Priorities For The Next German Government

The federal election on September 26, 2021, will be a crucial moment in Germany’s international relations. In the run-up to this key election, we will publish weekly additions to our DGAP Memo series here that contain concise insights and recommendations for action for the next government along three core themes: Making German Foreign Policy Fit for Purpose; (Re)Positioning Germany in Europe; and Germany in the World: Challenges and Opportunities.

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The end of Angela Merkel’s 16-year chancellorship gives Germany the opportunity to rethink its foreign policy and tackle the new mix of problems arising from great power competition and complex transnational challenges. To preserve Germany’s strong commitment to the multilateral institutions that frame its economic prosperity and security, its next government will have to work out what the 2014 “Munich Consensus” about meeting international responsibilities actually entails. This requires redesigning national institutions and policies, driving European reform processes, and developing robust positions toward allies and competitors beyond Europe’s borders.

The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) advances German foreign policy thinking. We have created this series of policy memos to offer non-partisan recommendations on issues that may be overlooked on the campaign trail but will certainly require attention. In them, our international experts explain the changes – and in some cases the continuity – that will be required from Germans along three themes:

  1. Making German Foreign Policy Fit for Purpose
  2. (Re-)Positioning Germany in Europe
  3. Germany and the World: Challenges and Opportunities

From creating a digital grand strategy for Germany in Europe to addressing the foreign policy side of climate change and defining the role of the Federal Republic in reforming the eurozone, our experts examine how best to reinforce multilateral institutions, increase German capacities in security and defense, and achieve better crisis management strategies – including those related to pandemic mitigation and prevention, as well as migration dynamics and extremism. Underlying all of this is Germany’s relationship to the United States and China, the resilience of EU democracies, and the implications for Europe of Sino-American rivalry.

Germany can expand its economic and political strengths if it takes the opportunity to meaningfully connect its foreign, defense, climate, digital, and development policy – and commits to investing in its strengths. That will require a renewed and engaged dialogue with the German public, something that DGAP does routinely as a membership organization. Consequently, these memos are designed for policy-makers and the public alike and will remain a benchmark beyond the election.

Read the DGAP Memos below. Also, browse through our main dossier on the German federal elections 2021, where you will find more in-depth policy analysis and event formats to complement these memos.

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Making German Foreign Policy Fit for Purpose

Die Bewältigung der komplexen Herausforderungen des 21. Jahrhunderts erfordert eine stärkere strategische Koordination von Außen-, Verteidigungs-, Klima-, Digital- und Entwicklungspolitik. Die Memos in diesem Abschnitt geben die Ideen unserer Expertinnen und Experten für eine neue und somit handlungsfähige deutsche Außenpolitik wieder.

(Re-)Positioning Germany in Europe

Institutional and structural progress in the European Union will not be possible without Germany’s leadership – and its political and financial commitment over time. The memos in this section examine the opportunities for sustainable change in EU policy making and politics that can result from a new German government setting an ambitious agenda with its EU counterparts. 

Germany and the World: Challenges and Opportunities

The next decade will test Germany’s political and economic relations with the rest of the world – and demand a greater commitment to upholding the multilateral system that has assured its prosperity and security. The memos in this section highlight how Germany can redefine its international responsibilities and benefit from the resulting diplomatic engagement with both its allies and competitors.