Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during the German Bundestag debate on the Federal Government’s bill on setting up a special fund for the Bundeswehr
Today’s debate is special, and the final reading will also be a special one, not only in view of this terrible war, which the previous speakers have already addressed, and not only because it is not every day that we deal here with a constitutional amendment, but because many people and many capitals in Europe and beyond are looking to us.
This special fund does not just involve a sum of 100 billion euro here in Germany, but rather our future responsibility in Europe and in our joint alliance, the security of ourselves and our future generations, and the security of our Alliance partners and their future generations. It was our NATO partners who made it possible in the first place for us to grow up in peace in our country in recent decades and enabled generations like mine in West Germany to live their entire lives in the European peace project.
Our partners invested a great deal in our security in the past decades, and we are grateful for that. However, a “new era” means that we are not merely grateful, but rather that we give something back when others need us to invest in their security.
That is why it is truly vital for us not to define this special fund in our constitution, the Basic Law, as something for our own armed forces only, but as a fund for strengthening our alliance and defence capabilities.
Many people ‒ not only in Germany, but all over Europe ‒ are looking very carefully to see if we are living up to our alliance responsibility.
I would like to underline what previous speakers said ‒ and that is how I understood you, too, Mr Dobrindt ‒ and say that this is not the time for one-upmanship between the parties. If we are honest, and I am speaking here to all those who are capable of being honest with themselves, every party and every parliamentary group has its own baggage. But it is important to get things right in the future, the things we may not have recognised in the past, and to do so together.
That is why a constitutional amendment is also a shared responsibility.
We have often done this in the past in this House ‒ our roles were reversed back then ‒ with the opposition and the government working together when Europe needed us, for example during the euro crisis. We were able to see ourselves not merely as separate parliamentary groups and parties and to recognise Germany’s responsibility in Europe.
I am very pleased that there have been signs that we will now take this path together.
You raised a few questions, some of which can also be found in the press, that I would now like to address in greater detail, building on what my colleagues already said.
One question concerns rearmament and equipment. I do not see these as opposites. Instead, they go hand in hand. Defence Minister Lambrecht already addressed this. When we are in the Baltic states, we recognise that we need to do more at the eastern flank in the future. But when you have been there and heard what people have to say, you don’t dare to say it out loud here. The soldiers in the gallery today are aware of the situation because they deal with this challenge every day. You realise that we cannot simply say that we will now strengthen our enhanced Forward Presence in the battlegroup because we need the equipment to do so. When you see that the Ozelots mentioned here earlier today are currently based in the battlegroup, but also assigned to NATO’s VJTF, you simply have to say that we cannot assign things twice, but instead need to invest more funding in equipment. The same goes for digital communications. If an exercise is being held and we are the lead nation, but the communications system isn’t encrypted, then we face a huge challenge, one that will cost tens of billions to overcome. That is why it is important for us that we now make it our common priority to fill the equipment gaps that arose in the past.
We don’t have the luxury of being able to choose between the eastern flank, NATO capabilities and international missions. In this complex world of ours, all that is interconnected. We share responsibility for UN peacekeeping missions and we have the same problem there, as Defence Minister Lambrecht already mentioned. We could actually make it really easy for ourselves and say if the French go, then we’ll provide the combat helicopters. But unfortunately, only nine of the 51 Tiger combat helicopters actually work. That is why this path is not easy and why we now have to work hard to figure out how we can stay in the UN mission. The special fund will also help to ensure that we can live up to our international responsibility in the UN in the future.
I am very pleased that we are conducting such a serious debate here. I would also like to thank the CDU’s foreign and security policy experts. We have already spoken a lot about this and agree that now is certainly not the time for pseudo-measures. And as I sometimes hear these arguments in the public arena, I would also like to reiterate here that the special fund is not about humanitarian assistance. Such support is absolutely vital, and we will set up an additional budget for it. The special fund is about tough security measures concerning interconnected security and the contribution we need to make to NATO capabilities.
You asked why the two percent of GDP is not included in the bill. If it were included, then we would make it part of the Basic Law. And do we really want to invest two percent every year?
What about the year we procure the F-35? That may involve more than two percent. Do you want to amend the Basic Law that year? And do you want to amend it again the year after that when we spend less than in the previous year?
No, what we are doing now combines meeting our NATO obligations while at the same time using the special fund to fill the gaps that unfortunately arose in the past.
Allow me to say a few more words on why this debate is so important. We have seen that it is not always merely a question of more money. The reason why we have certain gaps lies with procurement and in particular with management and organisation. We are now asking ourselves why one kind of tank screw doesn’t fit with the other kind.
These are also issues that we need to address together in this debate. That is both hard and serious. But it is the responsibility of our era for our own generation and the generations of the future, not only in Germany, but for everyone in Europe, north and south and east and west.
I look forward to our further discussions.
Thank you very much.