Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy

11.02.2007 - Speech

Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier in his speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy this weekend: “We can state that the transatlantic relationship remains solid. Nonetheless, however, it still needs considerable renewal for the age of globalization. ... . Let me sum it up by saying that while during the last century the task was to defend the West in Europe, today's task is to shape the global order in a spirit of freedom and equality.”

--Translation of advance text--

Mr Teltschik,
Robert Gates,
Karel Schwarzenberg,
Members of Parliament and Senators,
Ladies and gentlemen

Let me start by thanking you, Robert Gates, for your interesting speech. I look forward to good and fruitful cooperation with you over the next few years, and I would like to say “welcome to Germany, welcome to Europe”.The title of this event is “Transatlantic Relations in the 21st Century”, but first let us briefly travel back in time 100 years, to 1907. Who at that time could have predicted the course of the 20th century? Anyone claiming to would most probably have been proved totally wrong, and we must be just as realistic when considering our situation today, in 2007. We don't really know how humanity will develop during the 21st century. But we do know what challenges we will have to face:

Global trade volume will more than double by 2030. Global population will rise to 9 billion in 2050. Urbanization will continue, so that in 2030 over 60% of the world's population will live in cities. Global energy requirement in 2030 is likely to be 50% higher than it is today, and by 2100, assuming the best-case scenario, global average temperature will increase by 1.4° compared to 1990, and by 5.8° according to the worst-case scenario.
How will the world look in, say, 2050? Will our children and grandchildren live in a world of ever-expanding megacities, environmental disasters and conflicts over resources, or will we together find a way to shape our future positively?

Well, my first answer will be no surprise: In my view this depends decisively on whether we succeed in giving transatlantic relations a complete renewal for the 21st century, the age of globalization. We are living in the first century in which mankind can only together meet the central challenges I have just listed, and this requires totally new thinking. We must learn to look beyond cultural conflicts and historical dividing lines in order to create the awareness of our shared responsibility for our planet. And only if we achieve this will it be possible to positively shape the consequences of globalization, demographic development, conflicts over dwindling resources, and climate change.
Please don't misunderstand me - in no way do I want to gloss over or indeed ignore our current security threats. It is of course true that international terrorism, the proliferation of WMDs, failed states and regional crises remain the major direct challenges facing our security policy, at least in the near future. What will be our priorities in the task of renewing transatlantic relations?

Let me start by saying that I don't think any of us find it easy to just switch from the Cold War phase to the era of shared global responsibility. And I can also say that this starts with us Germans. Many people, particularly in my country, have problems accepting the idea that the lesson learned from two world wars and the Holocaust is no longer to keep out of international conflicts wherever possible. The discussion on Afghanistan, Congo and most recently Lebanon, where we in the end decided in favour of a German military presence, shows how difficult this process is. Many are still highly uncomfortable when they realize that international responsibility also, in extreme cases, when no other means are available, means a military presence. As a well-known American once said to me, regarding the Germans and their lessons from the Second World War, “our education has gone too far ...”. In turn many in the US are only now learning that democracy apparently cannot be imposed by military means - and that democracy and the rule of law certainly create the necessary, but not always sufficient, basis for security and peace. One thing seems clear to me - if we want to defuse the threats to our security to the benefit of our Western values, we need not only military strength but also and above all political credibility. We will only be able to resolve difficult conflicts with unfamiliar cultural and societal backgrounds if we:

  • first, keep our message clear;
  • second, try to get more knowledge about how other societies function - let me just refer to the Middle East, Asia or Africa;
  • third, understand more about the extent to which the decision-makers in these regions are formed by their tradition and religious beliefs, and
  • fourth, above all, markedly increase our options for access to and influence within these societies.

What does this mean, taken as a whole? It means that to achieve globalization the West needs more of what foreign-policy experts call intercultural competence. And this applies to us Europeans and our American friends in equal measure. We must have more detailed knowledge and be willing to conduct dialogue on equal terms before calling on others to share responsibility in and for the world. Then, in the long term, I'm convinced that we will be able to make a much better case for our common values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and tolerance than religious fanaticism and totalitarian ideology can achieve.

We can certainly look back on a turbulent shared history. I think that during the past decade we have together managed to achieve this in several conflicts - I'm being careful here when referring to Kosovo and Bosnia. And I say this in the hope that we will not be proved wrong during the next few months. Our lasting commitment, combining civil reconstruction and military protection, has in any case given the Balkans region increasing peace and security. We use the same civil-military concept - which we intensively discussed during the recent meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels - to cooperate on stabilization in Afghanistan. And I think this year we are making a much better job of it together than at the beginning of last year. I might add that in the Middle East, too, we stand together as transatlantic partners in our fight against international terrorism in Iraq, our efforts to help resolve the Middle East conflict, and the intensive struggle to persuade Iran to divulge and limit its nuclear programme. We are keen to hear what the next speaker has to say to us about this.

We can state that the transatlantic relationship remains solid. Nonetheless, however, it still needs considerable renewal for the age of globalization. We are just recently experiencing how the framework for our political action has shifted since the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Secretary Gates, you reminded us of this. China and India are becoming new political and economic power centres, while many other countries rich in raw materials - countries we sometimes overlook - are developing into major, highly self-confident regional powers.This has consequences for the US's and Europe's options for exerting influence and shaping events. Let me sum it up by saying that while during the last century the task was to defend the West in Europe, today's task is to shape the global order in a spirit of freedom and equality.

