Germany has long been said to make up for its lack of hard power by using economic weight to achieve political goals. This aspect of soft power has never been more true than today. With most of Mediterranean Europe desperately needing money, everybody puts their hopes on Angela Merkel’s deep pockets.
Since the middle of the financial crisis in 2009 German GDP grew by 7 per cent, and exports by more than 25 per cent. Even the worsening of the crisis is good for Germany because interest rates are low, and investors prefer to put their money in safe havens instead of more shaky candidates. So while Berlin is dramatically decreasing investments into its military power – doing away with conscription and reducing Bundeswehr’s troops from 240,000 to 180,000 – today Germany has substantially reinforced its role as Europe’s strongest nation. Still the country is a gentle giant. Many Germans feel a certain unease at having become a hegemonic power.
Number of embassies and consulates: 216
Membership of international organisations: 74
Number of Unesco World Heritage sites: 36
Fifa football ranking: 3
Number of think-tanks: 191
Nobel Laureates: 102
Universities in global top 100: 12
Panel comment: Second only to the US in terms of business brands, Germany has the potential to be a global political leader, but Angela Merkel seems more concerned with keeping her domestic audience happy.
MONOCLE FIX: These days the German government is suffering from more infighting than ever. With the rest of Europe waiting for Germany to make up its mind on critical matters, this country’s power sometimes seems a little too soft.