A bimonthly magazine on international affairs, edited in Germany's capital

Halfhearted Hegemon


Twenty-five years after German reunification, the European Union is struggling to come to terms with the consequences of that profound shift – as is Germany itself. Not all outcomes of that process are bad.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in her car at a euro zone leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2015. Euro zone leaders will fight to the finish to keep near-bankrupt Greece in the euro zone on Sunday after the European Union's chairman cancelled a planned summit of all 28 EU leaders that would have been needed in case of a "Grexit". REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1K2Z7

© REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

July’s painful negotiations on another massive bail-out to keep Greece inside the eurozone produced recriminations across the continent about Berlin’s high-handedness. Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble were both blamed for imposing excessive conditions on Athens in exchange for loans the Greeks will never be able to repay. Words such as “blackmail” and “bullying” were bandied about to describe Berlin’s tactics. As far as the blogosphere was concerned, the “ugly German” was back.

In Germany itself, distinguished commentators such as Jürgen Habermas and Joschka Fischer also bemoaned the apparent loss of the country’s European vocation. “I fear that the German government … has gambled away in one night all the political capital that a better Germany had accumulated in half a century,” Habermas lamented in an interview with The Guardian.

Yet the reality is both more complicated and less gloomy than Berlin’s critics seem to believe.

Read the complete article in the Berlin Policy Journal App – September/October 2015 issue.