“A new transatlantic agenda in a changing world” - Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at Harvard University, 12 April 2008

14.04.2008 - Speech

Professor Maier,
Mr. Dietsch,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for your very kind introduction. It is indeed an honour to address this distinguished audience.

I had always hoped to be invited to Harvard some day. That it should happen when the Red Sox are playing the Yankees is of course an additional privilege. You may be asking yourself what a soccer fan is doing at a baseball game? Well, a Foreign Minister must by definition be open to the unexpected and new. After all: this is a conference on “Modern Germany”.

I hope it is not too shocking if I admit to you here at Harvard that I have just come from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sounds almost blasphemic, doesn't it? There I witnessed the announcement by MIT and the German Fraunhofer Gesellschaft of a new ambitious partnership in information exchange and applied research on climate and energy security.

You might be wondering: Is that really part of the job-description of a Foreign Minister?

I would argue it only shows how times have changed. Again: modern Germany!

Certainly the classic foreign policy topics still dominate our news and our minds.

Increasingly, however, Foreign Ministers are finding their plates full of new issues – climate change, energy security, hunger, protection against pandemics, better control of capital markets.

In that sense, this morning's event at “the other place down the road” - like the topics of this Harvard conference - are very much symptomatic of the way foreign policy has developed over the last few years.

This ever growing list reminds me of the feeling you get when you buy a new shirt and try to find all the pins holding it together: there is always one more than you think.

But first of all let me say this: A German Foreign Minister cannot address Harvard University without having at least two great transatlantic speeches in his mind.

There is, of course, the famous speech by George Marshall some sixty years ago in which he announced the plan that became a hallmark of American statecraft.

The second speech is by Chancellor Willy Brandt. He came to Harvard in 1972 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, and established the German Marshall Fund of the United States – as our Thank You Gift to America. The German Marshall Fund became a key multiplier of networks of friends between Germans, Europeans and Americans.

It was here at Harvard that Willy Brandt said that the Marshall Plan, America’s generosity and political vision stand for one of the most fortunate moments of history of the 20th century.

I suggest we keep this in mind when we ask ourselves: Do we still matter to one another today? And will we do so in the future?

To all sceptics let me say up-front: this question is a bit like the Atlantic itself. It comes and goes in waves.

To start with, no other relationship in the world rests on such a solid foundation: the US and the EU are each other's number one partner.

For the past 60 years the transatlantic relationship has been the world’s transformative partnership. America’s relationship with Europe - more than with any other part of the world - enables both of us to achieve goals that neither of us could achieve alone.

This is what makes the transatlantic relationship unique: When we agree, we are the core of any effective global coalition; when we disagree, no global coalition is likely to be effective.

Just a few facts: Transatlantic trade and investment outnumber all similar relationships by a wide margin. 4 trillion dollars a year in commercial sales. Over this decade, U.S. companies invested three times more in Germany than in China. The Euro became one of the world's strongest currencies – as all of you sadly find out when travelling to Europe these days.

Politically too, Europe has moved. The Lisbon reform treaty greatly improves EU decision-making. It will make Europe an even more capable partner for America.

Our partnership and our friendship remain strong. But today we are facing a whole range of new issues. We are seeing the rapid emergence of new powers and new problems – whilst the Western nations are not always in top shape to cope: economic slowdown, questioning US global leadership, political uncertainties also in Europe. New opportunities have appeared, but so have new threats. September 11th was the most obvious proof of this.

The clarity of the bi-polar world – reliable yet cynical as it was - belongs to the past. Cold war concepts such as “bloc building” or “containment” are gone, too. Instead, a new global complexity dominates the picture.

Our partnership must adjust and transform to address these new global opportunities and challenges. Our military alliance remains essential. But in today’s world, security can neither be ensured by hard power alone - nor by any nation alone.

Only together do we have a chance to tackle the most pressing challenges of mankind: scarce resources, people left behind by globalisation, changing relations in Asia, dealing with political Islam, or fighting terrorism.

No single nation can solve these problems on its own – not even the most powerful, not even the United States. Particularly here at Harvard we should recall the wisdom and the achievements of US post war diplomacy which focused on building lasting partnerships.

“Smart power” - as Joe Nye so appropriately called it - is the synonym for what we need today: new concepts, a revitalised alliance and particularly renewed American leadership in the world.

“Smart power” is George Marshall's vision in a nutshell. “Smart power” is the key to serving America's interests, to serving Europe's interests and – I would argue – to serving the world's interests. To use “smart power”, America - with its global reach - needs allies; and Europe - for its global contributions - needs America.

In that sense, to redesign the transatlantic agenda for a global age, let me look at three main elements for our common future:

  • a more sustainable world
  • a safer world
  • a more just and open world.

In all three areas, I see “modern Germany” and “modern Europe” as America's ideal partner:

First: creating opportunities for a more sustainable world.

Climate change and energy security are the keywords here – topics which directly determine whether we can live safely in tomorrow’s world.

Here, the US and Europe can and must be pioneers. We are among the most innovative economies; we have top technology, top researchers, top universities; we have the two most integrated markets worldwide. Together, we must turn the tide and jointly tackle the twin challenges of climate change and energy security.

We have already started: In 2007 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and I set up an EU-US technology initiative in order to intensify research cooperation and to trigger energy innovation.

Later last year, the International Carbon Action Partnership was launched to harmonise and finally link regional emissions trading systems. On my trip to California last summer, I found in Governor Schwarzenegger a strong partner for this initiative.

ICAP turned into a very active cooperation framework between the EU and its members, several U.S. States – including Massachusetts - and countries from the Pacific. New Zealand and Australia have joined. Japan has expressed interest. Amazing what we can do when we work together.

Element number two: seeking opportunities for a safer world.

The new world order – or: disorder, for that matter - sets one very clear task: we must define security much more broadly than we have ever done before.

We must strengthen common global awareness of ever increasing interdependence – and therefore of the constantly increasing need for more cooperation.

In this context, I am convinced George Marshall would be pleased to see how Europe turned his Harvard vision into a success story. European unification and enlargement, so generously assisted by the United States, is the greatest single European achievement in the interest of peace since the treaty of Westphalia. America and Europe share a key interest in continuing this process and in locking in what has been achieved so far.

As each and every US President since Truman has stated: A strong EU is in America’s interest. The more unified the Europeans are, the more they are able to act as global partners.

Europe’s way of projecting stability reaches far beyond its current boundaries. This will continue - through further EU enlargement, policies towards the EU neighbourhood, and strategic partnerships.

Of course, the EU’s ability to project stability is interlinked with the efforts of NATO. EU and NATO are working closely together to stabilise the Balkans, especially Kosovo. And NATO’s Bucharest summit last week reaffirmed that the door remains open to those willing and able to join.

A safer world also means that America and Europe must engage with Russia.

Both the NATO-Russia summit and the subsequent meeting between Presidents Bush and Putin have shown that we all, Europeans and Americans, share a vital, strategic interest in keeping Russia as an active, constructive partner.

Last weekend, my wife and I spent two very nice days at the country home of my Polish colleague and his American wife. On Russia, we personally have had very different experiences, from those we draw very similar conclusions.

Without Russia's cooperation, many pressing issues we are facing around the world will be harder to resolve – Iran, the Middle East, arms control are just a few examples.

Should we turn a blind eye to shortcomings in Russia’s political system? Of course not. But I am deeply convinced that change towards a more democratic and pluralistic society in Russia will come through dialogue and engagement, not through confrontation and containment.

That is why we should hold the incoming Russian President to his remarkable words about “placing freedom in all its manifestations at the heart of government actions”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Modern Germany's and Europe’s responsibilities do not end at Europe’s borders. As a nation and a as continent in an ever more interdependent world – and as a partner of America -, we must do all that we can to tackle the world's problems.

Helping to overcome the conflicts in the Middle East is a top priority. Two weeks ago I stood with half of the German cabinet and our colleagues from the Israeli government at Yad Vashem. This was a deeply touching and emotional moment. This historic meeting demonstrated once again Germany’s firm commitment to Israel. It is for precisely this reason that we actively engage also with the Palestinians and Israel's other neighbours in the region. We continue to work towards a two state solution, allowing Israelis and Palestinians to live peacefully side-by-side in secure and internationally recognized borders.

Afghanistan is another case in point. Germany stands firm by its commitments to NATO. We have assumed responsibility together. And together we will bring our mission to a successful conclusion.

