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    Weight of the Past: This is Why 'German Dominance in the EU is a Myth'

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    Europe's troubled past has prompted some to warn that the continent could morph into a "Fourth Reich," a Berlin-led close-knit political and economic entity. But contrary to these concerns, Germany far from dominates the EU; in fact, it is not even leading it, writer Leonid Bershidsky asserted.

    "In 2016, German dominance in the EU is a myth. The only advantage Germany has over its neighbors is a stronger economy. The EU is not turning into a federal state anytime soon, and opponents of closer integration should thank Germany's old inferiority complex for it," he wrote for Bloomberg View.

    Germany's activities are currently focused exclusively on trying to keep the union from falling apart.

    Berlin is not the dominating force that the Leave campaigners in the UK or sociologists like Ulrich Beck are trying to paint it as. Germany is not coordinating economic policies of the union. German officials are not overrepresented in Brussels. Germany's share in the EU budget is slightly bigger than the share of its economic output to the entire bloc.

    Yet there is no denying that the country is an economic and by extension a political powerhouse.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech about the European Summit at the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.
    © AP Photo / Markus Schreiber
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech about the European Summit at the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.

    Critics accuse Berlin of political assertiveness that does not take into account the wishes and concerns of other EU members, particularly new ones. They point to the fact that Berlin seems to be the de facto political capital of the union, not Brussels.

    "There is, indeed, something to that: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed Europeans to impose sanctions on Russia over its treatment of Ukraine," the writer noted, echoing the sentiment that Moscow was somehow to blame for the US-sponsored coup in the neighboring country and the ensuing civil war. Russia has always denied these baseless accusations.

    Merkel has also welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Middle East to Germany, urging other European countries to follow the lead. "She barely consulted anyone in the EU when she invited Syrian refugees to Germany," Bershidsky said.

    Migrants wait for the start of the rights education lessons for refugees and asylum seekers in a hall of the Bayernkaserne in Munich, southern Germany on February 24, 2016.
    © AFP 2019 / Christof Stache
    Migrants wait for the start of the rights education lessons for refugees and asylum seekers in a hall of the "Bayernkaserne" in Munich, southern Germany on February 24, 2016.

    In addition, Germany has been flayed for its treatment of Greece last year when the troika of international creditors strong-armed Athens into accepting a bailout deal that imposed more austerity measures on the already fragile economy.

    But German leadership has its limits. Central and Eastern European countries, like Poland, have hotly opposed Berlin's approach to dealing with the massive migrant wave. "Germany was effectively isolated on refugees and forced to do a humiliating deal with Turkey to curb the inflow," the writer observed.

    Anti-Russian sanctions have increasingly caused a rift in the union, with many businesses in Italy, France and Germany itself pushing for lifting of the restrictive measures that ruined profitable cooperation.

    "Under Merkel, Germany hasn't so much led as tried to keep the EU and the euro area together – with limited success, as it's turned out," Bershidsky said.

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    anti-Russian sanctions, refugee crisis, European Union, Angela Merkel, Europe, Germany
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