Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

31.08.2007 - Speech

Ms Pivnicka,
Mr Naumann,
ladies and gentlemen,

I really am delighted to be here with you this evening in San Francisco. And, of course, I would also like to thank the World Affairs Council and the Commonwealth Club for their invitation. Ladies and gentlemen, I could hardly believe it myself, but this is the first visit by a German Foreign Minister to the US West Coast for 50 years, and let me say right at the start of my speech: this was a mistake.

The American West Coast, and more especially California, don't attract attention with foreign policy crises, and because that is happily the case, California doesn't provide the top stories on CNN every day, or on the front pages of international newspapers.

Nevertheless, developments in this region over the last 50 years have radically changed the lives of people all over the world. This is where computer and software technology started their conquest of the globe. This is where the practical application of the Internet was devel­oped, utterly transforming people's daily lives. It is here in California that all the TV movies and films have been made through the decades that encapsulate the hopes and dreams of people all around the world and which have created a shared cultural awareness in many parts of the world.

So in a nutshell, California is one of the most important, if not the most important testing laboratory for our global future. This state's greatest asset is the vitality, the openness and the creativity of its people – software, so to speak, which is converted time and again into economic hardware. California symbolizes the strength of spirit which serves people and therefore leads them all to a brighter future.

I am absolutely convinced that strength of spirit is not just the key driving force behind science, culture and business but that it's important that we also make strength of spirit and reason into the central driving force behind politics in the 21st century. I'm keen to call to mind this virtue of the old Europe.

The century in which we live is the first truly global century. Never before were people around the world so closely linked, with all chances and risks that entails. The boom in many emerging economies today shows that never before have so many people had the opportunity to increase their prosperity by their own efforts.

Of course I know we are also seeing that we have all become vulnerable in this world which is growing ever closer together. We are seeing how events at the other end of the world can have a direct impact on our own lives. Nowadays there is clearly no such thing as a distant region. And for the first time, we're in a situation where we can only deal with the key questions facing humanity together, starting with the fight against global warming.

I have to admit that my trip to Spitzbergen is still very much on my mind. Some 1000 kilometres from the North Pole, I saw with my own eyes the deep chasms and splits caused by global warming in what we used to call eternal ice. Today we no longer know if it's going to be eternal. With my own eyes, I saw pieces of glacier ice more than 30 meters high simply break away, fall into the sea and melt.

You know that we will all feel the impact of this development, and presumably not just through rising sea levels. We're going to see more floods, more hurricanes, more killer heat­waves, more droughts and devastated harvests, more deserts and thus more refugees, more people driven from their homes and suffering.

And when the eternal ice melts, that doesn't just threaten polar bears. Global warming is already triggering the second race for the region around the North Pole. But this time it's different than it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is not only about national prestige or scientific ambition, but about hard economic interests. After all, the raw materials and minerals in the Arctic Ocean are no longer only attracting daring explorers. International conflicts about the distribution of raw materials and resources could break out in the High North in just a few years' time.

The race for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean shows once more why climate and energy issues are becoming central topics of forward-looking foreign policy. We need to apply the success­ful principles of such a foreign policy in the new spheres I have just outlined. That means recognizing emerging conflicts as early as possible. It means tackling them with foresight. And above all else, it means resolving them together peacefully. Only if we recognize and take up the twofold challenge of energy security and climate protection, will we have the strength to set a political course which fosters global cooperation and sustainable and climate-friendly business.

What is required is a common global awareness of the need for this cooperation. It's an extremely ambitious undertaking, for we ourselves will have to overcome centuries-old cultural divisions and national borders. We need new ways of thinking and new political alliances. I am quite sure the coming decades will be the crucial test of our human intelli­gence, as well as a test of our ability to solve conflicts not in confrontation with one another, but in a spirit of dialogue, understanding and cooperation.

And I am here today to promote precisely this message. In purely geographical terms, of course, California and Germany, California and Europe could hardly be further apart. But when it comes to shaping this first global century, we are kindred spirits. And my hope for the future is that we will cooperate not just culturally and economically, but also much more politically.

In the United States, California is a pioneer of a forward-looking energy, environment and climate-protection policy. We must not squander the opportunities which this creates for European-American cooperation. For as global leaders in the field of technology, Germany and California, Europe and the United States, are also global leaders when it comes to shaping attitudes. We have to take advantage of this.

In California and in Europe, we have the broad support of people for such a far-sighted climate and energy policy. That isn't the case everywhere, although environmental awareness has visibly advanced in most parts of the world. We have to be self-critical and say that the industrialized world, and especially Europe and the United States, have themselves played a major role in aggravating the ecological crisis. And we cannot deny people in devel­oping countries the right to own a car or a refrigerator if we ourselves take airconditioning or heated swimming pools for granted.

But the United States and Europe can be pioneers. We can show together that we are rising to the energy-policy and ecological challenge in political, technological and therefore also economic terms. The United States and Europe are among the most innovative economies, as well as the most important markets in the world. We can and must turn the tide on energy policy and ecology and I think together we have the means to do so.

At the recent EU-US summit in Washington and at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm in Germany, we laid out some of the main objectives for a new common agenda. More energy independence by means of biofuels is included in this agenda, as is the call for efficient and innovative vehicles as well as joint efforts for the clean use of coal.

Using political incentives we want to up the pace of technological advances. That is why the European Union adopted very ambitious goals this spring during the German Presidency: a sizeable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, greater energy efficiency and a rapid increase in the use of renewable energies.

We consider you, here in California, to be an especially important partner in all these questions. California and Europe, particularly also we in Germany, are trendsetters when it comes to greentech and cleantech products. Many solar power stations here are the product of German-American cooperation. My talks with Governor Schwarzenegger and other leading politicians made it clear that on climate protection and sustainable energy policy we agree on practically all fronts.

Naturally, I also spoke to Governor Schwarzenegger, Speaker Nuñez and other Californian politicians about emissions trading. In simple terms this means that whoever blasts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has to pay. But how much is to be paid can be influenced by astute action.

Europe regards California as a pioneer in the United States when it comes to introducing this emissions trading system. I want to encourage not just California but all interested regions and cities in the United States to link up to our European emissions trading system. Let's together build a “coalition of goodwill” which shows that people in the United States and Europe are pulling in one direction on this issue which is so vital for our future. Let's join forces to make the growing support for climate protection in society politically effective as quickly as possible. In this way we will gradually move closer to our shared goal of a global market for CO2 emissions.

That is why, as part of Germany's G8 Presidency this year, we launched an intensive dialogue with key emerging market economies: China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. For Germany, the priority is to bring all of these initiatives and negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations. The United Nations is the forum and thus the most important instrument in the very global domestic policy which we want to develop step by step and which plays a central role in fighting global climate change.

Climate protection and energy security can also be a perfect example of a new development which I believe we urgently need. I am thinking here of the renewal and further deepening of the relationship between the United States and Europe. We use the word “transatlantic” for this relationship, which probably sounds a little odd or certainly far away for people in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Perhaps that is also one of the problems.

The development of this relationship is a source of concern for me, if I may be so open with you. I have noticed that the United States is looking to the boom in Asia with growing fasci­nation. That is perfectly understandable here on the Pacific coast. However, I would ask you not to ignore the reality. After all, the trade and investment flows between the United States and Europe are still much more important than those to and from Asia, and this won't change in the foreseeable future. Even for California, the EU states are the biggest investors and trading partners. In Europe, too, there is a similar trend. I see that people's long-standing fundamental trust in the United States is often giving way to indifference or even scepticism.

My question is: Are we still important enough to each other? And the only comforting or even paradoxical thing about this trend is that Europeans' deep-rooted understanding for the Americans remains entirely unaffected. Many Europeans even move to the United States either permanently or temporarily because they really like the way of life here.

But this isn't the only reason why we cannot allow a gradual process of political alienation between us. Such political alienation would for both sides, for the United States and for Europe alike, be harmful and perhaps even dangerous. In the coming decades, Europe and the United States will be more dependent on each other than ever before in this age of globaliza­tion. The global era can only gain a free, just and human profile if we – all those who uphold the ideals and values of the Enlightenment – join forces.

I therefore hope that we can revive deep-rooted understanding, define shared future issues and, to a certain extent, even rediscover each other. And in this way, we will win back not just the minds but also the hearts of people. We will hopefully then be able to focus again on the fact that we don't just have shared roots but that we also have a brighter future if we work together.

That's why I'm very keen to step up our cultural, education and research work in the United States. This is an investment in a shared future, whether it is the German-American Partner­ship Program, which has had more than a quarter of a million exchange students since 1982, or more German art, culture, town twinnings in the United States, support for German schools or exchange in science and research.

We could ask here: why have transatlantic relations cooled off despite the close ties between our civil societies and despite our great affinity for one another.

First, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War which, also thanks to American help, brought us Germans the reunification of our divided country, somewhat lessened the shared threat faced by the United States and Europe. Europe has since become a zone of peace, stability and prosperity. European integration in the form of the European Union not only gave the United States an increasingly self-confident but also a stronger partner. To my mind, all in all this is a good thing. A strong Europe is also good for America and for a vibrant partnership between the two.

Second, it is well-known that many people in Europe are concerned by US policy on the Middle East. The Iraq war led many to conclude that US policy ultimately relies too much on military force.

Third, we will soon be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet I have the impression that the deep-rooted mindset from the Cold War persists to this day and sometimes prevents us from looking forward with confidence and recognizing the opportuni­ties the future has to offer. I call that the long shadow of the Cold War which is somehow still affecting us today.

NATO rightly continues to be the heart of shared Western security. Yet there is a growing belief that in this first global century many questions can no longer be solved primarily using military means and that civilian instruments are of greater importance. Renewable energies would be a more intelligent way to make a war over oil and gas redundant than soldiers, tanks and missiles. But alongside the NATO bodies we need new, different fora for focused discus­sion on these security policy scenarios.

If the alliance between the United States and Europe is to remain as vital and relevant as it was in the last sixty years, we need to focus on the tasks of the future which are on people's minds. The founding fathers of the transatlantic relationship can serve as a model here. However, I said to Governor Schwarzenegger and Speaker Nuñez today that it is now up to us, a new generation of politicians, to take up new questions and discuss differences, to aspire to new ways of thinking and cooperation and to be prepared to foster diverse new and, I hope, lasting contacts.

This generation shares the conviction that although military superiority can be a way of winning most wars it cannot always ensure lasting peace. This generation is willing to work together to analyse the foundations of peace and stability: the readiness to talk and cooperate, as well as trust and opportunities for people. I hope for far-reaching renewal of the alliance between the United States and Europe in a spirit of new trust and the will for multilateral cooperation. On our own, we would all soon reach our limits. Together we can do much more.

Our cooperation on promoting innovative energy technology or climate and environmental protection can only be an opening chapter of this new success story. It could also involve the political regulation of capital and financial markets so that stock market crashes don't trigger off a global economic crisis and speculators are not able to cast people around the globe into poverty and suffering. We also need fair trade conditions, although we Europeans – particu­larly on agriculture – have to do much more.

Even today Europe is at America's side in helping to resolve conflicts in shared international responsibility. Europe is shouldering the greater security responsibility that it bears since the end of the Cold War. Incidently, this is also true for Germany although many people don't find it easy to take on this new thinking. The lesson we learned from World War II was “never again war”. This is still more emotive than any arguments in favour of any kind of military operation.

Yet Europeans and also Germans are not just helping by providing government advisors and development volunteers but also soldiers in the Balkans, in Lebanon and in Afghanistan. Europe is not shying away from conflict management and concrete contributions in regions where stability is in the interest of us all.

Currently we Germans are proving this together with many other nations in the joint NATO mission in Afghanistan. From the outset we were engaged there with commitment and dedication. In autumn 2001, representatives of all Afghan groups and all neighbouring states came together on the Petersberg near Bonn for their first peace conference.

Today we Germans are contributing 3500 soldiers and several thousand civilian reconstruc­tion workers to ensure that after 25 years of war and civil war the people in Afghanistan can again live without fear of terrorism, violence and lawlessness. We are training police officers, judges and public prosecutors; we are building schools, hospitals, roads and wells; we are doing whatever we can to ensure security in our theatres of operation.

We are facing crucial discussions in the German Parliament on extending the German mission in Afghanistan. The Federal Government's position is clear: we want to continue to make a substantial contribution to Afghanistan's security and reconstruction. The security situation and progress on reconstruction have not yet been sufficiently consolidated to make the presence of soldiers unnecessary. But we want to up the pace on building functioning state structures. The aim must be to enable the Afghans themselves to ensure their own security and freedom.

Although the deployment of soldiers is still a national decision, we are coordinating German foreign policy ever more closely with our partners in the European Union. The institutional reforms which were adopted under the German EU Presidency at the end of June will further strengthen the European Union's ability to act in foreign and security policy terms. Increased coherence amongst the EU Member States is not just good for Europe, it is also in the interest of the United States. Only a strong Europe can be a strong ally and shoulder responsibility.

Coordination and consultation between Europeans and Americans are essential – within the Alliance, but also in institutionalized political dialogue between the United States and the European Union.

Let me give an example: combatting terrorism and internal security. The German authorities in particular are working in a very close and trustful manner with their US counterparts. That fact is recognized. But this cooperation has to be based on prevailing international law.

We need to ensure that the legal interpretations on the two sides of the Atlantic don't drift apart. In Europe, we have a complete ban on torture and no one can be locked up for years without a procedure based on the rule of law. Our principle is this: no one in the West should play into the hands of those who deny the universality of our values.

Almost 20 years after the fall of the Wall, we see that although old threats have been over­come, new ones have emerged, and by no means are we talking only about religiously motivated terrorism. Amongst these new threats is certainly also the growing danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That is one reason why, since taking office, I have been advocating a renaissance of disarmament policy. I think it needs a new start in order to renew and strengthen the legitimacy of non-proliferation policy. I therefore also appeal to the United States and Russia to give clear signals that they are serious about their disarmament commitments. The fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons can only be successful if the nuclear-weapon states also fulfil their disarmament obligations.

We Germans have always had relatively quiet times when the United States and Russia have had good relations. The year 1990 provides an especially important example. Precisely because George Bush Senior and Mikhail Gorbachev saw each other as real partners, Russia agreed to the whole of Germany joining NATO. Linked to this for Russia, however, was the hope and expectation of a close security-policy partnership; but even after the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council, this does not seem to have worked out sufficiently.

This is not the only thing that has led to ongoing frustration and an emotional hardening in Moscow. The strategic partnership we are seeking with Russia is a key issue not only for Germany and Europe. We need Russia to shoulder shared responsibility for stability in the world. Neither the conflict in the Balkans nor the nuclear weapons dispute with Iran can be resolved, neither disarmament nor peace in the Middle East nor a peaceful and stable energy supply can be achieved without Russia or bypassing Russia. So it is obvious that we have to discuss cooperative security issues with Russia at an early stage, as is currently happening regarding the plans for a US missile defence system in Europe.

Here on the West Coast of the United States, it is certainly not immaterial which path Russia takes. A Russia that sees itself as a partner of the West must also be in California's interest. It would certainly be better than a scenario in which Moscow succumbs to isolationist folly or orients itself more strongly towards Asia.

Let me emphasize once again that the emergence of Asia, especially of China and India, as global players is to my mind no reason to take relations with Europe less seriously. On the contrary: only if Europe and the United States pull in one direction will we together be able to gradually draw in the up-and-coming states of Asia into an architecture of global governance in which the key elements of liberal democracies prevail. Only then do I see a realistic chance of coming closer to our goal of a global domestic policy in which we together will solve global problems.

Anyone asked 100 years ago to predict the course of the last century would have come seriously aground. Back then, the world was in the midst of what was hitherto its greatest phase of globalization and upswing. And then came some of the darkest chapters of our recent history. Let us all work to make this century one of peace, stability and growing prosperity for all underpinned by shared ecological good sense. Let us use the alliance between the United States and Europe as a powerhouse for innovation and a just peace; and let me add that such a powerhouse does not emerge merely between Governments but also in cooperation among and with states, regions, cities and civil societies. In this regard California plays an especially important role for us.

Only together can we build and renew that to which we aspire: the coalition for a better world!

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