas, e.g. in criticism of Israel, in areas such as asylum laws, the use of armed forces (done in multilateral contexts), and in avoiding a too assertive economic diplomacy within Europe.

In the long term, the stability of Europe will rest on whether Germany remains a strong society and nation able to take part in future EU leadership. Here active British support (tested through 2001-2003), alongside French cooperation, will be required to counter-balance the strategic and economic weight of Germany. Indeed, there have been concerns through 2003-2004 that these ‘big three’ might come to informally dominate European leadership and agenda, even as formal supranational mechanisms reduce such ‘great power’ trends. This fear of a trilateral ‘Directoire’ should not be exaggerated, but with a new EU of 25 states, meetings in September 2003 and March 2004 among these three did try to establish further policy convergence to try to become a ‘central policy “motor”’, leading to some hostility from Poland, Italy and Spain (Strategic Comments 2004; meeting are to continue every few months). From 2004 these meetings have included not just leaders but also major cabinet ministers.

The future of Germany will go hand in hand with the continued stability of European cooperation and integration via a number of agencies, including the EU, NATO, OSCE, the European Defence Initiative, the regular Conferences on European Stability and the emerging European Constitution. This complex set of arrangements are bound to undergo evolution, but for the time being, the German role in the 'wider European equation' remains crucial, but not problem-free.

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