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Learning to Lead? Germany and the Leadership Paradox in EU Foreign Policy

Journal article
Authors Lisbeth Aggestam
Adrian Hyde-Price
Published in German Politics
Pages 1-17
ISSN 0964-4008
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Department of Political Science
Pages 1-17
Language en
Keywords Germany, foreign policy, leadership, power, European Union
Subject categories Political Science


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 Germany exercises leadership in the CFSP. We use social role theory to analyse Germany’s emerging leadership role in European foreign and security policy. We begin by drawing an important distinction between German power on the one hand, and its capacity for leadership on the other. German leadership in European foreign policy has emerged as a result of the Ukraine crisis and is being shaped by the interaction between domestic level factors and the role expectations of its key allies and partners. The form of German leadership in the CFSP reflects the paradoxical nature of post-Lisbon European foreign policy, which we argue can be explained in terms of ‘cross- loading’ dynamics of Europeanization that are horizontal and informal. We illus- trate the evolving form of German leadership with original data from an extensive interview survey and a case study of the Ukraine crisis.

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