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Luke B. Wood

Germany’s increased power capabilities in foreign affairs since reunification have prompted scholars to argue that the country should be viewed as a regional hegemonic power, exercising significant influence not only over smaller countries in Eastern and Southern Europe, but also over the institutions of the European Union. After providing a critical assessment of the literature on hegemony in Europe, this article outlines three main trends in the scholarship on German power in European affairs. First, scholars tend to exaggerate Berlin’s power capabilities relative to other major European states such as France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Research shows that Europe is best understood as a multipolar regional order, not a hegemonic system dominated by one powerful state. Second, German leadership in Europe is contested and often delegitimized. Since 1949, German political elites have not been able to exercise influence in Europe without the support of other European states. This remains true even after the collapse of the Franco-German “tandem” in the wake of the European debt crisis. Third, scholars fail to adequately address how American power in the North Atlantic impacts regional polarity. Since reunification, the role of the United States in Europe has only increased and American influence over Eastern Europe, in particular, surpasses that of other European powers, including Germany.