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How Germany has Changed as a Result of EU Integration

This paper will attempt to answer a few questions concerning Germany’s role in the European Union and how this has altered German politics. The German leading role in EC/EU integration is well known, but how this has impacted German politics and social life is something worth discussing, and this paper seeks to discover the ways in which this has taken place.

In short, this essay argues that new opportunities for political mobilization have been the main change in German life given her history in the EU and has permitted a leading role in European life to Germany in a peaceful, integrated context. The basic concept of integration in terms of political identity concerns both a cultural diffusion and a redefining of citizenship (Featherstone, 2003, 4). This, in turn, results from the internal adaptation of German life (or any member’s life) to the specific mandates of the European Union.

In Germany, one of the most important ways life has changed is in the strengthening of local and lander states within Germany proper, and this has placed the Lander themselves at the head of European integration (Featherstone, 2003, 8). In other words, the European Union has given the German states a new bargaining tool with either Bonn or Berlin, and hence, support for the EU has come from the local level, German states have been able to use Eu mandates as a bargaining chip against the central government.

As a matter of course, a unified Germany has been able to take the leading role in Europe as one of its “core” states without the use of any military force. Her huge market and social stability has brought a unified Germany center stage in European politics, much to the chagrin of France. Many, such as Featherstone, hold that in some respects, this integration has permitted Germany to keep the more radical processes of globalization at bay, relying more and more on a specifically European market that Germany clearly dominates.

Even more, Germany, since her unification and deep involvement in the integrationist structures of the EU, has been able to project both her military and economic power abroad as a part of such institutions as NATO and the OSCE leading to a powerful international role for Germany within the less threatening EU context. In other words, Germany has been able to project power without excessively threatening her neighbors, and hence, the EU has been a major book to German policy. Writers such as Maarten Vink hold that German life has been substantially enhanced by EU integration.

The basic structure of this enhancement has been an almost cost-free access to European markets, the ability to take advantage of greater and more diverse sources of credit and has been able to take advantage of EU strictness in terms of her own currency stabilization, and now, the stabilization of the Euro. In this later case, the EU, being so strict in terms of basic monetary policy, could not help but assist the traditionally inflation-obsessed German financial community in maintaining a greater degree of stability both in terms of national debt and currency stability.

The Euro has only assisted in this process more (Vink, 2003, 71). For Vink, the real purpose of the EU in terms of German life (but this can be expanded to include all major EU states) is the maintenance of national sovereignty by the process of “managing interdependence” and “policy coordination” (Vink, 2003, 72). In other words, in a general process of globalization, the coordination of trade and monetary policy is imperative if Europe is to compete with the east Asian markets as well as the emerging US led, Latin American markets.

But specifically in relation to Germany, the EU process of integration has also had the unintended consequence of strengthening the executive branch of government, in that this branch has the right to be the chief negotiator with the EU and its institutions. Hence, the ability to bargain with the EU and hence pick and choose its level of compliance with its strictures lies with the executive and hence, has radically increased its power in German life (Vink, 2003, 73).

In Peter Alter’s (1993) work, he reiterates the central role of west Germany in the creation and deepening of the institutions of European integration. Historically, this makes sense for several reasons, not the least of which is that Germany has a long history of fragmentation, a fragmentation that has stymied her economic development and sense of identity. This sensitivity is one of the causes for her leadership in the development of the EU, and even more, the building of a specific identity around the European Union itself.

IN other words, Alter and others hold that Germany has built its own sense of “national” identity precisely in being European and a leader in European integration (Alter, 1993, 99). Even in terms of the German “third sector,” that is, the private sector of non-profit social and civic clubs and organizations, German unification and European integration has permitted these groups, the backbone of civil society, the ability to continue to grow and to develop a broad-based sense of self in that they now have a continent-wide, rather than merely the national, fields of action.

This has been a substantial change in Germany especially after unification, but the deepening of European integration has given a substantial boost to civil society and its “third sector. ” (Anheier, 2001, 144). Simon Bulmer’s (1996) essay on Germany in the European Union is an important contribution to our topic. Like Alter, Bulmer also holds the view that the real major change in Germany caused by the EU is Germany’s own sense of identity: to be German is to be a leader in European integration for the economic well being of all.

Germany has a history of being at the forefront of the EC/EU movement since the 1950s, and her post-war development has been identified as being such a leader, that is, Germany development cannot be separated from this role as European leader (Bulmer, 1996, 11-12). Again, Bulmer, like Featherstone and others, holds that it is the local governments, the Lander states, that have both taken the lead in terms of EU development as well as having increased their power in terms of compliance with EU strictures.