I know that your conference discussed whether Germany is “boxing below its weight class”. Whatever your verdict may have been, I am sure it was fair - taking into account the long way Germany has come over the last ten years: zero troops on stabilisation missions in 1998; over 7200 now - the largest contingent in Kosovo and the third largest in Afghanistan. Obviously some would like us to do more. But let me assure you: this is a quantum leap for us – for both policy-makers and the wider German public. We have stretched ourselves quite a bit. Our resources are not unlimited. But we remain firmly committed – politically, and with our highly professional troops on the ground.

Creating a safer world also means doing much more on arms control. Last week in Bucharest, NATO for the first time in quite a while mentioned arms control prominently in the communiqué. Now our words must be followed by action. We must not allow the disarmament architecture that has been set up over the last decades to collapse.

The West should take the initiative - with the U.S. front and centre.

At this year’s Munich Security Conference I asked for support for a determined effort on the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is a strong link between the nuclear powers’ willingness to disarm and the willingness of the non-nuclear states not to build up their arsenals.

This is why Germany is so intensively engaged – together with the U.S. and the other P 5 countries – in trying to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Smart diplomacy has successfully brought about three unanimous UN resolutions, sending via sanctions a clear signal to Tehran. At the same time, our offer of generous cooperation with Iran stays on the table, should Tehran change course. Germany is determined to continue this dual-track approach with others.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have talked about a sustainable world, a safer world. But if we proclaim these visions for our new transatlantic global agenda, we must add a third element as a vital ingredient: a more open and just world.

It is true: our values as democracies, the openness of our societies and our economies remain the foundation of our success. Together we stand for the rule of law and respect for human rights – at home and abroad, and especially in the fight against terrorism.

We also share a major interest in further advancing arules-based system of open global trade through the reduction of barriers to trade and investment - amongst ourselves and with the rest of the world. This is a core transatlantic project.

But let's not deceive ourselves: America – and Europe - are currently involved in a serious debate and process of soul searching as to how much openness we can afford. But we are not the only ones – everybody in the world wants to profit from globalisation and to have a fair share of the cake. Together we must find balanced solutions to these conflicting political strategies. The question “What's in it for me?” is a legitimate one. We must sit down together and work on convincing answers; otherwise, economic differences and despair will increase. Even more fundamentally, a growing number of people in the world will question the benefits of globalisation. And not only that: They will question whether the values we cherish and want to spread have any meaning for them and their daily lives.

In Europe and in the United States, there are siren songs of protectionism coming from left, right and centre. I see this with great concern. As we all know: Siren songs are very tempting – and very dangerous.

On the contrary, cooperation pays off, politically and in the bank accounts of the people. This is the right course: engagement, dialogue, institution building, global governance.

We see a litmus test as we speak: How do we deal with the current financial crisis triggered by neglect of credit risks and market complexities? It requires swift political action – nationally and internationally - within the G 7 and the EU, and this weekend at the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington, too.

On a broader scale, globalisation with all its benefits and challenges needs rules and regulation – like it or not. This is the only way to break the divide between winners and losers.

We need to see these efforts through – together. In the long run, everybody at home and abroad must profit from globalisation, otherwise we risk a serious backlash that undermines the case for market solutions and free trade in our societies and casts the political foundations of our democracies into question.

We must enable the key institutions to provide effective global governance. Global governance must be good governance! Global governance must also be just governance - probably a home truth at John Rawls’ alma mater.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

“Do transatlantic relations still matter?” - that was my question at the outset. Can we make a difference together? Without interfering in your current election campaign: let me just say – yes, we can!

I have tried to give you some of the reasons why I think we can.

In this new world - 60 years after George Marshall's speech – perhaps more so than ever. Yes, different circumstances require new concepts and new leadership. But one truth remains: Together, we as transatlantic partners and friends - the United States, Canada and Europe with modern Germany at its heart – together we can make our world a more sustainable, a safer, a more just and open place!

We should continue this discussion. Berlin would be a good place to do so. I am glad to see how Harvard (and others) are making good use of this vibrant city as an intellectual hub for America in Europe. How about “effective multilateralism” as the next subject? After all: it is – as I have read – all about “making the Europeans more effective and the US more multilateral”.

That’s nicely put. Let’s do it.

Thank you very much!

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