Advocate of European integration
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 lays the foundations for peace, security, and prosperity. Despite Great Britain’s exit from the EU at the end of January 2020, advancing and strengthening that integration, 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 is today the EU nowadays has around 446 million citizens in 27 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. With Ursula von der Leyen as President of the EU Commission, since December 2019 there has been a German at the helm of the community.
Common European market
European integration has created the world’s single 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. In recent years, however, the region’s economic output has dwindled: Whereas in 2018 growth in the EU still stood at two per cent, in 2019 it was only 1.4 per cent. For 2020, experts expect Europe, like other regions, to suffer severe economic consequences as a result of the spread of the Covid-19 disease, which was declared a pandemic in March 2020.
For a stable euro
As the strongest economy in the EU, Germany has a particular responsibility, not least of all in 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.
At the end of January 2020, Great Britain became the first member state to leave the EU. Germany would nonetheless like a close relationship to be maintained with Great Britain and sees itself in a position of particular responsibility with regard to shaping the exiting country’s future relationship with the EU.
Drawing the Western Balkans to the EU
Germany supports the integration of further states into the EU. At the instigation, amongst others, of Germany, the “Berlin Process” supports Serbia and other Western Balkans countries step by step on their way to EU accession. Reconciliation among the countries themselves is an important goal of the process.
Asylum and migration policy remain a controversial topic in the EU. In particular, the sharp rise in the number of people seeking protection in 2015 and 2016 resulted in disagreement with regard to the treatment of refugees and migrants. Germany was one of the countries that was particularly willing to accept them and continues to campaign for joint solutions in this question.
Dealing with climate change is another major task of the EU. In late 2019 the EU Commission launched its European Green Deal. The aim is to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Germany intends to move implementation of the deal forward during its Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2020. The EU budget for 2021 to 2027 will also be passed during Germany’s Presidency of the EU Council.