Despite a tumultuous year, German soft power remains as resilient as ever. A fall of one place in this year’s rankings masks the more positive story of an increased absolute score that reflects the country’s position as a beacon of stability and leadership not only in Europe, but in the wider world too. Germany may have faced ongoing issues relating to the realities of mass migration; the rise of the right-wing AfD; a number of terrorist attacks and major threats to the European project it cherishes, but thanks to the assured leadership of Angela Merkel, the country has remained true to its values of tolerance and fairness and demonstrated the resilience for which it is famed. Coming off the back of a relatively hitch-free G20 summit, Chancellor Merkel is favourite to win this summer’s election. With the US retreating from global leadership, expectation for Western leadership and the advancement of the European agenda will fall to her. Germany has reasons to be confident about this new role: resurgent support for the European project and a motoring economy, combined with the depth of its soft power assets should allow it to positively shape global outcomes in line with its foreign policy objectives.
Across the objective sub-indices, Germany has equalled or bettered last year’s scores. Its positive, values-driven foreign policy has resulted in a third place finish in the Engagement sub-index which measures the diplomatic footprint and impact countries have on global affairs. A supportive policy environment for the creative and night time economies has resulted in vibrant, 24-hour cities that draw in clubbers, foodies and art enthusiasts from around the world. Magnetic cities such as Berlin and Hamburg, and the cultural assets they boast have helped to increase the absolute score in the Culture sub-index. The country’s high placement in the Digital sub-index is also reflective of forward-thinking policies that serve to attract high-tech investment for the already booming manufacturing sector.
Germany slipping one place should not generate too much concern in German foreign policy circles. It is not that German soft power has deteriorated, more that it has been in a holding pattern, over the last year.
Perceptions towards Germany have dipped slightly in this year’s study. Recent moves to legalise same-sex marriage will provide opportunities to burnish Germany’s tolerant and welcoming image. Projecting these values around the world, while reasserting its position as the primary driver of the European agenda will no doubt help to strengthen its reputation as a force for good in the world.