From 2005 until fairly recently, German politics were the gold standard of boring and stable government. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s steady hand at the German helm was the constant of European politics. And among world leaders, she has seen American, French, British, Canadian, Japanese, Italian, Australian, and many other heads of government come and go. But from 2017, German politics have taken on a much more dramatic flair. Following Federal Elections last September, the steady hand of German leadership has looked decidedly shaken. Merkel needed six months to reach an agreement with her previous grand coalition partners, the SPD. In doing so, Merkel’s own party had to give up a lot to bring the SPD back into the fold for another grand coalition. Looking weakened and currently facing an internal party fight on immigration; this is not the Merkel of yesteryear. With the US retreating from global leadership, many have looked to Germany to fill the gap, but it has become clear Merkel is less than comfortable with this responsibility. 2018 World Cup aside, it is not all doom and gloom for Germany. A move up one place in the Soft Power 30 rankings illustrates the global respect Germany command. Moreover, in President Macron, Merkel has a forceful and capable partner in projecting European values and pursuing an agenda built on multilateralism and international cooperation.
Across the objective sub-indices, has significantly improved in the Education and Enterprise. This is the first year that Germany has finished ahead of the UK in the Education sub-index. A much-improved Enterprise score and rank has helped power Germany’s move up one place in the overall rankings as well. On the culture side, 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 Germany keep its 4th place ranking in Culture sub-index, only just behind France.
Germany’s soft power assets are well balanced, and it is hard to find glaring gaps in the country’s soft power capabilities. However, Germany’s lowest performing sub-indices are – counter-intuitively – in Government and Polling.
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.