Kofi Annan, Federica Mogherini, Herfried Münkler and Karen Donfried attended a celebration of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s 60th birthday at the Federal Foreign Office on 28 January. Annan, as the keynote speaker, and the high-level guests on the panel discussed the topic “In search of a new world order”.
The guests of honour had taken on a weighty subject. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has even called it “the ultimate challenge to statesmanship in our time”.
The biggest threat: Fear
Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, began his speech on a cautiously optimistic note. For all the crises in the world, he said, we mustn’t overestimate the seriousness of the situation. Compared to various periods of history, he explained, we are still living in relatively peaceful times. He also said that terrorism was not a new phenomenon as such and had been defeated in the past. Annan did give a warning, however: “The biggest threat,” he said, “is fear itself.” As he put it, fear in combination with populist movements could result in serious political problems.
On the subject of the world order as it stands today, the former Secretary-General said it needed adjustment, not revolution. For its international institutions to retain their legitimacy, he said, emerging powers needed to be given a place at the table. While diplomacy may become more complex as a result, he concluded that it would certainly gain in significance too.
Is Germany bearing more responsibility?
The subsequent panel discussion was chaired by Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference. He opened with a reminder of the 2014 Munich Security Conference, where President Gauck, Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Defence Minister von der Leyen jointly called for Germany to shoulder greater responsibility in foreign affairs. The question now, Ischinger said, was whether that call had been adequately met.
The panellists’ answer was a resounding “yes”. Speaking on this subject, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini particularly commended Germany’s work for Europe. She said Germany had recognised that national interests and European integration went hand in hand, as cooperating within Europe was the only way to safeguard one’s sovereignty in an era of globalisation. The Berlin political scientist Herfried Münkler likewise confirmed that Germany, as the “power in the middle”, benefited particularly from European integration. Karen Donfried, President of the German Marschall Fund, gave Germany’s engagement in the fight against IS as an example of the country shouldering greater responsibility. She said that Germany’s support for the Peshmerga in northern Iraq and its participation in the counter-IS effort in Syria were seen internationally as very welcome contributions.
Resurgence of national introversion: A solution disproved by history
In contrast, the participants were concerned at the way one challenge, the current refugee crisis, was leading many in Europe to turn to what Ischinger called a solution that had been disproved by history, namely increased national introversion. Münkler added that a community like Europe could actually be expected to respond with rather more unity to a challenge from outside. Instead, he said, unexpectedly strong centrifugal forces had been set in motion. In view of these and other concerns, Foreign Minister Steinmeier cited the legal expert Fritz Bauer in his closing vote of thanks: even if hope is an illusion, without it there would be no way to overcome the inhumanity that exists in the world.