Germany is Europe’s most developed country, which had an equivocal internal and foreign policy throughout its history. The state’s wise policy that corrected the labor market, modified taxation, and improved the security system, allowed it to reach leading positions among European economies, which was substantial progress since the two World Wars (Notermans and Piattoni. 2019, 2). Still, Germany’s international relations remain complex because the government may display behavior that diverges from its official statements. For example, German politicians were opposing the war in Iraq but supported the United States’ military campaign logistically (Eberle, 2019). The reason for such actions was that Germany wanted to remain “loyal allies to the U.S., as well as good multilateralists and promoters of peace” (Eberle, 2019, 1). Chancellor Gerhard Schröder promoted peace in his video appeal to the citizens while the American air forces used German lands to facilitate the attack. However, such discrepancies between the government’s internal and external actions did not prevent it from maintaining its leading positions in European Union (EU). This paper aims to discuss Germany’s foreign policy in terms of its domestic and international context.
The Role of German Government in International Policy
Germany’s political system is a representative democracy with the federal structure of the republic. Indeed, cooperative federalism had existed in Germany for more than one thousand years, when the federal government was involved in legislative and policymaking processes, while the local divisions were responsible for their implementation (Jochimsen, 2018, 146; Scholta et al., 2019). After the 1990 reunification of Germany, federalism was re-established in Western and Eastern parts, giving more power to individual states in the attempt for decentralization (Jochimsen, 2018, 147). Still, Germany is one of the few federal countries with joint decision-making between central and local governments.
Currently, ministers on federal and provincial levels have the power to elect higher officials and end their term at any time; thus, it is impossible for one person to have limitless power in Germany. Furthermore, the German Confederation’s objectives were “the preservation of the autonomy of local units and intra-institutional power-sharing through federal institutions,” which indicated the function of providing stability within the state (Jochimsen, 2018, 146; Martínez-Cantó and Bergmann, 2020, 394). Although the country’s foreign relations altered throughout history, the overall direction of the government’s internal policy remained almost unchanged, especially in terms of education and social programs that satisfy the population of individual regions (Jochimsen, 2018, 147). However, the taxation system transformed over time into a joint plan. Furthermore, the government’s labor policies lowered the unemployment rate, strengthening the economy.
The new policy led to the rapid economic growth of this country and changed its role in the EU. Indeed, it allowed Germany to return its title of world power and acquire a leadership role in the EU’s foreign policy, especially after the 2009 Lisbon Treaty (Aggestam and Hyde-Price, 2020, 10; Crawford and Olsen, 2017, 591). Moreover, the German government seemed to become more involved in international relations after the 2013 crisis in Ukraine (Aggestam and Hyde-Price, 2020, 17). In fact, according to Williams (2021), 63% of the general population believe that Germany should take a more active role in foreign policies (14). However, according to Gravelle, Reifler, and Scotto’s (2017) study, only 30% of Germans responded that the country needs robust military power (762). Germany still prefers to be cautious about using aggressive forces in external relations; therefore, the government reduced the state’s weaponry over the last 25 years, focusing on economic advancement (Crawford and Olsen, 2017, 591; Williams, 2021, 6). Nevertheless, the role of this country in foreign conflicts transformed and ceased to be neutral.
Unlike in the case of the Iraq crisis, Germany’s response to the Ukrainian-Russian conflict in Crimea was negative towards President Putin’s decisions. According to Aggestam and Hyde-Price (2020), German chancellor Angela Merkel decided to build coalitions between the EU and NATO to condemn Russian aggression, which significantly deviated from its past entrepreneurial leadership approach (18). Notably, this direction was chosen in opposition to the pro-Russia-oriented federal government but with the idea to support allies’ visions on this problem (Aggestam and Hyde-Price, 2020, 18-19). This event transformed Germany’s attitude to remain apolitical “civil servants,” which was maintained for an extended period after the World War II. Nevertheless, it did not cross the boundaries that the Nazis destroyed at the beginning of the twentieth century (Jann and Veit, 2021). Before this incident, the German government kept a passive attitude to other military conflicts, including Libya and Iraq’s cases (Crawford and Olsen, 2017, 601). The active participation of this country in issues related to Ukrainian-Russian relations allowed it to demonstrate to the global society its leadership abilities. Still, Germany tries to balance its military and anti-violence approach worldwide to avoid going to extremes.
