Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in the “Heidelberger Hochschulreden” lecture series“Shaping globalization – Challenges facing German foreign policy”

02.02.2011 - Speech

-- translation of advance text --

Ladies and gentlemen,

You are studying in Heidelberg, but you are living in a globalized world. Just look at the labels on your clothes. And think where the server for your social networking site is. Think where the call centre is that you ring up when you have problems with your computer or when you want to report the loss of your bank card. Or think of Egypt.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Egypt are fighting for more freedom, for greater participation, for more civil rights. Stability is created not by those who oppress freedom, but by those who guarantee civil rights. We should never confuse stability with stagnation. We are on the side of those who are demanding freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, who are calling for fair elections, who want freedom of opinion and political participation. These are universal values people in Egypt are fighting for. The Egyptian people will decide what political solution emerges from this transition process. But we are all of us following events with interest and sympathy.

Globalization is “a globalization of values”. The mistaken belief that there are regions or cultures whose people do not long for democracy is currently being consigned to the scrapheap of history.

Some people have renamed globalization “globalism”, as if globalization were an economic ideology. In truth, globalization is social reality – your reality, Egypt’s reality, global reality. Globalization is a social networking process which every day makes us all a little bit more members of a global society.

In this global society, more and more questions are becoming issues for a new global governance. When I was a student, the Federal Republic of Germany’s foreign-policy situation was completely different from today. The Cold War determined everything. Germany was a divided country. Its eastern part was ruled by a Communist regime; its western part was arguing about the stationing of medium-range nuclear missiles. The Iron Curtain divided the whole of Europe into a Europe of freedom and a Europe without freedom.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. The GDR regime’s response to its citizens’ unhappiness in 1961 was to shut the country off, rather than show a willingness to change. The Eastern Bloc become the symbol of stagnation. Stable it certainly was not. After 28 long years the Wall was torn down by the courageous citizens of the GDR, and with it the regime which had shut itself in.

Today, over twenty years on from Germany’s reunification, a generation has grown up which, happily, only knows the Cold War from hearsay. You, the young people arriving at university today, know Europe only as a peaceful Europe without borders. That is a blessing.

The challenges facing Germany’s foreign policy have changed, but the tasks at hand are no less substantial. Firstly, the achievements of the past twenty years cannot be taken for granted: we are called upon day by day to stand up for peace, freedom and prosperity. That is true in Europe and worldwide as well. Secondly, a host of new challenges have emerged for foreign policy. The fall of the Wall also heralded a new age: the age of globalization. Not only did a Wall disappear; not only did a border open in Berlin, in Germany, in Europe. No, something else disappeared too: the mistaken belief that it is possible to shut oneself off from the rest of the world.

Globalization and the multipolar world – these are the challenges for foreign policy in the 21st century. International trade and exchange is of course nothing new in itself. What is new is the speed at which changes are occurring. New technologies and political liberalization have made possible a global exchange of unparalleled breadth and rapidity, an exchange of goods and services, of information and ideas. Biographies are becoming more global too; people today network around the globe. Globalization means that geographical distance is rapidly losing significance for all areas of life.

Things which happen far away can influence our everyday lives. Businesses must measure up against competitors from other continents. There is a global competition for production and investment locations. And it is not only people or markets who are moving closer together. In a world which is growing smaller, dangers too can come closer – a conflict, for instance, or a virus from a far-flung country. At the latest with the financial crisis it became clear that in a networked world it is not only opportunities that spread faster, but also risks. A mortgage crisis in the US can have an effect on savings deposits in Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg.

Our policies and our thinking must keep pace with globalization. We want to shape globalization. That’s why foreign policy and domestic policy are becoming more and more closely interwoven. There is virtually no field of Germany’s policy – from internal security to education policy – that is not influenced by globalization. International issues have a bearing on national policies, and decisions at national level in turn help determine whether we achieve our global objectives, for example in energy or climate policy.

In this context, German foreign policy must in the first instance be an advocate of openness. Because there are huge opportunities inherent in globalization. Anyone who shuts himself off, believing that is the way to avoid all risks, is simply robbing himself of all opportunities.

Germany in particular lives from and with its links with the wider world. Germany emerged from the economic crisis in a better state than any other industrialized country. One reason for this is our strong export industry, not least our SMEs. Germany is profiting from globalization thanks to its competitive products and in spite of the fact that we are, rightly, a high-wage country.

If Germany is to remain one of the world’s economic powerhouses, we will have to roll up our sleeves and get on with the job. The moment we begin to take our standard of living for granted, we will lose it. It used to take centuries for nations to rise to prosperity. Today it’s decades.

If a country profits from globalization, it is not at the expense of others. Trade is not a zero-sum game. And so it is no coincidence that, not least thanks to the greater integration into the global economy of many emerging and developing countries, the number of poor people in the world dropped to 400 million between 1990 and 2005, despite strong population growth.

Today there are just over 6.9 billion people living on our planet. That’s about 80 million more than a year ago. To put it another way: every year the world’s population grows by roughly the population of Germany. In mid-2011 the global population will pass the seven billion mark.

There are almost 1.4 billion people in China and around 1.2 billion in India, and the trend is rising. Both countries are ambitious and want to give their people greater prosperity.

We in the West still believe we wield the baton. For centuries that may have been true. But nowadays the music is increasingly being played elsewhere too.

The question of what we Germans are going to live on in ten, twenty or thirty years’ time has long ceased to be our own exclusive decision. It is all the more important, then, that we do not spoil our opportunities through wrong decisions because we give in to moods instead of rolling our sleeves up.

The rise of the so-called newly-industrializing countries is particularly impressive. They are catching up extremely fast, they are the driving force behind the global economy and, for the first time, they have decoupled themselves from the economic situation of the industrial countries. The weights in the world are shifting.

The rising economies with their dynamic young societies have three key attributes in common: they depend on a growing middle class; they invest in education and training for their children and young people; and they are keen on change, because they regard it as offering an opportunity for improvement.

As Foreign Minister, I’d like to inject some of the dynamism of these countries into our own debate. It’s a matter of our mental ability to maintain our position as a business location in the age of globalization.

Knowledge is the key resource in today’s world. In the long term, nothing is more crucial to our position than our education system. Luckily, it’s no longer mineral resources – the result of geographical good fortune – that determine a nation’s prosperity, but the competition of ideas. And everyone benefits from the competition for the best ideas. And each country can itself play a part in determining how it comes out in this competition. That is why the German Government is investing an additional 12 billion euro per year in education and research.

Education is more than just a means to an end. For you, your university education is the best investment in your future. You will look beyond the boundaries of specific subjects and find a compass for the rest of your life. Education is the key to tolerant societies, all around the world. Education counters prejudice; education is potent against discrimination; education promotes equality and respect.

Good education policy is foresighted social policy. Because it is the key to equal opportunities and the guarantor that every individual gets the best possible start to help him make something of his life. Society as a whole profits from the education of every individual.

A quarter of the Federal Foreign Office’s budget goes on cultural relations and education policy. From partner schools to the Goethe-Institut to DAAD programmes, cultural relations and education policy promotes understanding and cooperation, enhances Germany’s competitiveness, helps disseminate our values and bolsters Germany’s reputation in the world.

Heidelberg University is extremely well equipped for international competition. And it is a good advert for Germany. For centuries this University has been offering exactly what we need today: excellence in teaching and research, and a cosmopolitan outlook.

Education is not only a question of money and structures. It is also a question of attitude. Take modern technologies, investment in infrastructure or the chance to host major events. Genetic healing, a cutting-edge railway station, overland lines transporting electricity from renewable energy sources, hosting the Olympic Games: can you imagine debates on these issues taking place in Brazil the way they are just now in Germany? Every society should nurture the ability to take a critical look at its fitness for the future.

Optimism and openness to change are fundamental for successful business locations. And, even if the public debate often suggests otherwise, we have every reason to be optimistic. Germany is held in high regard internationally. We are an economic power, a cultural nation, and an education republic, and our country is regarded as a good place to live. A happy, enlightened patriotism wins us sympathy, because it does not seek to rise above others.

Economic and political openness often go hand in hand. Trade brings change, ideas and external contacts. “Change through trade” played a part in weakening the GDR regime. Today the goal of attracting investment is in itself a spur to good governance or good working conditions. That’s why there is no conflict between values and interests when German foreign policy helps open up new opportunities for German companies abroad.

Globalization is not only an economic phenomenon and its benefits are not only economic. The globalization of values which I mentioned earlier in relation to Egypt provides the chance to establish the rule of law in places where people are still waiting for it. Globalization furthers freedom of information and participation. It makes censorship and oppression more difficult and makes it harder for a state to pull up the drawbridge. In Tunisia it was an educated middle class which voiced its demand for freedom so emphatically. Democracy, rights of individual liberty, civil rights, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion: it is precisely these rights which the citizens on the streets – in Tehran eighteen months ago and now in Tunis – are demanding and clamouring for. Those who seek those rights can count on our solidarity and our political support worldwide. We are a community of shared values, and we want to spread those values.

The internet presents two sides of globalization. It’s true that the net poses new security-policy risks, and foreign policy has to confront these. Above all, however, the internet releases tremendous positive energy. In this digital age, opinions cannot be controlled by state television alone. This is a new reality for freedom of thought. Free access to information is a human right.

Wherever free exchange is possible, there will be greater mutual understanding between societies; this in turn helps ensure peace and stability. Civil society in particular will be strengthened. Civil society actors who manage to get their demands for human rights and democracy heard are allies of our foreign policy. That’s why we’re now helping students who have been banned from Belarusian universities. That’s why we are telling the leadership in Minsk very clearly that the oppression of freedom and the falsification of election results are not acceptable to us.

In talking about human rights, we’re not preaching or moralizing. In talking about good governance, we’re not trying to enforce our way of life on others. However, the universal nature of human rights is beyond doubt. Our commitment to human rights, and the fact that German foreign policy is value-oriented, is in part a consequence of the darkest chapter of our history.

Respect for human rights is the best form of conflict prevention. There can be no true peace without respect for human rights.

By “shaping globalization” I mean even more. It is a dual challenge: on the one hand, we are seeking solutions to new challenges, and in cooperation with new partners.

No one country can protect the climate or the oceans by itself. Other issues like energy and raw materials, food prices, access to water and protection against epidemics are also coming to fore in international politics today.

At the same time, the rapidly growing emerging economies – China, India, Brazil and others – are increasingly claiming a right to a say in policymaking. They are developing a new self-confidence in foreign policy. These countries are new movers and shakers in globalization. We want to work together with them to shape the multipolar world for the benefit of all.

Germany is committed to a rules-based, stabilizing global order. Multilateralism is the way, peace and prosperity are the goals. We need a shared framework of rules, especially when new issues arise and more and more players are on the field. Here, too, values and interests go hand in hand. Germany supports the strengthening of international law. A world of shared norms and cooperation in a spirit of partnership is the best basis for peace, development, security and prosperity.

One reason why the G20 is such an important forum is that many issues today can only be resolved if these 20 countries at least work together to that end. Everyone is dependent on stable global financial markets, but neither the US, nor Europe, nor China alone can guarantee them. The G20 – like the G8 – is not a world government deciding the fate of others. But such a format does of course have some symbolic value. It is understandable that the new powers in shaping globalization are claiming the right to be involved. That’s why Germany was committed to increasing the emerging economies’ voting rights in the IMF and World Bank, in keeping with their new weight. It is in our interests to have efficient, legitimate international institutions.

But greater involvement also brings greater responsibility. That said, the integration of new players is in our mutual interest. I am pleased that there is now quick progress in the process of Russia’s accession to the WTO. With regard to trade, the German Government is also strongly committed to bringing the Doha round to a conclusion as soon as possible. At the same time, we support the EU Commission in its efforts to conclude further bilateral agreements, most recently with South Korea.

The German Government has adopted a forward-looking Raw Materials Strategy, which includes a realistic international raw materials policy which can open doors through partnership. The controversy about rare earths is further proof that free and clearly-regulated markets are in the interest of all sides. That is why we are committed to strengthening the multilateral system. In a world with a growing population, the alternative would be just exactly what we need to avoid: a competition for resources, for preferential treatment, the “might is right” approach. What matters is the “force of the law”, not the “law of force”.

The United Nations is at the heart of a global politics dedicated to cooperation. It has universal authority and universal scope and can create binding international laws. Within the UN, all states come together as equals. Every country respects every other country. Human rights and peace need a strong United Nations. We need the United Nations for policies geared to the well-being of the people. We are also keen for the work of the G20 to be more closely aligned with that of the United Nations.

