Since unification, the Federal Republic, in its usual fashion, has supported the initiatives of the EU and has even taken the lead in many areas (e.g., expansion into Central and Eastern Europe and greater engagement in Southeastern Europe) (25). In general, as before, the majority of German citizens identify with Europe (26). Despite premature pronouncements of its demise, the French-German partnership continues to be the driving force behind the EU even after its territorial expansion. The pace of European integration and the attendant geographic enlargement of the EU, disputes over isolated issues, and concerns about protecting German interests have created a situation in which the German people view the EU more skeptically than their government does. This is also true of the citizens of other European countries. Nonetheless, this skepticism is coupled with a fundamental acceptance of EU decisions, even when they are unpopular, as was the case with the adoption of the Euro, the common European currency. The Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling on the Treaty of Lisbon (2009) provided at least the legal basis for the expansion of the rights of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat in EU affairs. Critics lamented the strengthening of the national state that occurred in the process, while supporters welcomed the fact that the ruling put clearer limits on European integration. The Euro Crisis of 2010 reawakened popular skepticism toward the European Union, which is perceived as being forced on the citizenry by the political elite.
Changes in German foreign policy are first and foremost responses to transformations in the international arena and not the result of deliberate new strategies. Opinions differ, however, on whether these changes are merely a matter of adaptation or the sign of a new orientation in German policies toward Europe and the world (27). Germany is once again a middle power, and it also conceives of itself as a team player [Mitführungsmacht]. The self-restraint that characterized the foreign policy of the old Federal Republic is still predominant, but it is being increasingly supplemented by signs of self-assertion. This brand of politics was advanced in particular by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, whose articulation of German interests on the international stage was more open and confident than that of his predecessors (28). His vehement opposition to German participation in the Iraq War and his ability to parlay that opposition into electoral victory in the fall of 2002 led to considerable transatlantic tensions. Still, both sides undertook damage control measures; these efforts were stepped up after the change of government in Germany in 2005, when Angela Merkel replaced Schröder, and were strengthened once again in the U.S. three years later when Barack Obama replaced George W. Bush. In contrast to the influence that Germany wields within Europe, its global-political influence still remains limited. Germany's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council has foundered, not least on U.S. resistance in the wake of transatlantic turbulence. On the other hand, Germany is now being consulted ever more frequently on global issues – for instance, the conflict with Iran – and is included in decision-making processes. German foreign policy is still trying to find the right balance (29).
(25) On the various aspects of Germany's role in Europe, see the special issue of the journal German Politics (vol. 14, no. 3; September 2005), From Modell Deutschland to Model Europa: Europe in Germany and Germany in Europe, as well as Kenneth Dyson and Klaus H. Goetz, eds., Germany, Europe and the Politics of Constraint (Oxford, 2003).
(26) Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and Thomas Petersen, “Die Bürger in Deutschland,” in Werner Weidenfeld, ed., Europa-Handbuch. Vol. II: Die Staatenwelt Europas. Third edition, revised and updated (Gütersloh, 2004), pp. 32-51.
(27) Gisela Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet, “Deutsche Leadership in der Europäischen Union? Die Europapolitik der rot-grünen Bundesregierung 1998-2002,” in Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet et al., Deutsche Europapolitik von Konrad Adenauer bis Gerhard Schröder (Opladen, 2002), p. 196.
(28) Helga Haftendorn, Coming of Age: German Foreign Policy since 1945 (Lanham, MD, 2006).
(29) Hans-Peter Schwarz, Republik ohne Kompaß. Anmerkungen zur deutschen Außenpolitik (Berlin, 2005); Regina Karp, “The New German Policy Consensus,” The Washington Quarterly, 29, 1 (Winter 2005-06), pp. 61-82.