The Challenge of Regional Leadership: Germany’s Self-Conception and Leadership Performance across EU Policies


Leadership of powerful states is considered crucial to the success of regional integration. Since the European Union (EU) finds itself in a ‘polycrisis’, many eyes are on Germany. However, Germany has long been characterized by a ‘leadership avoidance reflex’. Moreover, even if Germany perceives itself as a leader in the EU, it will not be able to provide leadership equally in all EU policies, as such hegemony is precluded for structural and legitimacy reasons. Therefore, this project investigates, first, the extent to which German political elites perceive themselves as a regional leader in different EU policies. Second, the project asks under which conditions Germany actually performs a leading role in a given policy. Methodologically, the project relies on a mixed-methods design by combining an elite survey with rigorous process-tracing based on semi-structured interviews and document analysis.

Project Lead: Magnus Schoeller (Profile)
Funding: Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) (APART-GSK)
Duration: 2020-2024


Research Output

Schoeller, Magnus; Karlsson, Olof and Emil Hildebrand: “Explaining the Leadership Vacuum - Germany, the completion of the Banking Union and arms deliveries to Ukraine”, EIF Working Paper 1/2024 (March 2024), Vienna.

Schoeller, Magnus G. and Olof Karlsson: “Where there's a will, there's a way? Germany and the EU leadership quest”, OUPblog, Oxford University Press, 26 October 2023.

Schoeller, Magnus G.: “Leadership Aspirations versus Reality: Germany’s Self-Concept in Europe”, International Affairs 99:4 (July 2023), 1615-1634.

Schoeller, Magnus G. and Sebastian Heidebrecht: “Continuity despite Crises: Germany's Euro Policy in the Light of the Pandemic, War and Inflation”, Journal of European Public Policy, online first (May 2023).

Schoeller, Magnus G.: “Leadership in the EU? The Self-Concept of German Political Elites (SUF edition)”, AUSSDA, V1, 2023.

Schoeller, Magnus G.:“Centrifugal Forces in a Hegemonic Environment: The Rise of Small-State Coalitions in the Economic and Monetary Union”, European Political Science Review 14:1 (February 2022), 1-17.

Schoeller, Magnus G. and Olof Karlsson: “Championing the ‘German Model’? Germany’s Consistent Preferences on the Integration of Fiscal Constraints”, Journal of European Integration 43:2 (February 2021), 193-209.