Our election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2011/2012, against competition from other first-rate candidates, was both a sign of confidence and a gesture of faith in Germany.

Germany will make use of this responsibility to advocate a comprehensive peace policy and make progress on overarching issues like conflict prevention and the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

The Security Council’s composition must be adapted to the realities of today’s world. It is not in keeping with the realities if Africa and Latin America are not permanently represented on the Security Council and if Asia is underrepresented.

Germany is participating in several peace missions. All with a clearcut mandate from the United Nations. We see the use of military force only as a last resort. Where military force is concerned, Germany remains committed to a culture of restraint.

In Afghanistan we are working for a political solution. Germany will keep a military presence in the country for as long as necessary, but not a single day longer. We are active there because our own security here is at stake. And we want to help open up a new perspective for the future for the people in this ravaged country.

German foreign policy is peace policy. And so I am pleased that disarmament and non-proliferation are back on the international agenda at last. We have to do all we possibly can to ensure that weapons of mass destruction do not become the curse of globalization. So it is right for the international community to take action against states which try to acquire nuclear arms, contrary to their international obligations. That’s why we set great store by a preventive development policy designed to stamp out fundamentalism and Islamist terrorism. This type of policy, which in the Middle East focuses on non-proliferation and the modernization of society, also helps ensure Israel’s security.

Europe is our most important response to globalization. The EU is the insurance policy that keeps us prosperous. Germany benefits from the internal market. With Europe, we can shape globalization even in tomorrow’s multipolar world.

Europe is our insurance policy for peace. For the first time in history, Germany is surrounded solely by friends. And that is no coincidence. The model of cooperation that is European integration brought an end to centuries of confrontation. Cooperation can be tough going. It requires a great deal of patience and strong nerves – as I can tell you from my own experience after a few marathon sessions in Brussels. But anyone familiar with the consequences of confrontation knows that cooperation is worth any amount of effort.

We are committed to completing Europe’s internal integration. Even for a trade heavyweight like Europe, it’s the situation at home that determines your influence in tomorrow’s world. So our top priority must be to stabilize our single currency. This requires a culture of stability, sound budgeting and a better-coordinated economic policy. Europe is set at risk not by those who make the rules for stability stricter, but by those who fail to do so. We must use the pressure of the crisis to implement necessary reforms.

Germany is of course in favour of European solidarity, but we must tie it into the right regulatory framework if we are to avoid more crises in the future. We want to give the Stability Pact new authority, and we urge the nation-states to get back to some sound budgeting. Introducing mechanisms like the German debt brake could smooth the road for states towards greater budgetary discipline. The EU states also need to be made more competitive. Investment must have precedence over consumption expenditure. Research and education need to be seen as opportunities for development. Our social security systems need to be adapted to the changing age structure of our societies. If people in Germany are only going to retire at 67, it is not very understandable for other countries to stick with a retirement age of 59. It is precisely our patriotic loyalty towards Europe which makes us want to see the opportunities offered by this crisis used to stabilize the EU for the long term.

Even if many people here are thinking about crisis management, the European Union remains a magnet. That very fact means that the European Union was and still is a stabilizing factor, even beyond its own borders, be it in Eastern Europe or in the Balkans.

Other regions of the world look to the EU as an example. Regional organizations in Africa, Latin America or Asia can play an important role for peace and economic development by working together to find regional responses to regional challenges.

Europe’s self-assertion and its role in the globalized world rest on two pillars: the first is a successful internal market based on sound economic and financial policy as an internal foundation for successful action on the world stage. And the second is a powerful foreign and security policy which joins together our European interests and capabilities in order to ensure that we have a voice and a formative role in global concerns. Realizing this vision will not be easy, but this is the path we must take.

Europe is the embodiment of the things we need more of at global level: freedom, cooperation and joint rules. Europe is in our interest and Europe can do good in the world.

That’s why we are trying to ensure that Europe speaks with one voice on the world stage. Since last year, we have had the right instrument, the European External Action Service. Europe is the foundation of our foreign policy. Shaping globalization needs more Europe, not less.

You have grown up more European than did your parents and grandparents. You have grown up more globalized than did your parents and grandparents. You can be everything at once: German, European, a citizen of the world. Make the most of this opportunity!

Thank you for your attention.

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