The making of German European policy
Community of values: Germany in Europe, © dpa / picture alliance
The EU's policies affect many aspects of our lives. To be an effective advocate of Germany’s interests in Brussels, we need efficient policy coordination within the Federal Government.
The Federal Government believes it is important to feed its position in to the various bodies in Brussels as early as possible.
To this end, the responsible Federal ministry coordinates a joint German position on each individual issue. The sooner this happens, and the more coherent the Federal Government’s stance in Brussels, the greater the chances of helping to shape decisions in the German interest.
Federal Foreign Office plays coordinating role
The Federal Foreign Office has the task of ensuring that Germany presents a coherent position on policy on Europe. The main coordination body is the State Secretaries Committee for European Affairs, which discusses fundamental European policy issues and coordinates major EU topics of interministerial interest.
Below the level of the State Secretaries Committee for European Affairs, the European Affairs Directors-General from the various ministries have the task of raising awareness in their ministries of politically relevant and/or controversial dossiers, as well as of identifying and eliminating possible differences of opinion between the different ministries at an early stage. This group is co‑chaired by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy .
Each Federal ministry has a Head of EU Affairs, who is the main point of contact on European policy within the ministry. The Heads of EU Affairs meet at irregular intervals under the chairmanship of the head of the EU Coordination Group at the Federal Foreign Office to discuss basic questions in coordinating policy on Europe and to clarify procedural issues.
The EU Coordination Group at the Federal Foreign Office ensures that Germany's embassies in the EU member states receive comprehensive, specific, up‑to‑date information on European policy actions. Specially appointed officers at Germany’s embassies follow the European policy debate in their host country and report on the focuses and positions of its European policy. They also supplement Germany’s negotiating efforts in Brussels by directly lobbying governments and persuading the public of Germany’s interests, as well as explaining the reasons for German positions.
German staff in the European Union
German nationals employed as EU officials can act as intermediaries between German and European points of view, because they are familiar with conditions in Germany and can take them into account when working on European legislation. At the same time, national authorities are keen to obtain a better understanding of EU viewpoints by means of contact with German officials in Brussels.
A regular exchange of information is a key factor enabling the German Government to adopt a stance of its own on draft EU legislation at an early stage, allowing it to feed constructive ideas into the legislative process within the EU.
The German Government is therefore working to ensure an appropriate level of German staffing in the EU institutions in both quantitative and qualitative terms, using a package of diverse measures.
These include active recruitment measures such as talks on working in the EU, the provision of multimedia information about careers in the EU, preparatory events for applicants, individual advisory services and intensive networking in Berlin and in the relevant missions abroad, above all in Brussels.
Cooperation on EU issues with the federal states (Länder) and the Bundesrat
Länder participation in German EU policy varies as follows, depending on the extent to which their interests or responsibilities are involved:
- participation in consultations aimed at determining Germany’s negotiating position, if the Bundesrat would have to be involved in a corresponding domestic-policy measure or if the Länder would be competent nationally;
- participation by Länder representatives in negotiations, if essential Länder interests are involved;
- transfer of negotiating powers to Länder representatives in the case of EU proposals which affect exclusive Länder legislative powers (i.e. education, cultural affairs, radio and television).
Moreover, Bundesrat positions must as a matter of principle be taken into consideration by the Federal Government. The Bundesrat’s views must be given the greatest possible respect if the issue in question is an EU project that primarily concerns matters for which the Länder have exclusive legislative powers or that affect the structure of Land authorities or Land administrative procedures.
Read more on the website of the Bundesrat