Originally Posted by mousquet
Certainly, but these are only the German domestic institutions.
The EU is neither a greater Germany nor even any federal system. To roughly summarize it, most important decisions at the EU level are made by the heads of all member states together, while it's no secret that the most influential of these members is currently Germany, by far, for the stability of their public finances and the (say relative) strength of their economy that's healthier than France's or Italy's.
So by Berlin, I just meant the German federal government as a whole. When you're Dutch, French, Italian or Spanish, the only interlocutor to deal with is Mrs Merkel or the most important characters of her federal administration.
Finally, France has been that centralized for the simple reason that it's a much older nation than contemporary Germany. This is most significant culturally speaking. The Germans as all our neighbors are well aware of this historic fact. For example, the French state was already there in the Dark Ages when the entire continent was struggling from medieval feudalism. I think that's a heavy legacy to bear and to explain the backward inflexibility of the French system today. We don't have any of these better federal reflexes to address our domestic issues yet.
Germany's influence, to a large degree, is based not on its size but on its close connections and interdependencies with virtually every country in Europe, which makes it the go-to partner and facilitator for North and South, East and West, big and small, Euro-ins and outs, etc.
As for centralisation, I don't think it's purely a matter of France being a much older country, although that might play a role. The tendency towards centralisation in France and decentralisation in Germany isn't limited to the presence or absence of Federalism but is also evident in the traditionally dominant economic philosophies of French Dirigisme and German Ordoliberalism, organisational/management practices, all the way down to general social values (France being a high-power-distance culture and Germany being a low-power-distance one).