With their focus on “Germany in Europe,” the German Embassy’s 2013-2014 Campus Weeks are devoted to discussing Germany’s evolving position in a changing Europe and its implications for transatlantic relations. Is Germany taking on the role of a leading power in Europe? Or rather, should it assume such a role? This question has spurred a lively debate about historical apprehensions and the current
potential of German leadership. Participants in the Embassy’s Campus Weeks will add their own – American – perspectives to this debate.
For centuries, national rivalries were a defining feature of interstate relations in Europe. Attempts were made to extend influence well beyond a state’s boundaries. Following the cataclysm of World War II, however, the struggle for dominance was replaced by the principles of peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and integration. Democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law have become crucial characteristics of a united Europe and the countries it comprises. Today, the European Union sets an outstanding example of peaceful relations among its member states, all of which have forgone aspects of their sovereignty to form one strong, close-knit community.
Yet, while the issue of predominance is past, the question of leadership remains. In principle, no single country takes the lead in the process of European policy-making. All member states weigh in on decisions, with their voting power determined by the size of their population, except in cases of decisions taken by consensus. Still, the actual influence of individual countries may vary. What is more, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe has given rise to calls for leadership, and, in its course, Germany has come to play a significant role by calling for solidarity among EU member states to provide financial guarantees and stability to partners in need.
Perceptions of German influence diverge widely, however, both within Germany and in the rest of Europe. While some reject it for historical reasons or as undue involvement in their domestic affairs, others hail German leadership as a requisite for resolving the crisis and sustaining the integration process. Again others find such expectations exaggerated, pointing to the limits of one state’s decision-making powers within the European Union and to a German reluctance to lead.
With all of this in mind, the German Embassy asks American college students how they see Germany’s role in today’s Europe? Will the future see a more German Europe or a more European Germany? And what does this mean for transatlantic relations? From an American perspective, which role should Germany play in Europe and why? The German Embassy’s Campus Weeks offer an exciting opportunity for American students to discuss these and many other questions.
By contemplating the past, present, and future of “Germany in Europe,” Campus Weeks’ participants may also reflect on broader questions of leadership in an interconnected world: What does the shift from the times of clear boundaries during the Cold War to a multipolar world of varying alliances mean for Germany, Europe, and the transatlantic partnership? How can Germany and Europe contribute to shaping an increasingly multipolar world? How to tackle problems of European scope and at the same time contribute to the resolution of pressing global issues?