A new, balanced partnership with the United States, joining forces with France on a very wide range of issues, and a new Ostpolitik – Heiko Maas used his speech at Postbahnhof in Berlin to propose ideas on a new foreign policy for Europe. He called for renewed European patriotism and courage to take joint action, so that Europe can successfully meet the global challenges, saying: “Europe United! Given the current state of the world, Europe United is needed more than ever.”
European foreign policy
“Europe needs a new, balanced partnership with the US,” the German Foreign Minister said, adding that “Our common response to ‘America First’ today must be ‘Europe United’!”
He went on to say that although the US remains Germany’s closest partner outside the EU, the transatlantic partnership needs readjustment. The aim should be to concentrate on working together where both sides’ values and interests are balanced. Europe should step up where the United States withdraws and form an assertive counterweight where the US overtly calls European values and interests into question. The first test of this approach will be the nuclear agreement with Iran, Maas said.
He called for Germany to join forces with France on a very wide range of issues. The two countries did not want to be like head teachers, he added, but rather saw themselves as a motivating force working resolutely to further Europe and cooperating far more comprehensively on economic, financial, energy and security issues than in the past. “Only in this way will we come closer to achieving the aim of greater strategic autonomy for Europe,” Maas said.
Furthermore, the Foreign Minister proposed the establishment of a new, European Ostpolitik. On the one hand, this policy must find new ways to cooperate with Russia. On the other, it must also reach out to countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, while taking into account the interests of all Europeans.
More unity and empathy
“If Europe fails to sing from the same song sheet, then it will soon end up only playing second fiddle,” Maas said. He also made the point that, in a world radicalised by nationalism and populism, it is becoming ever more urgent for Europe to pool its strength. “Nationalism and isolationism also feed on our lack of courage,” he emphasised and added: “We therefore cannot allow Europe to disintegrate into groups today or to establish new borders. We must heal the rifts that have emerged in our Union.”
Germany must wake up and learn to see Europe more through the eyes of other Europeans, he said. Although Europe could not overlook shortcomings with regard to the rule of law, know-it-all finger-pointing on the part of Berlin would certainly not achieve much. Europe also needed to find a convincing response to the legitimate expectations of those in southern Europe with regard to solidarity. The Minister emphasised that Germany could not remain indifferent to high youth unemployment.
“We need a large Europe that doesn’t differentiate between smaller and larger countries or between the centre and the periphery,” the Foreign Minister said. He went on to say that, by itself, no European country had the necessary clout to shape globalisation, adding: “Surrendering sovereignty to the EU enables us to win back the political influence we have long since lost as nations.”
He said that Germany would set out to make its United Nations Security Council membership a European membership. To truly implement European foreign policy, Maas called for a real European security and defence union that should include a European Crisis Response Team, as well as greater investment in equipment and civilian crisis management. He suggested that all 27 member states could meet once a year in a European Security Council format, before such an institution is permanently established.
European economic and migration policy
“Germany’s economy grows by over 37 billion euros annually thanks to its membership of the internal market,” Maas said. He went on to say that the long-term stabilisation of the euro was therefore in Germany’s fundamental interests. “Thrift is a virtue, but avarice poses a threat to the unity and strength of Europe,” Maas continued. He then spoke out in favour of an EU-wide financial transaction tax, a digital tax, a European minimum wage, the harmonisation of corporate taxes and greater investment in digital transformation. “So why don’t we pool European venture capital, for example, and cut red tape, thereby promoting networking in the European start-up sector?”
Regarding the debate on refugee and migration policy, Heiko Maas spoke out clearly in favour of open borders, as well as against taking the moral high ground and mutual finger-wagging between EU partners. All Member States must, he said, stop using migration to stoke Eurosceptic sentiments at home.
In support of a European patriotism
The Foreign Minister called for new forms of politicisation rather than polarisation, and renewed European patriotism instead of populism. Finally, he appealed to the large audience that had gathered at Postbahnhof, saying:
“Let us recall an old virtue of democracy – arguing fairly with one another! Europe needs competition to come up with the best ideas.” He spoke out in favour of a Europe that is united internally and strong externally, a Europe where wealth is distributed fairly, and a Europe that stands up for peace and protects freedom.