Uneasy Allies: British-German Relations and European Integration since 1945

By Klaus Larres; Elizabeth Meehan | Go to book overview
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Britain, Germany, and the Deepening of
Europe: The Role of Domestic Norms
and Institutions


The parallel Intergovernmental Conferences (IGCs) on Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and Political Union which culminated in the Maastricht Summit in December 1991 produced the most significant extension of the scope of European integration since the Rome Treaties. This in part continued the impetus established by the Single European Act and the 1992 Single Market Programme it spawned, with further steps in economic integration. In particular EMU came to be seen as necessary to consolidate the Single Market and maintain Europe’s competitiveness in an increasingly internationalized economic environment. In addition, the end of the cold war, and German unification in particular, added a new slant to the integration process. The end of the cold war ‘unbound’ a German ‘Gulliver’1 hitherto tied down by the sclerotic nature of cold war international relations. This image of an unrestrained Germany revived one of the founding philosophies of the European integration process: integrate in order to bind German power into multilateral structures.2 The result was a French-sponsored and Commissiondriven acceleration of the EMU agenda, based on the premise of taming German economic power, as vested in the Bundesbank, in the framework of a European Central Bank. Germany’s leadership under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, keen to reiterate a now united Germany’s pro-integrationist credentials, acquiesced in this agenda—but on the condition that parallel steps be made towards Political Union. The two IGCs on EMU and Political Union were thus launched in an unprecedented atmosphere of urgency and improvisation. As a result, their agendas became unusually

1 The terminology is that of S. Bulmer and W. Paterson, ‘West Germany’s Role in Europe: Man-Mountain or Semi-Gulliver?’, Journal of Common Market Studies 28 (1989); and W. Paterson, ‘Gulliver Unbound: The Changing Context of Foreign Policy’, in G. Smith et al. (eds.), Developments in German Politics (London, 1992).

2 See D. Spence, ‘The European Community and German Unification’, in C. Jeffery and R. Sturm (eds.), Federalism, Unification and European Integration (London, 1993), 140–1.


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