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Learning to lead? A role analysis of Germany and the CFSP

Conference contribution
Authors Lisbeth Aggestam
Adrian Hyde-Price
Published in UACES 47th Annual Conference. Krakow, Poland: 4-6 september
Publication year 2017
Published at Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Department of Political Science
Language en
Keywords Germany, leadership, European foreign policy, EU, role theory
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


Germany’s growing leadership role in the European Union over recent years has been subject to a broad-ranging debate. The changed EU foreign policy-making procedures introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, with a significant delegation of formal leadership functions to the EU level, have created a new dynamic between EU institutions and member states, thereby complicating the picture of how and why German exercises leadership in the CFSP. We argue that Germany’s emerging leadership role in European foreign and security policy can be elucidated by drawing on social role theory. The article begins by arguing that there is an important distinction to be made between German power on the one hand, and its capacity for leadership on the other. Material power capabilities and formal institutional positions themselves do not ensure leadership, which is crucially dependent on the relationship between a leader and its followers. Role theory focuses on understanding the processes whereby leadership emerges through the development of shared role relations between leaders and followers. We argue that Germany is learning a new leadership role in the CFSP, and that this is the product of the interaction of domestic level factors and the role expectations of other EU member states. This new German role conception manifests itself in an increased willingness to assume a leadership function in European foreign, security and defence cooperation. The article investigates this emerging leadership role empirically by presenting new data on German leadership role expectations and role conceptions in EU foreign policy drawn from an extensive interview survey and more in-depth qualitative interviews in Berlin and Brussels.

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