Whither Germany? Why France Matters
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Over the past few years, Germany’s growing power and international assertiveness have been central to academic and policy debates on the country’s foreign policy. Berlin’s changing roles in the European Union and in the transatlantic alliance have attracted particular scrutiny. Might (or should) a more powerful Germany distance itself from the European and Atlantic frameworks in which its international policies had been embedded since 1945? Or might (or should) Germany’s newfound assertiveness be matched by a growing sense of responsibility and the reaffirmation of its longtime European and Atlantic commitments?
Since the post-war era, France’s goal has been to anchor Germany in robust European and Atlantic institutions. To be sure, Germany’s attachment to both European and Atlantic institutions was always, first and foremost, the reflection of the country’s values and interests. Yet because Germany’s international role has also been shaped by its environment, not least in the West, the Franco–German relationship (along with the U.S.–German relationship) has historically played a vital role in ensuring the country’s European and Atlantic orientations.
Germany’s growing power and evolving international policies (compounded by France’s current economic weakness and political uncertainties) have led many to question the continuing relevance of the Franco–German partnership and, as a result, to decree the end of France’s influence on Germany’s international trajectory. However, the Franco–German partnership remains as vital as ever to steering Germany’s role and ensuring its enduring commitment to the European project and the transatlantic alliance at a time when both are being tested as never before. Against the backdrop of the still ongoing euro crisis and growing concerns with regard to the future of the Western and international liberal order in the wake of the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, and with major elections coming up in both countries in 2017, the Franco–German partnership matters greatly for the future of Europe and the West.