Germany managed to hold on to 3rd place in this year’s index, noteworthy considering that half of the countries in the top-ten experience a fall in their ranking. Germany’s position in The Soft Power 30 has been fairly consistent, staying between 2nd and 4th, but mostly sitting at 3rd. Given the current levels of geopolitical uncertainty and volatility, consistency can be a valuable asset. However, since Chancellor Merkel’s announcement that she would step down in 2021 and retire from frontline politics, Germany has been more internally focused. The Chancellor has been left politically weakened since the last general election, and French President, Emmanuel Macron, has put himself in the driving seat of Europe’s external affairs. A less globally engaged Germany is certainly not a good thing. Our polling data shows that there are very few countries that hold more global trust to ‘do the right thing in global affairs’ than Germany.
Germany’s strongest performance was within the ‘Government’ sub-index, climbing three spots to 5th place. This is Germany’s best performance since the introduction of the report in 2015. Particularly high scores within the Human Development (5th overall) and Economist Democracy Index (13th overall) alongside a recorded increase in the number of think tanks were integral for achieving this result. Germany also moved into 2nd place in the ‘Engagement’ sub-index after holding 3rd place for the last four years. Germany’s continuous efforts to resettle refugees helped drive this positive shift, but the programme has also highlighted internal political divisions and raised the spectre of the return of right-wing extremism.
Germany’s ranking in the Digital sub-index suffered this year, falling out of the top ten for the first time (11th place). While the country’s digital infrastructure and high internet penetration rates have remained consistent, online engagement with key political figures has tumbled. Most notably, Angela Merkel’s decision to shut down her social media accounts after resigning the leadership of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, caused a fall in digital diplomacy metrics for Germany.
Europe has no shortage of challenges, both internal and external. In facing up to these challenges successfully, continued German leadership will be needed. As Chancellor Merkel develops the plans for her final 24 months in office, one last major push on the world stage to cement a global legacy could be the spark Germany needs to reach the top of The Soft Power 30.