Foreign Minister Gabriel opened the plenary session at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday (17 February). The annual meeting of political leaders and experts is regarded worldwide as one of the most important foreign and security policy forums. In his speech, Gabriel urgently called for the European Union to play a more active role in the world. “We need to stand together if we are to defend our values, prosperity and security in tomorrow’s world,” Gabriel said. This also included the willingness to play a military role. “As the only vegetarian, so to speak, we will have a damned tough time of it in a carnivore’s world.”
Dramatic Power Shifts
Gabriel sees a dramatic shift in the gloabal balance of power as the reason for this. China’s rise and signs of the US withdrawing from the global stage will have unforeseeable consequences, he said. Neither Europe nor the US will be able to shape the world with liberal values by themselves. In his opinion, this means we need a new transatlantic partnership.
Europe has three tasks
Gabriel sees three key challenges for the European Union. In order to achieve greater cohesion, the internal conflicts in the Union must be resolved. Europeans must also reach consensus on which interests the Union has in global foreign policy. In order to assert these interests together, the EU then needs to develop new strategies and instruments. “Europe needs to project its power in the world as a united entity,” Gabriel said in Munich.
We need a European moment, not only because Europe is our best tool as regards asserting ourselves in this competitive world, but primarily because we firmly believe that we should focus on cooperation rather than confrontation.
Europe at a crossroads
Gabriel sees Europe at a historic crossroads. “We are back to the old question of rivalry between systems based on freedom and democracy on the one hand and new autocratic types of government on the other,” he said. The concepts of a liberal order only have a future if countries stand up for them around the world once again.
The full text of the speech is available here.