Germany and European Integration

Germany and European Integration

Since its inception, the Federal Republic of Germany has been a lead-ing force in European integration, working with its neighbors to forge strong economic and political ties. West Germany’s interest in European integration had been apparent since the 1950s.

It was a key partner in the organizations that laid the foundations for the European Union, signing the Treaty of Paris in 1951, which founded the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome in 1957, which established the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerun-ner of the European Community (EC).

Ironically, Germany’s troubled past played a role in fostering European integration, since France and Germany initially envisioned economic coordination as a mechanism to preclude future wars between the two former enemies.

The cooperation among EC nations had intensifi ed during the 1980s, and the reunifi ca-tion of Germany had been conceived within the context of European integration. Accordingly, on the heels of German reunifi cation, the Federal Republic signed the Maastricht Treaty, which went into effect on November 1, 1993.

This groundbreaking agreement formed the European Union (EU), joining the original members of the EC, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, with newer members Denmark, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Greece, Spain, and Portugal in an economic, political, and security partnership. Member states were not just bound together economically, as in the EC, but also coordinated European diplomacy, defense, and even justice and immigration policy.

The foundation of a common market within Europe fostered trade, and new members, particularly the former communist nations of the Warsaw Pact, rushed to join the EU. These applicants had to meet the stringent requirements of the Copenhagen criteria established in 1993: democratic government, the rule of law, the protection of human rights, a stable market economy, and the acceptance of EU responsibilities and obligations.

In 1995, Austria, Sweden, and Finland joined the European Union, and in 2002, the individual currencies of the EU’s member nations were replaced by a single currency, the euro. This sparked a dramatic increase in membership, and in 2004, Cyprus and Malta joined along with the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and the Eastern European nations of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

With the addition of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, the European Union has grown to its current total of 27 member nations. As a founding member of the EU, with the largest economy among the member nations, Germany has enjoyed tremendous infl u-ence within the newly integrated Europe.In the 1990s, Germany also began to play a more active—and contro-versial—role in international affairs.

An important member of NATO, Germany provided substantial funds to help pay for United Nations military operations in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War (1990–91) but did not send troops. In 1993, however, Germany participated in the UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia, sending a transportation unit. Although the Kohl government stopped short of committing com-bat troops, the operation in Somalia elicited controversy among the German people.

In light of Germany’s belligerent history, the Federal Republic’s military had been founded as a self-defense force, prohib-ited from operating outside Germany. The issue was fi nally resolved in the federal courts, and in the summer of 1994, the justices hearing the case ruled that the German military was allowed to serve abroad, but only in the context of UN, NATO, or EU operations. As a result of this landmark decision, Germany’s involvement in international peace-keeping has increased dramatically.

In December 1995, for example, Chancellor Kohl sent troops to Bosnia as part of a multinational NATO peacekeeping force operating to enforce the Dayton Peace Accords, the 1995 peace agreement brokered by the United States to bring peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina. German involvement in the Balkans intensi-fi ed in 1999, however, when German aircraft participated in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo confl ict, the fi rst time the Luftwaffe had engaged in combat operations since the end of World War II.

Germany’s increasing prominence in international affairs is appar-ent in the signifi cant role it has played in efforts to provide stability in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion of 2001. In December 2001, after the ouster of the Taliban by the U.S. military, Germany hosted a meeting of Afghan leaders that led to the Bonn Agreement. The Bonn Agreement established a provisional Afghan government and laid the groundwork for drafting a new constitution and holding democratic elections.

It also mandated a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help stabilize the country, controlling looting and retaliation in the capital region. Germany provided a substantial contribution to this peacekeeping force, sending more than 4,000 troops to serve in northern Afghanistan, making it the third-largest contributor of soldiers to the ISAF.

The German troops serving in Afghanistan have been engaged in combat with Taliban insurgents and have suffered casualties as a result. Despite continuing controversy over the deployment within Germany, the Federal Republic’s steady support for the Afghan operation has been essential in persuading other EU nations to retain a role in the country.

Immigration and Diversity

As Germany strengthened its bonds with other European states and honored its peacekeeping obligations in the 1990s, immigration into Germany after reunifi cation caused increasing social strain. As the communist regimes of Eastern Europe collapsed in the early 1990s, some 200,000 ethnic Germans residing there sought a new home in the Federal Republic, applying for citizenship according to the provi-sions of the German constitution. According to the Basic Law, foreign nationals of German descent, known as Volksdeutsche, could claim citizenship in the Federal Republic, along with non-Germans suffering from persecution at home.

As Yugoslavia exploded in ethnic confl ict in the early 1990s, 200,000 such asylum seekers fl ooded into Germany as well. Troubled by widespread unemployment and suffering from soar-ing budget defi cits related to the costs of reunifi cation, the German gov-ernment struggled to provide the infl ux of impoverished immigrants with social security benefi ts.These new Germans also brought cultural and linguistic diversity to the country, troubling many of Germany’s native-born citizens.

These tensions compounded the xenophobic reactions remaining from the infl ux of workers into West Germany during the “economic miracle” of the 1950s and 1960s. Chronic labor shortages during that era prompted the German government to recruit guest workers (Gastarbeiter) from various nations, fi rst Italy and Greece in the 1950s, then Turkey and Portugal after 1960, and fi nally Yugoslavia at the end of the 1960s.

With the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the fl ow of industrial laborers from East Germany into the Federal Republic had ended, caus-ing an intense labor shortage. The German government recruited guest workers from Turkey to fi ll the void. These workers, mostly young males, were supposed to remain in Germany for only a few years before returning home with their wages, but German employers pressured the government to extend the time limits.

No longer required to leave, many chose to stay and, in the 1970s, began bringing their families to Germany to live with them. The children of Turkish parents born in Germany were excluded from citizenship, which was reserved for eth-nic Germans and asylum seekers, but the Turks were granted the right to reside in the country.

The number of Turkish nationals residing in Germany increased dramatically in the decades to come, climbing from around 7,000 in 1961 to more than 650,000 in 1971, to more than 1.5 million in 1981, to almost 1.8 million in 1991, infl aming right-wing extremism in the country. Since Turkish guest workers had intended to stay in Germany only temporarily, neither the workers nor the government promoted their assimilation.

As a result, Germany’s Turkish population usually remained separate from their German neighbors, and cultural differ-ences abounded. German reunifi cation exacerbated these tensions between Germany’s growing Turkish population and their German hosts.

Xenophobic rhetoric was often accompanied by racist violence, particularly in the states of the former East Germany, hard hit by rising unemployment and economic anxiety. Neo-Nazi groups fl ourished, and violence against foreigners tripled between 1991 and 1993, prompting German liberals to confront Germany’s racist past, calling for the nation to reimagine itself as a multicultural society.

These efforts resulted in a major change in German citizenship laws in 2000, one that granted citizenship to the children of foreign nation-als born in Germany, regardless of their ethnicity. This change fi nally broke the link between German citizenship and German blood, turning Germany into a truly multinational society in the face of considerable conservative resistance.