Odysseus and the Lilliputians? Germany, the European Union and the smaller European States

What is the rationale underpinning united Germany's relations to its neighbours, and how may German power be conceptualised? This paper reviews a contribution of Katzenstein on the subject, adding some intriguing institutional observations of Germany soft-power, multilateral approach.

ARENA Working Paper 27/1997 (html)

Bjørn Otto Sverdrup

Does Germany dominate Europe and the smaller European states? Why does it not use its new won power more extensively? These two simple questions, among others, have stimulated Peter J. Katzenstein to gather a group of scholars to draw up a balance sheet of united Germany's relations to Europe and its neighbors. By emphasizing the concept of `semi-sovereignty', at the domestic level, and `associated sovereignty' at the international one, the book draws attention to institutional aspects which constrain, and construct, German policy. Soft and indirect power, rather than direct one has been predominant for Germany in Europe. This article presents the major findings of this important book and suggests three comments from an institutional perspective: Firstly, the concept of semi-sovereignty is biased towards how institutions constrain actions, as compared to their constitutive importance. Secondly, the concept of institutional embeddedness underestimates the importance of institutionalization. Thirdly, the book leaves the issue of small state behavior underexplored. In conclusion, the article looks ahead and hints to the increasing divide between the smaller and the larger states in the EU. Germany's dilemma in this respect is to make multilateralism effective, and still avoid the impression that its reform proposals is an effort to institutionalize German hegemony.

Tags: power analysis, international relations, Germany, political culture
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM