Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Foreign Affairs Association in Munich on 9 July 2008

09.07.2008 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Mr Mahr,

Mr Huber,

Günther Beckstein,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Sixty years ago when the Foreign Affairs Association was founded here in Munich, hardly anyone could have imagined the charm and splendour of this city in 2008. It has come a long way since the times when much of it lay in ruins, when people shivered in houses with no windows or fuel.

The longest period of peace for centuries enabled this city to flourish once more. During this time our country reached an unprecedented level of prosperity. Countless people worked hard to acquire this wealth.

The generosity and far-sightedness of our former enemies, an alliance which took to heart the lessons learned from Versailles at the Zero Hour, fostered this development.

However, it was also fostered by an intelligent and far-sighted foreign policy. Today Germany lives in peace with all its neighbours in Europe. We are surrounded by friends and partners in the European Union. Following two World Wars and a Cold War, we can finally say: the European civil war is over – hopefully forever.

Germany has found its right place in Europe, a place accepted by everyone. We are a democratic, outward-looking and tolerant country with a foreign policy focused on peace through dialogue and cooperation. A country in which nationalism and racism are no longer potent forces! Ladies and gentlemen, we can look back on 60 good, indeed very good, years!

The Foreign Affairs Association has actively supported German foreign policy from Munich during all this time. It supported the forging of transatlantic relations, Adenauer's policy of reconciliation with France, Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, as well as the difficult process of rapprochement between the Sudeten Germans and the Czech Republic. For that I would like to thank you. Good foreign policy requires well-informed, critical and constructive ideas and suggestions. And it needs people who are prepared to work to make complex foreign-policy issues comprehensible. That is the best way of ensuring that resentments, prejudices and populist slogans don't play any role in Germany's foreign policy!

For when policies are no longer explained, populists exploit people's lack of understanding for their own political gain. They give supposedly simple answers to difficult questions. The more complicated the world around us becomes, the more dangerous that is.

We are living in an age of transformation and upheaval. We sense that the old maps and reference points are no longer valid or don't mean much anymore, while the new ones are still much too imprecise. Many concepts which emerged in the nineties were rash or even wrong: the prophesy of the end of history or the idea of the irrefutable unipolar moment. Nor has the triumphant progress of democracies proved to be unstoppable. And not even in Wall Street does anyone still believe that the unleashing of market forces around the world inevitably leads to prosperity for everyone and, what's more, almost automatically to political participation and openness.

What we see instead is a Janus-faced situation: we can be pleased that the number of democratic states has increased considerably since 1989. And the global division of labour brought about by globalization has allowed an unprecedented number of people to escape poverty. Millions of people have realized, at least to a modest extent, the dream of the Western way of life, of our prosperity. They have built themselves stone houses, they have bought themselves washing machines and fridges, and some have even bought their first car.

Countries such as Germany benefit most from this development – even if many Germans have failed to notice. Industrial goods and machinery “Made in Germany” sell incredibly well throughout the world. And we can obviously do even better. Presidents and Foreign Ministers often ask me on my trips: Where are the Germans? We're waiting for you!

That's the positive side of globalization. However global interconnectedness allows not only opportunities but also risks to increase.

It's these risks that many people in Germany are focused on. We all know these new apocalyptic riders darkening the horizon: international terrorism, nuclear weapons in the hands of an increasing number of states; the impact of climate change, scarce resources and rocketing prices for agricultural produce; new inflation risks and unpredictable financial markets.

I recently said that the world is looking for a new order. And people are looking for new, viable models, for orientation. I described what we need in this connection as a “remeasuring” of the world, to borrow from Daniel Kehlmann.

And that is the – Archimedean – starting point in today's world: for the first time in history all major problems and conflicts can only be resolved if we work together. No-one, not even the strongest, can resolve anything on their own!

Not even the combined efforts of the strong, whether one wants to call them an alliance of democracies or the axis of good, would be powerful enough to shape the course of events. That's why I don't think much of the glass bead games played in certain American think tanks which cannot tell us who the others are and whether they really are unreceptive to active and formative foreign policy. No, despite new questions waiting to be answered, despite some unclear situations, we shouldn't pretend the world is simpler than it is.

A new order cannot be created until the bloc mentality, both in old and new forms, has been overcome. We need structures for shared security and shared responsibility! We have to strive for that!

If we want our children and grandchildren to live as well and peacefully as we have during the last 60 years, we must create a global community of shared responsibility.

We need a global community of shared responsibility in which opportunities are seized together and in which risks are faced together.

Germany adopted a similar approach under Brandt, Scheel and Genscher – the identification of shared interests despite the continued existence of conflicting systems – on the road towards ending European and German division, and its experiences were positive. This approach is geared towards overcoming unfamiliarity and different outlooks through dialogue, towards identifying common interests and towards building confidence through cooperation. It is the concept of the future – in a revised form. For our task now is to integrate new powers such as India, China and Brazil, as well as new old powers such as Russia, into the global community of shared responsibility.

The European Union, too, is first and foremost a community of shared responsibility, created in response to war and civil strife. And that's why the successes and failures of the European project have an impact far beyond our continent's frontiers.

The success of this project was anything but a foregone conclusion. We should neither take it for granted nor play it down. And when I say this, I am also referring to the current debate following the referendum in Ireland. Once more, we are talking more about the tribulations of the day-to-day workings of the Union than about the monumental achievement of European integration.

Apparently, this achievement can be seen more clearly from a distance: in Africa, Latin America, in Asia and in the US, too, many look to Europe with admiration, and often with the hope of a similar development in their own region.

They see that we have created an economic and social model which stands for prosperity, social justice and solidarity through dialogue, through peaceful reconciliation of interests and the primacy of the law.

Becoming a member of the European Union is considered to be an attractive and desirable aim. In many countries the very prospect of belonging to this Union propels peaceful political and social change.

That applies to the transition to democracy of the southern European countries Greece, Spain and Portugal in the 1980s, as well as to the process of drawing Central and Eastern European transformation countries towards the Union following the disappearance of the Iron Curtain.

In the Balkans we are currently witnessing the reform forces released by the European model's power of attraction. Drawing the Western Balkans closer to the EU is concrete peace policy!

The perception from the outside is accurate. Within Europe, however, the EU has become the victim of its own success. An unprecedented era of peace, open borders, effective resolution of conflicts on its peripheries, a single currency – all of this is taken for granted. It even seems to have been forgotten during the referendum campaign in Ireland that it was only possible through European integration to create prosperity on the fringes of Europe. We have to remind people of this!

For Europe shows that there are concepts which can turn political enemies into political partners and friends. We Europeans must gain the self-confidence to draw on this concept to play a leading role in tackling the task ahead of us: joining forces with the US to create rules and regulations for the globalized world.

Both – the US and Europe – will depend on each other more than ever in the times ahead. I am pleased that the two US presidential candidates see it that way, too.

Both are aware of the increasing importance of the Pacific region but they are nevertheless committed to preserving the special nature of transatlantic relations. John McCain is a regular visitor to the Munich Conference on Security Policy. I have met him many times and had very fruitful talks with him. And Barack Obama is due to visit Europe in a few days' time and will underscore his commitment to our shared responsibility in Berlin.

Even today, the political, economic and people-to-people contacts between Europe and America are closer than those that exist with any other world region. If we want to, we can shape global progress with political offers, with intelligent diplomacy and modern technology. That's why I call so staunchly for the renewal of transatlantic relations.

And this will only succeed if, in future, we talk about not only traditional security policy but, above all, about the major issues of the future such as climate protection and the peaceful resolution of the problem of the scarcity of raw materials and energy. Here, too, I sense that both presidential candidates are willing to cooperate.

When we talk about a new order and a global community of shared responsibility, we also have to talk about how we can come to an understanding with countries and powers whose history, culture and institutions are more alien to us than America's. In a world which is growing ever closer together, in which countries are more dependent on each other than ever before, we have to deal differently with cultures and influences which have hitherto been unfamiliar to us.

The former US Senator William Fulbright once said, “The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy – the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately.”

That is a good approach when it comes to talking about our policy towards Russia.

Just a few days ago I was in Passau for the meeting of the steering group of the Petersburg Dialogue. Together with Mikhail Gorbachev, we discussed what path Russia would take following the change at the top. A change whose significance has, in my view, been underestimated by the German public. I don't believe that the changeover from Vladimir Putin to Dmitry Medvedev is simply a change of names and faces without consequences, as was often stated in the press.

Medvedev was born in 1965. He was a young student when the Wall fell. And the new Russian President stated in a speech he delivered in Berlin at the end of May that his country was no longer the country which came in from the cold. He said that Russia was part of European civilization – a shared civilization made up of North America, the European Union and Russia.

That is not yet a policy. But it is a statement which we shouldn't ignore for there were, indeed there still are, alternatives to the policy on Europe for which Dmitry Medvedev stands. It was not the only policy on Europe put forward during the search for candidates to succeed Putin.

I'm aware of Russia's shortcomings. But I believe that it will help no-one if we persist in our role of observer on the sidelines. Our attitude will have an impact on the scope for modernization and reform in Russia!

That is the reason why I put forward the idea of a “modernization partnership” during my visit to Russia last May. I proposed a partnership between Germany, other EU states and Russia in which we would develop projects together with Russia in the health sector, on the better use of energy, better transport infrastructure, the development of rule-of-law structures, better schools and universities and youth exchange.

In my view, Russia remains a key country for the long-term security of people in Europe. That's why I say: let's seize every opportunity to work together!

2009 will bring important decisions. It could be a year of opportunities. Many things will be easier if following the presidential elections in the US course is set for cooperation between the major powers. Although the idea of a common area of security from Vancouver to Vladivostok is not new, it is of renewed relevance today. If this course is not set, then it will be much more difficult to resolve the major pressing problems.

Let me mention four of the major problems in connection with which the global community of shared responsibility has to prove its worth.

Firstly, resources and climate change.

Everyone can see that if in the near future three or four billion people have gained some prosperity through hard work compared to the 1.5 billion today, then conflicts over the control of resources and energy are inevitable. A cooperative climate and energy security policy is therefore no longer a mere footnote in peace and stabilization policy but, rather, has long since been a key priority. Europe must lead the way here. But without the USA, the main emitter of CO2 gases, no breakthrough will be possible.

Secondly, peace and stability in the interconnected world also requires us to lessen the gap between the winners and losers of globalization.

We have watched the cleft between capital gains and wages steadily increase for more than
20 years. This has now been aggravated by the impact of inflation and systematic instabilities on the capital markets.

That is a dangerous development. Those who – both internally and externally – believe they are at risk of losing status usually react with self-imposed isolation and exclusion. The fear of being left behind or losing status provides a breeding ground in which resentment against the modern world, against democracy and the market can thrive. We can all see how populists play with this resentment and how they are becoming stronger in many parts.

That's why it's so important that politics also becomes more effective globally, that it provides orientation. We need binding codes and rules, more international cooperation and social balance. That applies to the financial markets and to trade policy.

Thirdly, peace policy and disarmament.

Disarmament has been in the shadows for many years. That has to change!

For we are living at a time when ever more states are obtaining access to nuclear technology or even acquiring the know-how to make nuclear arms. Incidentally, that is one aspect which continues to receive far too little attention in the debate, both internationally and in Germany, about the supposed renaissance of nuclear power!

That's why the international community has been working so resolutely to persuade Iran to yield on the nuclear issue.

And it is why the Germans have, at my suggestion, been arguing in the context of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for uranium enrichment and the fuel cycle to be brought more closely under international control.

The fact that both candidates in the US election campaign have expressed their support for a fresh start on disarmament is encouraging. US leadership in the diplomatic efforts towards disarmament is indispensable.

Fourthly, peace policy is global responsibility.

We have to find out which instruments and institutions are best suited to ensuring global stability. The UN and the other organizations date back to the mid-20th century. In their present form, they are only suited to a limited extent to fulfilling their role in the future. We have to adapt them to the new world, indeed we have to reinvent them. In doing so, we will have to include new powers and players. We should not merely accept the new realities, we should use them to make China, India and others active participants and responsible partners in shaping the new world order.

During our G8 Presidency we took a concrete step to this end: with the Heiligendamm Process we initiated an intensive dialogue with the world's major emerging economies China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. We should consider giving the G8 a new format in the long term which better reflects our multipolar world.

You'll say that is a major programme. Indeed it is!

However, the months ahead will open up a window of opportunity: a new US Administration, hopefully a stronger Europe, Russia as our partner, China, which will open up more as a result of the Olympic Games, as well as dynamic states such as India, Brazil or Mexico.

I'm convinced we can overcome old divides and gradually move closer to a global community of shared responsibility in the near future.

A peace policy of this nature cannot be created in the test tube of foreign-policy alchemy. It won't emerge as a secret cure thought up by experts. It needs ideas, suggestions and critical discussion involving the greatest possible number of people.

That's why I'm so grateful that we have been able to rely on the Foreign Affairs Association to keep interest in German and European foreign policy very much alive.

Your commitment will be needed as least as much in the future as it has been during the last 60 years. Help us to build a global peace order which we, which our children and grandchildren, need so much more than previous generations!

Thank you very much.

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