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Germany - Foreign Relations

Germanys role in the world has been changing in the postCold War era. Germany is the largest economic power in Europe. The country has never been as economically strong, secure and free as it is today. Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world, and one of the top exporters. In the years since Germany was unified, it has become the most valuable European partner of the United States. But it has been, and is, reluctant to take the lead in world events.

Germany continues to emphasize close ties with the United States, membership in NATO, and the "deepening" of integration among current members of the EU. The Federal Republic of Germany took part in all of the joint postwar efforts aimed at closer political, economic, and defense cooperation among the countries of Western Europe. Germany has been a large net contributor to the EU budget. Germany also is a strong supporter of the United Nations and of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In October 2010, Germany was elected to a 2-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council beginning in January 2011.

During the postwar era, the Federal Republic of Germany also sought to improve its relationship with the countries of Eastern Europe, first establishing trade agreements and, subsequently, diplomatic relations. With unification, German relations with the new democracies in central and Eastern Europe intensified. On November 14, 1990, Germany and Poland signed a treaty confirming the Oder-Neisse border. They also concluded a cooperation treaty on June 17, 1991.

Germany concluded four treaties with the Soviet Union covering the overall bilateral relationship, economic relations, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the territory of the former G.D.R., and German support for those troops. Russia accepted obligations under these treaties as successor to the Soviet Union. Germany continues to be active economically in the states of central and Eastern Europe and to actively support the development of democratic institutions, bilaterally and through the EU.

Previously bound to a close transatlantic relationship with the United States, in 2003 Germany resisted pressure from the United States to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Germany also distanced itself from the United States by supporting the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and the International Criminal Court. These steps reflected, in part, Germanys belief in the primacy of the United Nations (UN) in settling international disputes. Germany also is seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council as a means of asserting a more independent international role.

Following the election of Angela Merkel as chancellor in the fall of 2005, U.S.-German relations improved. Germany is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In general, Germany advocates the solidification and expansion of the European Union, although it has not committed to admitting Turkey into the organization. Germany often joins forces with France on foreign policy issues. Under Chancellor Merkels leadership, Germany has given increasing weight to human rights in its relationship with China and Russia, sometimes to the detriment of economic ties. Germany helped spearhead the Group of 8 (G8) decision in June 2005 to cancel US$55 billion of debt owed by the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Germanys road to great power status is strewn with obstacles. The 2009 Eurozone debt crisis has been managed on Berlins terms, but five years of wrenching austerity measures shifted Europe's political landscape by giving rise to left-wing radicals and right-wing populists. Their sole common ground is resistance to German solutions.




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