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FT.com / Comment (Quentin Peel)/ Analysis - Germany: A test of strength

"The first law about Germany is that they are always wrong, like the Americans are for the French," says Gérard Errera, former secretary-general of the French foreign ministry. "If they are assertive, they are accused of building the Fourth Reich. If they are against war in Libya, they are useless."

The past 12 months have aggravated this dilemma. The eurozone crisis has accelerated the emergence of Germany as the dominant partner in the EU, a process that has upset many fellow members. Berlin has been accused of being both high-handed and miserly, of imposing its model of strict budgetary discipline while ignoring its own faults.

The shift has upset the balance of power in Brussels. Officials at the home of the European Commission, the bloc's executive wing, joke that the first question asked about any is legislation is: "What is Berlin's position on this?"

Most important, France has been forced to play second fiddle to its closest partner. For all EU members, German ascendance presents a challenge of adaptation to which they are only just adjusting. For Germany, the reluctant hegemon, it is also an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position.

"Rarely has Germany been as important in Europe - or as isolated - as it is today," say Ulrike Guérot and Mark Leonard in a new pamphlet for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 12:46:29 PM EST
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