Gönner’s book goes on an in-depth look at Germany’s role in 21st century global politics. This is the part addressed mainly – but not exclusively – to German readers. The author argues that lone decisions by Germany are sometimes perceived by the world as a fait accompli, “yet we still shy away from explaining our actions in a way others can understand”, she adds that Germany lacks a “reliable navigation system for finding its way and setting its course in the terra incognita of the new world order”, and because it has no interest in hegemony it is firmly anchored in intergovernmental and supranational institutions, especially the EU.
Reassuring as this is perceptions in some other countries can be quite different, for there are lingering suspicions regarding hidden German motives and objectives. Gönner stresses that Germany should take greater responsibility in a world facing such enormous challenges, so it needs to become a driving force for multilateralism instead of hiding behind it. She also argues encouragingly that Germany needs to communicate better at all levels and develop an empathy with other societies’ cultural traditions and cultures, their potentials and their problems.
After discussing global mega-trends and competition for strategic raw materials, Gönner makes a strong case for sustainable development and human security as being complementary and mutually dependent policies, and also for holistic approaches by the state, the private sector and society to tackle complex challenges. She emphasises the need to “build up a ring of well governed countries around the Med, not as a unilateral condition imposed on the South by the North, but as a shared task that is in the interest of the countries on both sides”. She singles out energy as a key issue and enthusiastically endorses Desertec (solar energy from the Sahara) and a solar union in the Mediterranean, an ambitious but ambiguous project.
Gönner offers a thought-provoking vision that outlines a very ambitious Sonderweg, or special path, for Germany. Her book’s emphasis on soft power begs the question of whether hard power is completely out of fashion and even irrelevant in the 21st century, with the crisis in Ukraine seeming to suggest otherwise.