The unification of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall is a significant event in the reshaping of modern Europe. Without the considerations of Cold War affiliations, the European Union as a group of nations had gained significantly as a result of the economic consolidation. The domestic and foreign policies of the German governments since unification have reflected this new reality, benefiting both its own citizenry and that of its neighbours. The rest of this essay will foray into various aspects of the new Germany in the context of the European Union and also look into some of the policy initiatives that are strategically important.
The inevitable Europeanization of Germany has had discernable changes in the nature of political organization and legislative outcomes. To begin with, there is a notable change at a structural level. For instance, “the development of party structures designed to facilitate co-ordination of European and national MPs, or co-ordination of national and European policy position” had altered the model of law-making in the country (Bulmer, 2001). This is a reflection of a pattern seen across the European Union, where most political parties have formed a European committee or European representative to the prevailing party structure. But most of these changes have been minor ones, and the communication between the party units at the national and the continental level has been very poor. More profound institutional changes have also taken place in the aftermath of the unification. In particular, “Europeanization can contribute to the consolidation and centralisation of party leadership, the streamlining of party practice, and a widening gap between leaders and rank and file” (Bulmer, 2001).
Since the end of the Cold War and the subsequent unification of Germany, there has been persistent discussion, analysis and debate in the academic and media circles over the perceived differences, between the structural aspects of Germany’s political and economic institutions before and after the unification. In this context, the term ‘Bonn Republic’ is applied to represent “the ‘old’ Federal Republic of Germany’s (FRG) political system, with its emphasis on political stability, consensus politics, high welfare expenditure and a multilateral foreign and defence policy”. In sharp contrast, what is termed the new ‘Berlin Republic’, post October 1990, “is seen to refer to a more fluid polity, in which traditional patterns of domestic politics and policy are called into question, and whose foreign policy is ‘normalising’ in terms of pursuing clearly-defined national interests” (Tewes, 1998).
Though Germany is the leading endorser of the EU’s enlargement eastwards, it has found this concept incompatible with its objective to promote stronger European integration. By employing the “role theory”, an explanation could be found for this state of conflicting interests. More precisely,
“West Germany’s post-war role in European politics was that of a promoter of deeper integration; the deepening of West European integration thus became part of the self-conception of West German foreign policy-making elites. The changed situation after 1990 placed new demands on German foreign policy makers. West Germany’s traditional self-conception as an integration deepener conflicted with the desire on behalf of unified Germany to press for EU enlargement. However, although German policy makers employed a variety of strategies in order to pursue their incongruous foreign-policy aims, their principal concern remained with the deepening of western integration”. (Jeffery, 2003)
In addition to the issue of western integration, there is widespread debate within Germany about the changing nature of the country’s identity in light of its new policy framework. An area of concern for many German intellectuals is the implication of this new identity to the country’s decision making process and vice versa. This issue is very significant, as Germans are always cautious in matters affecting their identity and perception from outside. This goes back a long way, the most notable example of which is the so-called “Primat der Aussenpolitik, the doctrine of the primacy of foreign policy, that was adopted during the nineteenth century” (Lansbury and Pain, 1997).