Germany’s relationship with its western neighbors since the fall of the Berlin wall has been more or less on expected lines. But even here, there is an inherent contradiction, due to the fact that while Germany was expected to approve of the Maastricht Treaty and integrate into the EMU, there is also anticipation from western democracies as to “the strategy Germany would pursue towards CEE, and German support for enlargement towards the East was seen with rather more wariness” (Dyson, 2003). Due to long-standing economic connections, cultural similarity, and other strategic advantages in foreign and domestic policy, it was expected that Germany would be the prominent member of a hypothetical northern bloc in the EU that was meant to counter a southern bloc led by France. But, this concept serves only as the epitome of a general prevalence of incertitude about Germany’s motivation within the EU. Nevertheless, during the early 1990’s, the other members of the European Union were preoccupied with their own domestic problems that Eastern enlargement was not on top of their agendas. In this scenario it is understandable how significant it was that German political leaders addressed the issue at all (Dyson, 2003).
The vast legislative changes that were called upon to accommodate the new realities of a free and mobile European workforce post-integration has brought to light the politics of immigration. That this aspect of the new Germany did not attract greater attention is a little surprising, given its significance throughout the rest of the continent. Immigration has been a very sensitive issue to Germany two principal ways: Firstly, the number of foreign nationals residing in Germany is greater than in any other nation of the European Union. Toward the end of the millennium, the figure stood at over 7.3 million, approximately one tenth of the total population. Secondly, émigré’s in Germany have come from all across the world. During the sixties and seventies, most immigrant groups were from the Mediterranean region (Dyson, 2003). These were predominantly, unskilled or semi-skilled workers, looking for economic opportunities in the recuperating Germany. In contrast, that trend has been replaced in recent decades by the influx of asylum seekers. So the nature of immigrants changed from one of economic refugees to that of political refugees. Consequently, the united Germany’s immigrants form a heterogeneous and electoral significant minority group. Turkish and Yugoslavian asylum seekers form the majority within this minority group. Beyond the obvious challenges brought on by such a composite populace,
“Successive governments have maintained that ‘Germany is not a country of immigration’ (Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland), arguing that because Germany did not actively seek permanent new immigration, the established tools of immigration policy (for example, quotas and an inclusive citizenship law) were unnecessary. This received wisdom persisted despite the fact that there was net immigration by foreigners in all except ten years between 1955 and 1999. It was this contradiction which prompted Dietrich Thranhardt to famously characterise Germany as an ‘undeclared immigration country.” (Bomberg, 2002)
Hence, it could be inferred that due to diplomatic imperatives from within and outside, the German nation has gone through remarkable change in its immigration, asylum and citizenship policy. Barring the asylum compromise, several of these modifications to the law have been only moderate. However, more importantly, the combined effect of these small changes has contributed in redefining the thrust of Germany’s policies. Of late, factors attributable to the demographic composition as well as compulsions of free market labour have “confirmed that the continued conceptualisation of Germany as a ‘non-country of immigration’ has thus come to look rather jaded under the Berlin Republic” (Bomberg, 2002).
So, what is becoming clear is that while the newly formed Merkel government came to power on strength of promises that were different to that of Schroder, the mandate was essentially one for domestic policy change. There seem to be a minimal change in the direction and thrust of German foreign policy initiatives in the post unification period. In other words, it could be asserted that significant changes have manifested themselves in German European policy after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As stated above a continuity of “inherited fundamental values” are to be seen across governments and parties along with an increasing inclination to meet short-term objectives (Green, 2001). This is true of both the Schorder period and the ongoing Merkel reign. There could have been a different outcome had Stoiber won the 2002 election. The following table shows how different governments have pursued similar policies resulting in similar outcomes: