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Germany’s foreign and European policy principles

09.10.2019 - Article

A sovereign Europe, the transatlantic partnership, work to support peace and security, the promotion of democracy and human rights, and commitment to multilateralism are the guiding principles of German foreign policy.

European integration and the European Union

A stronger Europe is the most important response to the challenges of globalisation
A stronger Europe is the most important response to the challenges of globalisation © colourbox.de

European integration and the European Union (EU) are the cornerstones of German foreign policy and set its course. Strengthening EU cohesion and close cooperation with all EU member states are thus at the heart of foreign-policy action.

In view of shifts in the global balance of power, Germany can only remain capable of taking action through a strong EU and by working with its European partners. The German Government is thus committed to closer European cooperation, especially on the EU’s common foreign and security policy, as well as to joint efforts to safeguard Europe’s external borders, foster internal security and strengthen economic policy. The particularly close cooperation between Germany and France is to serve as a force for European integration in this regard.

Following the the UK’s decision to leave the EU, Germany remains committed to a good relationship with the UK in a spirit of partnership.

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The transatlantic partnership

The US is one of Germany’s most important partners
The US is one of Germany’s most important partners © Thomas Trutschel/photothek.de

Alongside European integration, the transatlantic partnership remains a cornerstone of German foreign policy. The US is Germany’s closest ally outside Europe.

Transatlantic relations are based on historical experiences and shared values such as democracy, freedom and the rule of law. These relations are rooted in common interests and objectives, as well as the two countries’ long-standing close social, political and economic ties.

At all times, German foreign policy is committed to a close transatlantic relationship in a spirit of partnership, as well as to an open dialogue with the US, especially when there are differences of viewpoint or opinion.

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Commitment to peace and security

German Bundeswehr soldiers at Camp Gastor in Gao, Mali
German Bundeswehr soldiers at Camp Gastor in Gao, Mali © Thomas Imo/photothek.de

German foreign policy is committed to peace and security around the world. Germany primarily defines its peace and security policy in multilateral terms, that is, within the framework of international institutions and structures such as the EU, NATO, the United Nations, the OSCE, the G7 and the G20.

In the first instance, peace policy means diplomatic efforts to reach political settlements to crises and conflicts such as those in Ukraine, Syria and Libya. Germany also takes on security responsibility, including military action when absolutely necessary, for example in combating so-called Islamic State (IS) and stabilising Afghanistan and Mali.

Endeavours in the fields of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of weapons and armaments are an important component of German peace policy. Along with conventional arms control, a world without nuclear weapons remains a long-term goal of German foreign policy.

Germany’s work in the fields of crisis prevention, stabilisation, post-conflict peacebuilding and humanitarian aid is also part of its peace and security policy. Germany is now one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid worldwide and a pioneer in civil crisis prevention, mediation and stabilisation.

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Democracy, the rule of law and human rights

German foreign policy promotes the strengthening of human rights worldwide
German foreign policy promotes the strengthening of human rights worldwide

German foreign policy promotes the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law and human rights worldwide. Germany does not only support these principles out of conviction, but also because this is in its foreign policy interests. Peace, security, stability and sustainable development can only prevail in the long term where democratic and rule of law principles apply and human rights are respected.

Confidently promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights is thus an important component of German peace and security policy.

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Commitment to a multilateral international order

Global justice is a prerequisite for international peace and security
Global justice is a prerequisite for international peace and security © Thomas Trutschel/photothek.de

German foreign policy aims to ensure that globalisation is fair and sustainable. Global justice is a key prerequisite for international peace and security. German foreign policy therefore also addresses topics such as climate protection, displacement and migration, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, energy and resource security, climate protection, environmental and water issues, the spread of digital technology, internet freedom, cyber security and urbanisation.

Germany promotes binding rules and effective multilateral institutions that facilitate orderly and close cooperation in an increasingly interconnected world. As Germany is more interconnected with the world than almost any other country, a resilient, rules-based international order is in its own fundamental foreign policy interests. German foreign policy thus works to enhance long-standing institutions and structures such as the EU, NATO, the UN, the OSCE and the G7, as well as new elements of order, partnerships and international formats, including the G20, the agreement between the E3+3 countries and Iran on the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme and the Normandy format aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis. Put briefly, Germany regards multilateralism as the most important principle for international order, and will remain committed to this principle in the future.

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The three pillars of foreign policy

German is taught at language schools all over the world, such as here at the Goethe-Institut in Kyiv
German is taught at language schools all over the world, such as here at the Goethe-Institut in Kyiv © Thomas Köhler/photothek.de

The central pillar of German foreign policy is flanked by two other pillars.

As a trading nation, Germany has a particular interest in an effective external economic policy that helps companies to tap into international markets and to improve the conditions for doing business.

Cultural relations and education policy forms the third pillar of German foreign policy. Its instruments include academic exchange, international German schools and the promotion of German as a foreign language. By fostering intercultural dialogue, this policy creates a solid foundation for international relations and global trust in Germany – a particularly important function for a country that has such close international ties.

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