The public discussion about Germany’s military role and strength within Europe
has always been rather ambivalent, not least due to historical considerations
that also find expression in the country’s preference for ‘soft power’ and
According to the Eurobarometer, 85% of the Germans favour a
common EU defence and security policy (see chart 3). Amongst EU-28
members, public support for European defence integration is only stronger in
the three Baltic countries. This clear result appears to confirm that the first pillar
of German defence and security politics as a European matter is well-anchored
in the population. Also the second pillar, NATO membership, is backed by a
majority of 67% of all Germans, according to the Pew Research Center. Again,
the result is more pronounced than for many EU peers (see chart 4).5
However, when it comes to the question of defence spending, a majority of
Germans (64% according to a 2017 poll conducted by Pew Research) appears
to oppose an increase. This is not a specifically German position (see chart 5).
Defence is also certainly not the most important topic in the run-up of
September parliamentary elections, with much stronger focus on other domestic
politics. But achieving the 2% target by 2024 would require substantial
adjustments to the current medium-term budget planning.
Public opinion will,therefore, play a major role, in particular if defence spending increases were to
come at the expense of other federal budget items.