In that quest NATO naturally remains our partnership's definitive security organization. Not only as a political Alliance - Secretary Gates, you just made it very clear once again - but particularly as a collective defence organization. Its contribution towards military crisis management and stabilization operations is equally vital. I can assure you that Germany will continue to make a valuable contribution to these missions - I'm sure Defence Minister Jung will say the same.As this is a security conference, I'd like to raise the question of whether it is a good idea in the long term for NATO to discuss almost all the future policy and strategy issues for renewing the transatlantic relationship. Let me be more precise, with a view to last year's conference: I sometimes doubt whether all questions regarding the future of security in the broadest sense need to be placed within the NATO framework. Do you recall the keyword “energy NATO” last year, when there was a discussion on whether NATO can really answer all such questions? NATO is probably less apropriate for some new security issues resulting from our shared responsibility for the ecological survival of our planet. Or can you imagine today's NATO committees being able to discuss water shortage, desertification or hydrogen technologies in a suitable manner?But we should not let this discourage us, since the decisive question is: How can we persuade people on both sides of the Atlantic that we must continue to act together and show solidarity towards each other?

In my firm opinion we can do this by agreeing on joint aims and attractive future projects. And that is possible because there is certainly no doubt about what our shared objective is - the strategic partnership between the EU and the US is the vital tool for shaping globalization in the interests of Western values. And the prerequisite is also obvious and is directed squarely at ourselves - the EU must strengthen its ability to take foreign-policy action and increase the coherence of its external relations. It must become willing to assume greater responsibility. This is why, during Germany's EU Council Presidency, I am committed to relaunching the constitutional process, because strengthening the common foreign and security policy is an important element in this constitution.In my view there is no lack of attractive future projects. Let me point to three of them.

The EU and the US are the world's largest economic areas. Together we create almost 60% of global value-added. However, different norms for car headlights, for example, prevent European firms from supplying American car producers and vice versa. In order to reduce such red tape - and in the long term to achieve a transatlantic economic area which of course also includes Canada - we want to give this process new impetus during the forthcoming EU-US summit.And let me say this to all the others: This transatlantic economic partnership is definitely not meant to be the West's answer to the rise of the emerging economies, above all of China and India, nor is it designed to weaken the WTO and the Doha Round. On the contrary, multilateral liberalization remains the number-one priority of our external economic policy.

A second project: The EU and the US should jointly place the issues of energy security and climate protection at the very top of the agenda. These two issues contain the challenges of the future - sustainable development, global security in the 21st century, global governance and the preservation of our prosperity. I am convinced that these issues contain, in concentrated form, our citizens' fears of new conflicts, environmental disasters and an uncertain future for our children.And that means, in turn, that those who want to anchor the transatlantic partnership once more in people's hearts must begin here.
My conviction is that energy security must be organized in a cooperative way - both globally and in Europe. And climate protection is the other side of the energy-security coin. If we think of the extreme consequences of global warming - water shortage, desertification, a rise in sea levels - then it becomes clear that climate protection is also a matter of national and international security.In this situation the EU and the US must take the political and technological lead. Even if our opinions on climate-protection aims and emissions trading differ with regards to the instruments, we can and must act together. President Bush - and we in Europe took very careful notice of this - called for greater energy independence and efforts in the fields of clean coal, hybrid cars and biofuels, all of which ties in with our European climate-protection and energy policy.

The US and Europe are those mainly responsible for global warming to date. If we do not take the political and technological lead in climate protection, we will not convince the emerging economies, particularly China and India, of the need to take joint responsibility for the ecological future of our One World.For that reason, with a view to the April EU-US summit in Washington, I have been talking to Secretary Rice about a transatlantic technology initiative.We want to bring the European and American research and technology programmes even closer together - for the development of renewable energies, increased energy efficiency, biofuels, clean coal, fuel-cell and hydrogen technologies.Our highly ambitious aim must be to radically reduce the time normally needed to research and develop new processes and technologies. We must assume global technological leadership in this field. This benefits our economy, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and thus strengthens climate protection.
I am convinced that energy security and climate protection can become the transatlantic project for the 21st century, a project in which our political leadership and global responsibility become equally visible.

Let me close by pointing to a third project which I am mentioning particularly in view of my audience here today.If we Europeans, together with the US, Russia and China, are showing great commitment in seeking a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, it is not only due to concern at a possible exacerbation of the already-difficult situation in the Middle East. That is our initial concern, and that will characterize my and our efforts for the next days, weeks and months. We must arrive at a solution to this issue. But our central concern goes beyond this, if we consider the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime itself - and therefore the future of our planet. Let me say quite clearly, especially here before this Security Conference, that we are at a crossroads.
Either we succeed, over the next few years, in preventing Iran and other countries from playing nuclear games, or we experience a new round in the nuclear arms race with unforeseeable consequences for our security. I regard it as very encouraging, Secretary Gates, that progress has been made in the difficult talks with North Korea, and I expressly thank you for your commitment and that of the US Administration. I, and probably many of you, read with great interest the article by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn in the Wall Street Journal, in which all four - following on from Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev - call for new efforts in nuclear disarmament. They underline in that article the fact that these expressly include preventing potential nuclear-weapon countries from taking such a step, i.e. from nuclear armament. But they also point out that moves by the nuclear-weapon states themselves and new ideas regarding the international control of the fuel cycle form part of this package, too.

To conclude, I see truly great prospects for transatlantic relations. If we regard the challenges posed by globalization as a call for us to harness the dynamic and creative force of the Euro-Atlantic partnership, we will together be able to shape the 21st century world order and come closer to achieving the West's prime vision - to create a better world in which mankind's dignity and freedom are preserved, living standards are guaranteed and peaceful coexistence is a reality.
We hold our future in our own hands!

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