Western Europe: France and Germany
France and Germany are at the heart of European politics. They are two of the largest states and economies in Europe, and have been centrally involved in the political developments in Western Europe for at least the last century and a half. They continue to be important states in the European Union and in global politics. For example, the governments of both states have been crucial actors in the attempts to deal with the economic and Eurozone crises in the past decade. Some knowledge and understanding of French and German political institutions and policies is, therefore, essential for students of European and comparative politics.
France and Germany are interesting case studies in a course on comparative politics, as the two countries exhibit both differences and similarities in their post-World War II political developments. For the first 40 years or so of the post-war period, the differences were arguably more visible (for example, in the nature and stability of party systems, the nature and role of the executive branch, territorial state organization, economic policy frameworks, welfare state arrangements, immigration policies, and approaches to European integration). By contrast, in recent times, it appears that similarities in issues such as economic and immigration policy, approaches to European integration and party political developments have become more pronounced. Particularly salient have been the rise of newer and often populist parties (such as the Front National and Macron’s party in France, and the AfD in Germany),the resulting challenges for ‘mainstream’ parties, and the increasingly central role of the politics of immigration in both countries.
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This material is intended for current students but will be interesting to prospective students. It is indicative only.