Speech given by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the German Bundestag on 29 March 2006 “Globalization – Challenges for Germany's Foreign Poli

29.03.2006 - Speech

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen!
A few weeks ago we paid final tribute to Johannes Rau. Many who knew him are aware that one of the questions that most concerned him in his final years was whether, in today's radically changed political environment, political action, political choices can still make a real difference. Many of you – like I myself – were present when he gave his 2002 Berlin Address and in urgent, almost imploring tones called upon us all to

“regard globalization as a political challenge and take political action.

[For] if we are to be able to shape globalization, we need new political responses.”

The responses we – and especially the grand coalition – should strive for must, in my view, be both. We need political responses to the changes many people perceive as threatening and we need new answers that give people fresh hope and courage. We must have the courage to embrace change, the courage to explore what may be new and uncharted waters, the courage to take issue – not arrogantly but with quiet self-confidence – with the prevailing mood of despondency.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a task we must tackle first and foremost here at home. But as I have now discovered, it is clearly a task for foreign policy as well. Globalization means, after all, a shrinking world in which distance hardly matters, a world of instant communication. That dramatically changes the parameters within which we conduct foreign policy. Let me briefly illustrate this by way of three examples.

Firstly, an increasingly globalized world means people have ever higher expectations concerning the speed and quality of information management. Whatever happens – natural disasters, civil wars – people all over the world are soon inundated with information about it, which often cannot be quickly processed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless – or perhaps precisely for that reason – people expect us to come up with prompt and convincing responses.

I would point out from my perspective as foreign minister that in former times issuing instructions to our embassies was often all the response that was required. Today the situation is very different. Responding to such developments requires a plethora of consultations with our partners in Europe and the United Nations, public statements, briefings in Parliament and discussions with NGOs.

Secondly, in recent years an increasing number of countries have been undergoing a process of democratic transition, a process you have closely followed also here in Parliament. While the newspapers may give a rather different impression, the fact is that the majority of the world's population today live in democratically governed countries. Nevertheless, the world is, as you know very well, anything but a crisis-free zone. In the Balkans, in Iraq, in the Congo, too – a subject to which I will return later – and in Afghanistan we can see just how fragile these transition processes are and how much support they are going to need often over a long period. We also witness on a daily basis the horrific consequences that ensue when these processes break down, when entire regions are engulfed in anarchy and civil war. And for several years now islamist terrorism, too, has of course posed an entirely new quality of threat.

I now come to my third and final example. As a nation we are increasingly affected by crises happening elsewhere in the world. German tourists abroad die in natural disasters or terrorist attacks; German companies are faced in some countries with endemic corruption or an absence of legal certainty; German citizens are seriously concerned about rising gas, oil and energy prices and what this implies for our energy security. The reality is that instability, crisis and war in our immediate neighbourhood as well as further afield all have a direct impact on our security and prosperity.

A responsible foreign policy has to take this into account. It must respond to acute crises promptly and effectively, identify dangers at an early stage and seek in close cooperation with our partners to prevent them becoming reality. What that requires from us – as I see it and as I firmly believe – is not action for its own sake but responsible, level-headed and well-considered responses.

In this connection let me draw your attention to the crucial importance – as was vividly brought home to me this week – of prevention. In this domain Germany has earned an impressive reputation. That should not be underestimated. That is one reason – but not the only reason – why civilian crisis prevention remains a major operational and research focus of Germany's foreign and development policy.

For many years the Federal Foreign Office has been working intensively to promote civilian disaster prevention and bring scientists, policy-makers and practitioners together to this end. This week I have seen for myself how successful these efforts have been, albeit largely unnoticed by the general public. Germany has this week hosted the Third International Conference on Early Warning, an event of considerable importance – not just because Bill Clinton was there. But of course his presence was an indication of how much the work of the three conferences held in Germany to date as well as our efforts in this connection are appreciated.

From my three chosen examples you can easily see, ladies and gentlemen, that a globalized world requires considerable rethinking from all foreign and security policy actors. I am very glad that in our coalition agreement we explicitly thanked all those who serve our nation abroad – our soldiers, development workers and diplomats – and today I would like to thank them here once again. I want to emphasize here again how much we in Parliament need all those helpers on the ground who work to realize the goals we have voted funds to support.

The main foundations of our nation's peace and prosperity are European integration and the social market economy. Particularly in view of the crisis gripping Europe following the “no” votes in the French and Dutch referenda, we need to once again concentrate harder – and here I absolutely agree with all those who pointed this out during the debate – on getting across the message that this European house we are building on these foundations must be on a scale people feel comfortable with and so solidly built that it can ride out the storms of globalization.

I say this in the knowledge that we will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaties during our presidency of the European Union. That, I believe, will be a good opportunity to look back with a certain pride at what has been accomplished – that much is sure – but also to tackle with fresh courage the constitutional problems that urgently require a solution.

At the invitation of Wolfgang Schüssel, Jürgen Habermas recently took part – you may be surprised to learn – in a discussion with him and other participants on the future of Europe. In the course of the discussion he appealed for strenuous efforts to be made to settle this vexed question, for otherwise there was for the first time a real danger, he predicted, that the progress on integration Europe had already achieved might actually be reversed. In that case we would be forced to watch, he warned, while even such capacity for political action as the European Union already had was lost and it became nothing more than a large and diffusely organized European free-trade zone.

This is a view not held by him alone. As it is probably a very realistic assessment, it is imperative that we combat the danger with all the greater vigour. In this I am confident we shall succeed. I say this not simply because I hope that will be the case but also because what I have experienced over the past four months has made me confident we shall indeed succeed.

As I have pointed out here before, contrary to what was expected in some quarters, we did succeed in reaching agreement on the Financial Perspective. Contrary to what was expected in some quarters, we did succeed in reaching a viable compromise over the Services Directive that duly balances the requirements of the internal market against the need for a fair give-and-take between all sections of society. As is clear also from what was agreed by EU leaders at their recent summit on energy, Europe does have the capacity to develop a joint strategic response to major new issues on the agenda.

I hope I may be allowed to point out that the German Government's role in achieving these three outcomes was by no means insignificant.

And we intend to pursue these efforts further during our EU presidency in 2007. We want to use the results of the so-called period of reflection to generate fresh momentum for the constitutional process. Our goal remains clear: to build a Europe that can act effectively both internally and externally and be a role model also for regions well beyond Europe's borders. Europe amounts to more than an internal market and a constitution.

I turn now to my next theme. In line with our broader concept of security, Germany is supporting – together with our partners – transition processes in many parts of the world. Currently the EU is participating in over ten crisis management operations. Right now we have a decision to take – as we have heard this morning from a number of speakers – on whether Germany should participate in a UN-authorized EU mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This morning the Federal Chancellor set out – very succinctly in my view – the arguments for participating in such a mission. Let me emphasize that any decision in favour of participation would mark not so much the beginning of European efforts in this area as the end, so I hope, of an EU commitment that has been ongoing for a good many years. For years we in Europe have spent enormous sums to ensure the country has a democratic future, providing most recently, for example, 150 million US dollars in election funding. On a bilateral basis Germany gave an additional 10 million euro.

We have trained thousands of police officers. Through the EU we have helped build a new army. And I should not fail to mention either – even if we are well aware that an EU mission and the MONUC mission are two different things – that through the EU and its member states we have for many years funded a major share of MONUC's costs, which with some 17,000 troops is the UN's largest ongoing military operation.

As I pointed out here on a previous occasion, considerable progress has been made in recent years in stabilizing this vast country. The referendum passed off peacefully. A new electoral law has been enacted, electoral rolls have been prepared and a date for the elections has been set. At this point it is crucial not to jeopardize the stability that now exists shortly before entering the final straight.

In my comments on stabilization I have not even mentioned the figure of four million lives lost to date in the civil wars that have ravaged the country since the mid-nineties. Yet that is why I believe that when we come to decide on this issue, we must play our part in making sure such killings can never happen again.

I would emphasize, however, that the prime responsibility for security in the country lies with the United Nations and the Congolese armed forces. The role of the EU mission will be limited both in duration and location. In drawing up its mandate we will take due account of all the issues that have been raised and the misgivings that have been expressed in this connection.

We have taken great pains to ensure the mission will have the full consent and approval of the DR Congo Government. So we are pleased that not only Kabila himself but also the representatives of the country's other ethnic groups have endorsed the plan for a European presence.

Of course the mission will require a UN mandate, the details of which will be discussed over the next couple of weeks. We assume – and stipulated this as a condition of our participation – that this mandate will be for a mission limited in time and geographical scope.

If all these requirements are met, Germany would then have a duty, I believe, to participate in such a mission.

I for my part am confident that if the stipulated conditions are met, the Bundestag will approve the mission.

Another example of democratic transition at a more advanced stage can currently be seen in the Balkans. The death of Slobodan Milosevic a few days ago reminded us once more of the harrowing scenes that occurred there during the nineties: the killings at Srebrenica, the massive human rights abuses in Kosovo, the brutalities inflicted on thousands of women, children and old people.

Remembering this, what is the situation now, may I ask? Slovenia is already a member of the European Union, Croatia is negotiating to join and Macedonia has candidate country status. With Serbia and Bosnia negotiations have started on the conclusion of association agreements.

But we must not allow ourselves to be content with such progress. The region I am talking about sorely needs our attention and concern. That goes not just for the future but also especially now this year, as we are about to enter crucial negotiations on the final status of Kosovo and general elections are to be held in Bosnia which, it is hoped, will mark the end of the High Representative's role and the transfer of all responsibility for running the country to the new Bosnian government. The sensitivity and skill with which Christian Schwarz-Schilling is supporting this process is something of which we in Germany can be justly proud.

This is further testimony, by the way, not only to the special responsibility Germany is shouldering in the region but also for the recognition our efforts there have earned us in recent years.

Given that the Balkans are really just next door to us, working to make the conflicts there history is clearly in our own best interest. That means we will have to be prepared to provide political, financial as well as – where necessary – military support for a considerable time to come if lasting peace in the Balkans is to become a reality.

The issue that comes top of the agenda for all of us at the present time is the issue of Germany's enhanced responsibility in a dramatically changed security environment, a responsibility reflected in our ongoing efforts in connection with Iran's nuclear programme. Iran's nuclear ambitions are currently, as you know, the subject of negotiations at the UN Security Council. Tomorrow the representatives of the EU 3, the United States, Russia and China are meeting in Berlin to discuss the next steps to be taken. Unfortunately, despite months of effort, we have yet to achieve our goal, as I readily admit. What we want is for Iran to dispel all doubts about whether its nuclear programme serves any military purpose and thereby restore the confidence of the international community.

We remain duty-bound – and that must be stressed tomorrow, too – to continue the search for diplomatic solutions. A number of options could be explored. What is crucial now is that Iran brings to the talks the same seriousness of purpose that we have shown in the past. The only way to demonstrate that seriousness of purpose, as we have repeatedly emphasized, is to terminate all enrichment activities.

Mr Kuhn, you have made a number of comments on the recent nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the United States. The matter is not as simple as you make out, I may say, the situation is not that straightforward. You in the Opposition are pretty desperate, I suppose, and that is why you preempted whatever position we might take on the agreement by labelling it a reward and urging us to condemn it. In my view that is not the right approach. I am happy to repeat what I have already admitted publicly: given the ongoing talks on Iran's nuclear programme, the timing of the agreement was certainly anything but helpful.

But in my view that by no means leaves Germany with no other choice, as you seem to imply, but to oppose the agreement in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. For the real question is whether this agreement can help initiate a process – a prospect that has been discussed in committee – that will enable us to gradually integrate India into the non-proliferation regime. If there was any such possibility, it would not be very responsible of us, Mr Kuhn, to refrain for your sake, as it were, from weighing up the pros and cons of this agreement very carefully.

What I would also like to ask you is this: Does it not give you pause when IAEA chief ElBaradei urges in his talks with the Federal Government and – as I hear – with you parliamentarians as well to duly reflect on the added value this agreement may have for the international community? Does it not give you pause when the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whom not only we but you, too, have congratulated on his achievements, calls on all concerned not to obstruct the ongoing efforts to make India's nuclear programme more transparent and work for improved – albeit still insufficient – access, safeguards and a stabilization of the Test Ban Treaty regime? Does it not give you pause when both the public and parliament in India hotly debate whether the Indian Government has forfeited too much control over its nuclear programme in concluding this agreement?

I am not asking you to applaud this US-Indian agreement, that is not the point. But what I do expect is not foregone conclusions but a serious analysis of the issues – something that has been a hallmark of Green foreign and security policy in recent years.

Let me turn now briefly to the Middle East, where we are keeping a close watch on developments following the Israeli elections. As I noted on a previous occasion, the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections is not making the continuation of the peace process any easier, at least as long as our three criteria remain unfulfilled: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of the outcome of negotiations to date.

What do the results of yesterday's elections tell us? As I interpret them, they tell us that Israel's voters want progress towards peace and security. So I for one was pleased that in his first public pronouncements Olmert indicated his willingness to resume negotiations on a peace settlement. We will do our utmost together with our partners to bring about a settlement based on the Road Map.

The recent dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies served as a reminder – were any still needed – of the importance of energy security, an issue that in my view is likely to assume even greater importance in future. So it is not at all surprising that this issue is now being accorded top priority both at national and European level. I believe there is a clear need for determined action to secure our country's energy supplies. In specific terms, that means working to foster political stability in crisis-affected regions, developing a consensual approach to resolving conflicts about access to or control over resources and promoting energy security systems based on cooperation. All this, I would ask you to note, is reflected in the conclusions endorsed by the recent summit in Brussels. From a German standpoint we can be very pleased, I think, that these conclusions owe a great deal to our input.

As I have said elsewhere, the kind of overarching energy security strategy on which work will start here in Germany at next week's energy summit needs, in my view, to have a foreign-policy and European-policy dimension as well. That is why we will be attempting to clarify with Norway, Russia and the countries of North Africa how closer cooperation between consumer, producer and transit countries can make for better planning, more transparency and greater reliability in international energy relations.

One last subject I would like to touch on: Belarus. Obviously we are gravely concerned by what is happening in the country. Germany and our European partners have strongly condemned the attempts to obstruct free elections as well as the violence used against demonstrators. We have agreed on a catalogue of targeted sanctions. We will also continue to support the democratic forces in the country. As soon as this debate has ended the German Bundestag will consider – a very good step, we believe – the Belarus motion put forward by the parliamentary groups of the coalition parties. I for my part am convinced the people of Belarus will – with our support – find a way to build democracy in their country.

I now come to my concluding remarks, ladies and gentlemen.

Wherever you go, everywhere you will find that Germany is highly respected as a political partner that can be relied upon and as a major economic player.

In this speech I have spoken at length about transition processes and the vital interest we have in fostering stability and peace in the world. It is clear, however, that we will succeed in shaping globalization politically only if we also recognize the cultural dimension of this phenomenon. The recent caricatures controversy was a powerful reminder of just how explosive issues of cultural identity can be. So let me finish by recalling the importance of Germany's cultural relations policy. Particularly in today's globalized world culture is more than an after-work pastime or a way to manifest subtle social distinctions. Culture and language are the means by which people and nations communicate or fail in fact to communicate. They are fundamental to building understanding in the political domain as well as conducting economic exchange.

Anyone seeking to grasp the opportunities globalization offers must therefore never forget the crucial importance of this cultural dimension.

Thank you very much.

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