The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was a founder member of the European integration process, namely the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) created in 1952. However, the circumstances were very different from the 2010s. Germany was a divided and defeated state until 1990. Integration provided important political and economic support to West Germany. From the 1970s, it strengthened the FRG’s foreign policy reach, for the new state was constrained by Cold War politics as well as other legacies, notably the Holocaust. European integration provided a framework for building trust with western neighbors, particularly France. The collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1989 and its absorption into the FRG through unification in 1990 brought about significant change to Germany’s relationship to European integration. The unified Germany became the largest member state. Initial concerns about German power in Europe were allayed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl pursuing deeper integration to bind the unified Germany further to integration: through creating the European Union (EU) itself and setting a course toward monetary union. Specific concerns about German power only really emerged in the 2010s, as the EU was bedeviled by several crises. In seeking to offer a comprehensive understanding of Germany’s relationship with the EU, coverage is organized around four broad themes: the historical dimension of the relationship; the substance of Germany’s European policy; the sources of Germany’s European policy; and Germany’s role and power in the EU. The historical dimension of Germany’s relationship with European integration is important as a first theme. It is no exaggeration to suggest that European integration helped emancipate the FRG from the historical legacy of turbulent relations with France, Nazi tyranny, and the opprobrium of the Holocaust. European integration afforded a complementary framework for Germany’s political and economic order. The importance of embedding German unification in a context of European integration should not be underestimated. Germany’s European policy has displayed considerable consistency up to the contemporary era. Support for further integration, for enlargement, the market order, and the development of an EU “civilian power” have been key components. These policies are important contributors to understanding Germany’s role in the EU: the second theme. The political and economic system of the FRG forms an important backdrop to understanding Germany’s policy and role in the EU: the third theme. From the 1960s until the 2010s, EU membership was subject to cross-party consensus and permissive public support. These circumstances allowed the federal government autonomy in pursuing its European policy. However, the political climate of European policy has become much more contested in the 2010s. Germany’s role was placed in the spotlight by the succession of crises that have emerged within the EU and in its neighborhood in the 2010s, particularly the eurozone and migration crises. The fourth theme explores how the question of German power re-emerged. These four themes are important to understanding Germany’s role in the EU, especially given Berlin’s centrality to its development.
Slovakia’s most recent crisis of identity involving the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova, and the subsequent anti-government protests (the largest since 1989), indicate that the push of European-wide democratic values and the pull of the old ways of Slovakian politics continue to define the nation’s political and economic landscape. Despite a decade and a half of European Union (EU) membership, Slovakia remains caught between the two competing pressures: one of corruption and the other of the rule of law. On the one hand, the rule of law heavily shaped by the intense Europeanization of Slovakia’s accession to the EU and its strong desire to be seen as a committed, highly integrated European partner, indeed part of the core of EU nations. On the other hand, the state remains relatively weak and captured by a dominant one-party political regime, resistant to fundamental change and punctuated by corruption. Indeed, for many analysts, Slovakia has fallen in line with other Central and Eastern European (CEE) states, high on absorbing EU funds and economic benefits, but less than committed to European political values and espousing nationalist and populist agendas. With pressure increasing from the European Union for accountability, the rule of law, and human rights, in which direction will Slovakia turn? This is not just a question for Slovakia; it is a fundamental question for Europe and the European Union. The direction in which nation-states such as Slovakia develop could determine the fate of the Union. In order to determine which direction Slovakia is headed, analysis of particular case studies of Europeanization suggest intentional, deep, and lasting impacts on Slovakia. Specifically, by examining justice and home affairs policy issues and inclusion into the European monetary system and eventual participation in the eurozone, Slovakia’s EU approach can be explained by its relative power and influence within the European Union. The first phase of Slovakian Europeanization can be characterized by its relative weakness, defined by rapid acceptance of EU directives, near total commitment to implementing those directives, and little Slovakian leverage over the process. By the time Slovakia joined the eurozone in January 2009, the EU’s ability to shape and impact Slovakia’s political and economic direction was demonstrable. However, following the severe economic downturn beginning in 2008 and the onset of the sovereign debt crisis of 2010, a second phase began to emerge. By the time of the migrant crisis in Europe in 2015, Slovakia surfaced as a key player in the EU’s ongoing struggles with the sovereign debt crisis and defending the external borders of Europe. Shifting relative Slovakian influence within the EU, broken down into two historical time frames, thus provides an overlapping explanation of the dual nature of Slovakia’s relationship with and to the European Union. These dual tracks help us further understand how truly Europeanized Slovakia is, despite its more recent resistance to further integrationist efforts. Slovakia, like the EU, is walking a very delicate tightrope, striking its own distinct and influential path among its CEE and Visegrad partners.