A ‘primus inter pares’ in EU Foreign Policy? Analysing the Conditions for Germany’s Leadership in the European Council

Inez Freiin von Weitershausen

Building on the conceptualization of the European Council as an arena for integrative balancing which simultaneously gives smaller member states a ‘voice opportunity’ and larger ones a place in which to exercise their power, we investigate the conditions for German leadership in this key decision-making organ. We trace Berlin’s engagement in the crises in two of the arguably most relevant foreign policy crises the recent - the uprisings in Libya and Ukraine - and find that its ability to shape developments in the European Council is highest when its positions and preferences are aligned among the ‘Big Three’ and when smaller member states feel that they have increased ‘voice opportunity’ by entrusting Germany with functions such as agenda-setting and external representation. We also identify two additional factors - agreement among domestic actors and support by relevant international partners - which are key to Germany’s perceived legitimacy ad therefore, its position in the Council. In light of these findings and against the background of recent political developments in theEU foreign, we conclude with reflections on the future of German leadership and its potential to act as ‘‘primus inter pares’,





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