The letter sounded like a call for help. "Once again, Germany's image has worsened significantly as a result of our position on combating the euro financial crisis in some EU member states," read the analysis, which was prepared by the Europe division of the German Foreign Ministry. The authors warned forcefully: "The goal of the federal government must be to promptly and permanently dispel doubts as to its European orientation."
For months, the Foreign Ministry has been concerned about Germany's image in the rest of the European Union. Germany has been criticized by other European countries for, among other things, unsettling the markets with talk of making private creditors share the cost of future bailouts. And the worse the euro drama becomes, the more anxiously are the diplomats in Berlin looking to Germany's neighbors. Even countries who have similar positions to Germany regarding how best to combat the crisis have voiced "occasional doubts" as to the "basic orientation" of the Germans.
Since the analysis was written in July, the situation has deteriorated even further. "Anger at Germany boils over," Britain's Financial Times wrote recently. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has also called for more team spirit from Germany.
Werner Hoyer, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry, often finds himself confronted with criticism from other countries when he is in Brussels. "I'm asked: 'Are you still loyal to Europe?'" he says. "Strategically, we're doing the right thing, but we have a communication problem."
A committed European, Hoyer says that Germany must perform a difficult balancing act. "We mustn't make ourselves smaller than we are. On the other hand, we don't have to constantly demonstrate that we think we're the strongest."
The language that is sometimes used, for domestic political reasons, to discuss Europe can be problematic, Hoyer feels. "During some debates in (the German parliament) the Bundestag, I turn the other way."
In the past, the Germans were seen as "Europe's model pupils," says Ulrike Guérot, the head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a pan-European think tank. "Nowadays we behave as if the world would be a better place if everyone behaved like the Germans. We would have a better image if the government were to communicate its policies somewhat differently."
Even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government of the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) now believe that it was a mistake for Germany and France to reach an agreement on a future crisis mechanism for the euro at the Deauville summit in October without consulting their partners. The criticism of Germany following Deauville was a warning sign, says Michael Link, a European Union expert with the FDP.
The German Foreign Ministry is taking action as a result. In the middle of November, a "Communication Plan in the Wake of the Euro Crisis" landed on the desk of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
The document recommended, among other things, placing "interviews/byline articles" with or by the chancellor, the foreign minister and other ministers in leading English-language media, such as the Financial Times, the Economist or the BBC World Service.
According to the plan, the goal is the "intensification of early and continuous communication to increase the acceptance of Germany's future European policy decisions." It must be made clear to Germany's partners, the document continues, "that we understand their positions, even if they differ from our own."
The authors do not expect quick results, however. The project, they write, is designed "for the medium to long term."