The European Union in Turbulent Times
Liana Fix, Programme Director International Affairs, Körber-Stiftung, Berlin
Elisabeth von Hammerstein, Programme Director International Affairs, Körber-Stiftung, Berlin
30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, most Germans continue looking west: 60 % of Germans consider France the most important partner for Germany, followed by the Unites States with 42 %. Yet, the Franco-German engine is running all but smoothly:
As Amélie de Montchalin, France’s Minister for European Affairs, points out, Germany’s reaction to President Macron’s proposals for reforming the EU has been decidedly less than enthusiastic. Nonetheless, the majority of Germans (56 %) is convinced that Angela Merkel has done more for the future of the EU than the French President (17 %).
As Germany is preparing to take over the EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020, building bridges between its Western and Eastern neighbours will be of particular importance. Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz cautions Germany to “take account of other countries’ positions in its policies, particularly of those from Central and Eastern Europe.”
Meanwhile, the never-ending story of Brexit remains high on Germans’ agenda. 80 % of Germans are convinced that the EU should not have been more cooperative towards the UK. Yet, as the British historian Brendan Simms points out, the island will remain an important partner in foreign and security policy. With Britain leaving the EU, will member states be able to adopt a more effective foreign policy? A majority of 63 % of Germans is in favour of changing the current EU voting mode from unanimity to qualified majority voting in this area.
While some want to leave, others want to deepen the partnership with the EU: Moldova has seen tremendous benefits from the opportunities provided by the EU’s Eastern Partnership, argues Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu.
At the same time, Russia remains on many Germans’ minds: Asked what is more important for Germany – close relations with the US or Russia – 39 % prefer the US, 25 % Russia and 30 % equally close relations.
Finally, the Greta-Thunberg-effect has reached Germany: For the first time, a plurality of Germans (31 %) consider climate change the greatest foreign policy challenge. Overall, Germans have a positive view of their country’s engagement: 48 % perceive Germany as a forerunner in the EU, a view not necessarily shared abroad. As the Green MEP Bas Eickhout warns, “Germany has stopped leading the way”.
An Existential Challenge The EU must defend multilateralism
Nathalie Tocci, Director, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI); fmr. Special Advisor to High Representative Federica Mogherini, Rome
Elisabeth von Hammerstein