If anything, the strengthening of local governments though their co-operation with the EU–essentially using the EU against the central state–has bridged the democratic deficit of the EU as far as Germany is concerned. The states closest to the people are precisely the states that have sought greater independence and EU protection relative to Berlin. As Germany reunified peacefully, she became the core market of the European Union, and the lack of customs barriers has permitted Germany to exploit this position to the fullest.

Clearly, the future of German development is closely linked to this market’s status in Europe and the easy access to it (Bulmer, 1996, 16). This powerful weapon in European politics was used, for example, in 1992 when Germany unilaterally recognized Slovenia and Croatia apart from Yugoslavia, showing a great degree of confidence, if not moderation, in European life and foreign policy. Germany’s desire for the integration of these two relatively prosperous Balkan states with the German economy has been made possible by the EU itself and its strict insistence on the lack of any barriers to intra-EU trade (Bulmer, 1996, 17).

Hence, this example shows that the EU can be used by Germany to strongly project her own power abroad, both in terms of her large market, but most important, the fact that Germany’s EU membership forbids any customs barriers, and hence, Germany can use this to make dependent states out of the former Balkan combatants, as well as eastern European states (Bulmer, 1996, 17-18). Hence, one might take these changes to German society and politics and hold that the development of common values and civic forms is the real nature of EU membership for Germany.

These norms have been used to enhance the power of the German president, the German Lander as well a using the size of the German market and hence, her relative importance to shape European foreign policy. The example of Slovenia and Croatia is the perfect case in point: the use of the EU’s free trade policies has permitted Germany to extend its power to these highly Europeanized states in the Balkans and make them, in essence, economic appendages to Germany itself, leading to a strong sense that the EU itself is made up of a core and a periphery.

The core is Germany and France, while the Periphery is Ireland, Greece, Spain and the newly developing states of the former Soviet bloc. German hegemony in Europe, to put this differently, has been enhanced through peaceful, economic means by her EU membership, but her powerful role in Europe has in part come about by the fact that Germany has had such a central role in creating the EU in the first place and making it acceptable for the rest of the continent.

One of the ways this has been done is by the promise of opening up German markets to goods from the periphery of Europe such as Greece or Portugal. This in turn has given a strong economic foundation to the concept of Germany as the heart of Europe, the architect of the EU and hence, the leader of the new European world and sense of continental identity. In conclusion, one can see from the above literature that Germany has undergone fundamental changes since 1945 and the beginning of the ECC and its related institutions in the 1950s.

These changes might be summarized as the complete alteration of German social identity as a European state, a state destined to be the central player in European integration and hence, the peaceful and economic projection of European power abroad. Germany has become more democratic both in the increasing power of the local units of government as well as the increasing role and scope for the “third sector,” and important point given the talk about the oligarchic nature of the EU.

The executive branch of the German state has also seen to become more powerful, leaving a legislative branch that is being weakened between a more powerful local government and a more powerful executive. The German market has become the source of German power in the EU, and a means whereby new members can be brought in, with promises of easy, cost-free access to German money, capital, credits and markets. This has permitted Germany to develop a European foreign policy based around her own power and promise of assistance.

In other words, Germany has been able to place herself as the standard of European economic life and social relations. At the same time, Germany has been able to use its technical abilities to gain access to European markets that may have been closed to her under different circumstances, hence leading Germany to use the EU as a buffer against more radical globalist institutions and free trade agreements (Janning, 1996, 36). If membership in the WTO, for example, harms German interests, Germany can always fall back on the EU and her own rules in compensation.

The EU, in other words can be used as a bargaining chip with the other sources of globalization. Germany has used all of these institutions to radically change its identity and role in Europe and the world. Bibliography: Alter, Peter (1993) “Nationalism and Liberalism and Modern German History. ” in Roger Michner ed, Nationality, Patriotism and Nationalism in Liberal Democratic States. Paragon House, 81-99 Anheier, Helmut et al (2001) “Civil Society in Transition: The East German Third Section Ten Years After Unification.

” East European Politics and Societies, 15, 139-156 Bulmer, Simon (1996) “Germany in the European Union: Gentle Giant or Emergent Leader? ” International Affairs, 72, 9-32 Featherstone, Kevin (2003) “In the Name of ‘Europe. ’” in Kevin Featherstone, ed The Politics of Europeanization. Oxford University Press, 3-26 Janning, Josef (1996) “ A German Europe or a European Germany? On the Debate Over Germany’s Foreign Policy. ” International Affairs, 72, 33-41 Vink, Maarten (2003) “What is Europeanization? ” The European Political Science Review, Autumn, 69-79

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