Flags of some countries of the European Union; source: istockphoto.com/Dutchy

© istockphoto.com/Dutchy

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has a strong role to play when it comes to matters such as the European Internal Market, the common commercial policy, and the European Union's energy, telecommunications, and industrial policies.

In addition to taking the lead in these important policy areas, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also acts as Germany's "Ministry for European Affairs" and therefore has a pivotal role in shaping and co-ordinating Germany's European policy. It does so in close co-operation with the Foreign Office. This division of labour goes back to the early days of European integration.

Here, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has two overarching tasks: On the one hand, it makes sure that the Federal Government speaks with one voice when dealing with the various institutions in Brussels. On the other, it ensures that the German Bundestag and Bundesrat are always kept fully informed about matters relating to the European Union, so they can use the participation rights bestowed on them by the German Basic Law.

More specifically, the tasks of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy include that of instructing the German ambassador on the Permanent Representatives Committee Part 1 (COREPER I), the body which (among other things) organises the work of the Competitiveness Council, the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, the Employment and Social Policy Council, and the Environment and Agriculture Councils.

The German representative on COREPER II (which is in charge of organising the work of the General Affairs Council, the Foreign Affairs Council, the Ecofin Council, and the Justice and Home Affairs Council) is instructed by the Federal Foreign Office.

As many European dossiers require a high degree of interministerial coordination, there are dedicated European policy coordination units, which, at different levels of government, seek to resolve any conflicts and speed up the national decision-making process in order to ensure that the government can effectively advocate German interests from as early on in the deliberations as possible.

The State Secretaries Committee for European Affairs was established back in 1963 and convenes on a monthly basis to discuss fundamental issues of European policy. It is chaired by the representative from the Foreign Office, with the representative from the Economic Affairs Ministry acting as deputy chair.

The Directors-General in charge of European Affairs in the various federal ministries come together once a month in order to identify and resolve any differences in their interests regarding European policy as soon as they arise. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Federal Foreign Office take turns in hosting these meetings and act as co-chairs.

Moreover, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also acts as the Federal Government's Centre of Excellence on European law.