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Power Shift: Towards Germany Hegemony In The European Union?

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Over the period since its emergence in 2010 the Eurozone crisis has shaken some of the fundamental assumptions relating to European integration. Might the EU disintegrate? Has the European Union (EU) lost its sense of community and solidarity that for decades seemed intrinsic to its character? Is monetary union without political union simply unsustainable? Questions such as these have struck at the heart of the European integration project.

 

So has another: has Germany become the EU’s new hegemon? A central component of supranational integration at the time of its origin with the 1950 Schuman Plan for the European Coal and Steel Community was the pooling of sovereignty in order to ‘tame’ German power.[1] And yet a quarter of a century after its unification German power no longer looks tamed. On the contrary, during the Eurozone crisis the question of German power has become a growing concern. The issue had been salient throughout the crisis but came to a head in early July 2015, after Greece had failed to meet its end-June deadline for loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble proposed that Greece should take a ‘timeout’ from membership of the Eurozone as well as transferring €50 bn of its state assets to a Luxembourg trust in preparation for their privatization.[2] This flexing of Berlin’s muscles put German hegemony into the centre of European political debate.

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[1] For analysis using this terminology, see P. Katzenstein (ed.), Tamed Power: Germany in Europe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997).

[2] The Schäuble paper is available at http://www.spiegel.de/media/media-37108.pdf, accessed 16th July 2015.

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