Thanks to reunification and economic might, Germany has become Europe’s “central power”. Germany’s central power and its role as a guarantor of European balance were ideas promoted by Bismarck, the German Empire’s chancellor from 1871 to 1890. He contributed to building Germany’s hegemony within the so-called “Concert of Powers”; but this hegemony was fragile, as the 1914 catastrophe soon proved. After a long series of dramatic events, today’s Germany, to some extent reluctantly, is once again a key reference point (although perhaps not a hegemonic nation) within the European Union. It’s a democratic version of the “Bismarck syndrome”, facilitated by the lack of an authentic European political leadership. This new challenge, like the old, is beleaguered by vulnerability.
Gian Enrico Rusconi formerly taught Political Science at the University of Turin.