No country in Europe has more neighbours than Germany. It shares its border with nine countries, eight of which are European Union (EU) member states. For Germany, European integration, one of the most impressive political success stories, lays the foundations for peace, security, and prosperity. Advancing and strengthening this, particularly in view of complex and in many cases crisis-ridden conditions, remains the main task of German foreign policy. Begun in the early 1950s, the historical project that today is the EU nowadays has over half a billion citizens in 28 member states. German European policy emerged as a driving force in all stages of European unification, and actively helped shape the process of European cohesion following the end of the East-West conflict. This European integration created the world’s largest common market, characterised by the four fundamental freedoms formulated in the 1957 Treaty of Rome: the free movement of goods between the EU member states, the freedom of movement of persons, the freedom to provide services within the EU, and the free flow of capital.
The size and economic output of the common European market make the EU a major player in the global economy. The IMF is expecting growth of 2.2 percent for 2018 in Euroland, which has 19 member states. As the strongest economy in the EU, Germany has a particular responsibility, not least of all at times of economic and social change. This was evidenced during the financial and sovereign debt crisis. The EMU member states set up the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM) as a rescue fund. In close partnership with France and the other member states, the Federal Government seeks to further strengthen and reform Euroland to enable the euro to withstand crises better.
Franco-German friendship – the driving force behind European unification
Parallel to European integration, after the Second World War France and Germany established a close partnership, which nowadays is often regarded as a model for reconciliation between two peoples. In 1957, both countries were amongst the six founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC), the core of today’s EU. Franco-German friendship, substantiated by the 1963 Elysée Treaty, is nurtured by close relations between the civil societies and numerous Franco-German institutions. With regard to European and foreign policy issues, both countries cooperate closely and through joint initiatives repeatedly play a role in constructively advancing European policy.
German-Polish collaboration is a more recent element in the European unification process. In the 1970s, Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik achieved initial successes in reconciliation with Poland. This was continued by the recognition of the two countries’ common border in the Two Plus Four Treaty on the external aspects of German Unity in 1990, and with the Border Treaty concluded the same year and institutionalised in the 1991 German-Polish Treaty on Good Neighbourliness. The close relationships with France and Poland are nurtured in the trilateral format of the Weimar Triangle.
More global weight through joint European action
The 2009 Treaty of Lisbon institutionalised the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) still further. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who chairs the Council of Foreign Ministers, is also Vice-President of the European Commission. Italian Federica Mogherini has held this office since 2014. She is also responsible for representing the EU externally on all CFSP issues. The European External Action Service (EEAS) assists the High Representative in discharging her duties. Through these institutional changes the EU has considerably strengthened its visibility and efficacy outside its own territory. The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) gives the EU the necessary operational abilities to ensure effective crisis management. Civilian and military means are brought to bear. The long-term idea is to create a European Security and Defence Union (ESDU).
The influx of refugees and migrants above all in 2015 and 2016 into Europe is a pan-European issue for which Germany with its partners is seeking an enduring answer. The EU Commission’s “European Migration Agenda” has already achieved firm results with measures such as the EU-Turkey Declaration of March 2016, migration partnerships with African home or transit countries, and the battle against human traffickers: In 2017 the number of irregular border crossings on key migration routes fell 63‑percent on the 2016 figure. The question of the more just distribution of asylum seekers in the EU still requires a sustainable, fair answer, however.
Germany is working intensely in the areas of crisis prevention and humanitarian assistance to combat the causes that force people to flee their countries. Information plays a key role and the Federal Foreign Office and the foreign missions in crisis regions outline the dangers of flight and irregular migration and thus try to counteract the deliberate false information provided by criminal human traffickers.
In the second half of 2020 it will be Germany’s turn to hold the EU Council Presidency and it intends to set emphases in crucial political fields.