Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle speaking in the German Bundestag about the continuation of Operation ALTHEA

17.12.2009 - Speech

Madam President,
ladies and gentlemen,

Other Bundeswehr missions, as we have seen today, are perhaps more the focus of public interest. I am now speaking about a motion which we are introducing in this House because Germany has a vital interest in stabilizing Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country on our doorstep. The German Government supports Bosnia and Herzegovina on its journey to become a peaceful, democratic state based on the rule of law, a state which is itself able to guarantee the freedom and security of its people and which is on a course towards integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Self-sustaining structures for the whole country remain our goal. The European Union and the international community are committed to this goal and, what is more, let me underscore, in political, military and civilian terms. The security situation in the region can be regarded as generally quiet and stable. That shows how much we have achieved. Once more, the men and women of the Bundeswehr who are engaged in responsible service on the ground have earned our gratitude.

The domestic policy situation remains fragile. That is also why we went to conduct this debate and take a decision this week. The parties with their ethnic-driven agendas are blocking further reform and preventing the state as a whole from functioning. The fragile balance of power between the three ethnic groups – Bosniacs, Serbs and Croats – remains the defining topic in the political debate. In the light of this domestic policy situation, the aim of ALTHEA remains to maintain a safe and protected environment, particularly with a view to the forthcoming elections. Furthermore, the mission supports the High Representative with his full powers.

On behalf of the Federal Government I do not just want to ask for approval for the continued involvement of German armed forces in the EU-led Operation ALTHEA and at NATO headquarters in Sarajevo. I also want to point out that the United Nations Security Council authorized a twelve-month continuation of ALTHEA for its member states in its resolution of 18 November 2009. As we are currently dealing with a generally stable security situation on the ground, the ceiling for German involvement can be reduced from 2400 to 900 soldiers. Let me be quite clear: The aim of all our military operations is to make ourselves superfluous. And if we are heading in the right direction here then I think that is something positive for the entire German Bundestag.

The military alone is no solution. You all know that. I don’t need to tell anyone here that. The country urgently needs reform. There was a conference last weekend in Berlin and I met various colleagues for talks in the run-up. Respect and confidentiality are key to such talks so I do not want to report on everything that was said – also by us. I have no doubt that everyone here can accept that. The talks that have been conducted by the Swedish Presidency of the EU and by the United States of America since October are very much welcomed by the German Government. It actually goes without saying that we regret the lack of breakthrough – as we always mention in talks.

The development of Bosnia and Herzegovina of course remains first and foremost the task of the leaders in the country. Let there be no doubt: after discussions both at the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels and at the General Affairs and External Relations Council and because we as Germans, represented by myself, have committed to do so, the German Government will continue to make clear in its talks that there cannot be further steps towards the EU and NATO until the necessary reforms in the country are tackled with determination. The German Government sees an inextricable link here.

It is also clear that we want to open the way for steps in the right direction. To make this possible, I ask for approval for the continuation of the involvement of German armed forces in ALTHEA. That is why I am speaking in favour of this motion.

Thank you very much.

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