Quo Vadis, Germany? Making Sense of Berlin’s Foreign Policy in an Era of Global Change
In recent months, the coalition government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seemed to signal a change in Germany’s foreign and European policy. Germany abstained on a U.N. Security Council vote to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, parting ways with its NATO partners. In the wake of Japan’s nuclear crisis, Chancellor Merkel shut down all pre-1980 nuclear power plants and enforced a three-month nuclear power moratorium, taking neighboring countries by surprise. More importantly, throughout 2010, Berlin expressed reluctance to rescue the Eurozone countries facing sovereign debt crises and pushed for harsh conditions for assistance. However, when the euro itself faced a serious threat, Germany scaled back its demands and agreed to a comprehensive solution. These decisions have left Germany’s closest allies unsure about its traditional commitments and divided over how to interpret Berlin’s foreign policies.
On May 13, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings (CUSE) and the Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted a panel discussion examining the direction of Germany’s foreign policy. Panelists included Hans Maüll of the University of Trier, Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of the German Green Party, and Angela Stent, Brookings nonresident senior fellow and director of Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies. Senior Fellow Justin Vaïsse, CUSE director of research, offered introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.
After the program, the panelists took audience questions.
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I question whether the U.K. and EU will become political and economic rivals, as geography, history, financial interests, security concerns, and shared values will necessitate continued close cooperation in some form for the foreseeable future. My bigger concern is the all-consuming nature of Brexit, which could prevent the U.K. especially and the EU from engaging effectively against international rivals. Brexit already dominates debates in London, with a divided Cabinet and parliament having limited bandwidth to engage on global challenges. Even if the U.K. parliament ratifies a Brexit deal, the two sides must then embark on equally complicated and domestically contentious negotiations about their future relationship. In some form, Brexit will afflict Europe for years and risks detracting attention from emerging threats.