Skip to content

Germany’s priorities going into the G20 Summit

Article by Dr Ed Turner

September 7, 2023

Germany’s priorities going into the G20 Summit

Germany’s three party coalition of the SPD (the Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz), Greens and the Liberal Free Democrats has had a pretty miserable 2023. A poll in mid-August found that just 19% of Germans were satisfied with the Government’s work, compared to 79% dissatisfied.[1] According to the same poll, new elections would see the SPD score 16%, a long way off the Christian Democratic (CDU/CSU) opposition (29%) and most worryingly the far-right Alternative for Germany (22%), with its mix of xenophobia and distinctly accommodating poise towards Putin’s Russia.


Germany’s economy is not doing well – with a real risk of entering recession for the second time this year – and the Government has been beset by conflict.[2] In particular, the Greens and FDP have been at each other’s throats, with the FDP, after a series of dreadful regional election results, especially assertive with its coalition partners and resisting most projects that could increase Government spending. There was an attempt at a ‘reset’ at a cabinet away day in August, but low-level argument continues.


In this context, it will be hard for German leaders to put domestic matters, in particular economic preoccupations, to one side at the Summit. As with other G20 members, it faces something of a dilemma in relations with India – seeing substantial and much-needed opportunities for trade, but with concerns (notably on the Green side) about human rights issues in the background. This dilemma is, of course, even more sharply present in the case of China, and the Government’s new China Strategy (published in July 2023) has a fair degree of ambiguity about how it will walk this particular tightrope.[3] Of course, Germany will line up with its allies – including the US and the UK – to try to secure some sort of constructive statement on the war in Ukraine, but that seems an unlikely prospect. Germany has set out a particular priority to promote the global expansion of renewable energy, and keep the goal of restricting warming to 1.5 degrees within reach, requiring a tripling of renewable capacity in the G20 by 2030, and a doubling of progress in energy efficiency measures.[4]


The country’s delegation will also be pressing for progress at the Summit on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (a framework which German policy-makers very much endorse). Olaf Scholz, in a pre-Summit interview, pointed to a desire for “fair partnerships” with the Global South, recognising the particular responsibility of former colonial powers, including Germany.[5] As an example, he suggested that, in contrast to China, the West could look not simply to extract raw materials from the Global South, but process them in the countries themselves, to mutual benefit; this alternative offer could also help reduce growing Chinese influence there.


Notwithstanding India’s energetic presidency, with rifts notably over the war in Ukraine, but also Chinese frictions with other G20 members (including India), there are reasons to be circumspect about what the Summit can achieve. This will not be helped by the major challenges the German Government faces back at home.


Dr Ed Turner is a Reader in Politics at Aston University and Co-Director of the Aston Centre for Europe. 


[1] Ellen Ehni, Support for traffic lights at a new low, tagesschau, August 2023,

[2] Maria Martinex, Gloomy Ifo fuels fears of second German recession in a year, Reuters, August 2023,

[3] Bernhard Bartsch and Claudia Wessling, Germany’s new China strategy: Ambitious language, ambiguous course, MERICS, July 2023,

[4] Federal Ministry of Economy and Climate Protection, Negotiations in the G7 and G20 on the global expansion of renewable energies, August 2023,

[5] Deutschlandfunk, Interview of the Week: Scholz still believes the G20 is important despite the “BRICS” expansion – “shaping the future on an equal footing and offering partnerships”, September 2023,

    Related Articles

     Join our mailing list 

    Keep informed about events, articles & latest publications from Foreign Policy Centre