The Influence of Domestic Context on German’s Foreign Policy
Germany’s strong economy and broad capacities show that it can participate in global policy. Indeed, the model utilized by Germany is known as the social market economy. This concept can be defined as “an irenic formula to connect the principles of market freedom and social accommodation” that became possible due to “self-imposed limits on government action” (Rothstein and Schulze-Cleven, 2020, 304). Since the government decided to shrink military force and focus on other domains of the state’s development, this country started to acquire an active role in the questions of environmental pollution, knowledge, and medical science (Rothstein and Schulze-Cleven, 2020, 308). The country continues to invest in human capital by improving its higher education system for all citizens, including refugees. In fact, even the far-right party (AFD), which always had an anti-immigration view, admitted that migrants could become German citizens (AP News, 2021). Since AFD was never popular and influential in Germany, their opposition to accepting refugees from the Middle East did not influence the government’s decision.
Germany’s healthcare is considered one of the best systems worldwide, making health insurance affordable and available to all citizens. Notably, Germany raised two crucial issues of resistance to antibiotics and prevention of pandemics during its presidency at G7 (Kickbusch et al., 2017, 899). It appears that German leaders shifted their focus to improving population health by prevention of infectious disease outbreaks and reducing the morbidity and mortality due to non-communicable illnesses.
Germany also took an active position in global environmental problems, becoming the leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol stated climate change as a security issue that can threaten the existence of humanity (Von Lucke, 2020). Germany is fighting this issue because 80 million citizens live densely in a relatively small area (Von Lucke, 2020). Furthermore, it is one of the biggest industrialized economies in the EU, making it a significant contributor to carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere. Nevertheless, Germany maintains a high Climate Performance Index due to implementing such measures as increasing energy efficiency, minimizing CO2 emission from airplanes, and ecological tax (Von Lucke, 2020). Moreover, after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, Germany decided to focus on nuclear power safety and renewable energy (Von Lucke, 2020). They formed “public insurance pools” for the world’s community to have a support system in case of environmental disasters (Von Lucke, 2020, 133). Overall, Germany seems hyperaware of the climate change issue; therefore, it is considered one of the most important supporters of programs dedicated to resolving this global problem.
Germany’s foreign policy directly relates to its citizens who participate in the debates about decisions in international relations. Although the general population cannot influence the legislative process, they are often invited to discuss specific policies, express their concerns, and suggest improvements (Pfeifer, Opitz, and Geis, 2020, 8). Indeed, this strategy shows that government listens to public opinion and demonstrates to people the complexity of the decision-making process for the country (Pfeifer, Opitz, and Geis, 2020, 8). The recruitment of the groups that will evaluate laws and develop suggestions is an official procedure conducted via social media. For example, in 2018, the participants had to formulate short messages describing the key idea of their debates and recommendations for the government regarding the discussed issue (Pfeifer, Opitz, and Geis, 2020, 8). Another example of citizens’ involvement was the Climate Action Plan dialogue, during which more than 500 registered participants proposed 70 measures to combat climate change (Pfeifer, Opitz, and Geis, 2020, 11). Germany is one of the states that strives to engage people in improving foreign policies to avoid the past mistakes of giving power to one person.
Unlike some other developed countries that use their power to initiate armed conflicts, modern Germany prefers to follow international laws and systems. Its approach “rests on a moral commitment to a set of values and principles such as human rights, liberal democracy, and peaceful dispute resolution,” leading to “adherence to international law … and the practice of cooperative security” (Crawford and Olsen, 2017, 592). This attitude stemmed from the citizens’ resistance to Vietnam War and nuclear weapons in the 1980s (Crawford and Olsen, 2017, 596). Indeed, 200 activist groups in Germany joined the Dresden Peace Forum, which was the most significant pacifist movement at that time, involving more than 5000 members (Crawford and Olsen, 2017, 596). Moreover, the German political elite, especially the recently retired chancellor Merkel, chose a multilateral approach in their foreign policy, meaning that the legislation would adhere to international agreements. Indeed, Merkel always seemed to select a peaceful path that would be profitable for the state’s economy. This strategy, which her successors will hopefully maintain, helped Germany become one of the most developed economies in the EU and the prominent peace advocates worldwide.
In summary, Germany is a federal republic with a representative democracy system that prevents the consolidation of limitless power in a small group of political elites. After World War II, this country’s economy recovered quickly due to the government’s effective strategies to reduce unemployment, restore industrial growth, and improve healthcare and scientific research. Furthermore, Germany became one of the most prominent contributors to global education and health, raising the issues of microbes’ antibiotic resistance and future pandemics. Moreover, thanks to the citizens’ involvement, the German government initiated international cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and prevent further climate change caused by anthropogenic activity. However, the country’s political stand in the global arena remains unclear. Although its political leaders criticized the invasion of the United States to Iraq and armed conflict in Libya, their actions showed that they supported NATO to maintain good relationships with them. Finally, if the newly elected chancellor continues Merkel’s strategy, Germany will retain its non-military approach.
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