The bureaucratic politics of Germany's first Greek bailout package

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Author: Luke B. Wood
Date: Spring 2016
From: German Politics and Society(Vol. 34, Issue 1)
Publisher: Berghahn Books, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 11,248 words
Lexile Measure: 1830L

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The bureaucratic politics of the German decision to bailout Greece reveal that policy proposals from the Office of the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of Finance to cope with the crisis in Greece stood to benefit those specific ministries. Centered on a national/supranational cleavage, policy debates in the second Angela Merkel government revolved around whether the European Union should be delegated more power in terms of broader Eurozone macroeconomic governance. Angela Merkel rejected broader treaty revisions insisting on strict adherence to the Stability and Growth Pact and the large-scale participation of the IMF. Conversely, Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble opposed IMF involvement and advocated for increased EU competency including support for the French proposal to institutionalize the Eurogroup. The policy positions of these two organizational actors remained deeply conditioned by organizational interests, rather than partisan or ideological divides over conceptions of "European Unity."


bureaucratic politics, Greek bailout 2010, Federal Chancellery, Federal Ministry of Finance


The governmental politics approach to Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) decision-making continues to provide scholars of German politics with powerful conceptual and theoretical tools to capture the forces driving policy production in Europe's largest and wealthiest democracy. Scholarly analyses that apply bureaucratic politics modeling to a wide variety of policy fields demonstrate that competition among and between powerful bureaucratic actors in the German domestic political structure shapes policy outputs across fields as diverse as the management of military and security policy, domestic institutional reform, environmental policy, economic policy and, importantly, German negotiations with the European Union. (1) Recent scholarship shows that bureaucratic infighting among the FRG's main governmental agencies and organizations is a widespread occurrence and among the main determinants of the scope, direction, and nature of FRG foreign and domestic policymaking. The ministries of the German federal government (Bundesregierung) are headed by powerful bureaucratic actors whose policy tastes and preferences are shaped by the position of their organizations in the broader institutional framework of the Federal Republic. The adage "where you stand depends on where you sit" (2) on emergent or salient political issues continues to be a useful heuristic to capture the policy positions of federal actors, in addition to serving as a crucial theoretical platform upon which to build analyses of policy production in contemporary Germany.

Although much scholarly work explores the second Merkel government's policy towards Greece, little effort is spent analyzing decision-making processes within the federal government at that time. In the extant literature we find three main scholarly approaches to the FRG responses to the debt crisis, but there is a marked absence of analyses that explore factional or organizational infighting among and within the federal ministries as a critical independent variable influencing policy output. Many scholars produce causal arguments for German regional policy behavior in the form of realist or liberal structural accounts that conceptualize Germany as a status-quo regional power or a regional hegemon. Although this work does well to point us to the implications of the deep structural changes in international politics underway...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A453912553