Speech by Minister of State Werner Hoyer at the Bergedorf Round Table: “A united Europe together with our Asian partners”

10.09.2011 - Speech

Speech by Minister of State Werner Hoyer at the Bergedorf Round Table

-- Translation of advance text --

Ladies and gentlemen,

Nothing has fascinated the world as much over the past ten years as the breathtaking rise of Asia. A number of Asian countries that were regarded just twenty years ago as developing countries are today’s new powerhouses. We are living through profound changes, and many of them are currently taking place in Asia. Obviously this process has far-reaching consequences for the international order. We in Europe and the United States have to respond to this new situation.

Let me spell out for you my thinking on the subject:

The political role Asia is now playing is not yet commensurate with its economic strength. We believe Asia should take on greater responsibility here and be prepared to make real commitments.

Europe will be needed also in the future. It is in the interest of all international players that it should overcome the current crisis and achieve greater political integration.

The climate negotiations in Copenhagen serve as a warning here in two respects.

The United Nations remain important – you cannot run the show only with Asia, Europe and America. The G20 and G8 are important, too, but they have what can best be described as a supporting role.

Within the EU Germany must seek to raise awareness of Asia – 12 hours flying time cannot be any excuse. We see ASEAN playing a special role here.

Asia owes its increased clout in part to groundbreakingtechnological advances. But this is not the whole story. It was above all astute political and economic decisions that enabled Asian countries to exploit their great potential.

China, Viet Nam and India made strategic choices about their economic future. In response to the grave crisis in the late 1990s many ASEAN member states introduced tough reforms that led to economic and political renewal. Indonesia remains an impressive example of how democratic change can be achieved without bloodshed.

For us, Asia’s new dynamism also means that economic power has shifted eastwards. Asia’s share of world GDP is steadily growing, while the shares of the United States and Europe have dwindled slightly. The euro-dollar exchange rate continues to distort the true picture regarding certain developments in Europe.

There are some in Europe who are concerned at this prospect. But what does this “relative” decline in status vis-à-vis Asia really mean? It means that hundreds of millions more people in Asia now participate in the world economy, have realistic hopes for greater prosperity and a better future. This relative decline in the status of Europe and America goes hand in hand with the emergence of a global middle class, whose ideas about participation and how they want to live their lives do not differ that much from our own – although of course cultural differences do exist. This development is not something we should be afraid of, it should rather open our eyes to the opportunities such changes hold out.

With its staggering growth rates, Asia’s economic success is obvious. The continent as a whole, however, has yet to acquire matching political clout. One reason for this is no doubt the very different political systems of the major players and their widely varying interpretations of democracy and the rule of law. In the arena of international politics their aspirations still tend to be fairly modest. In the long run, however, their ambitions will hardly remain limited to maintaining regional stability and ensuring the free flow of goods and raw materials. As we see it, they will need to draw up coherent and comprehensive concepts for their political role in the international arena. This should include also a greater readiness to take on international commitments.

With the foundingof the European Union, the nations of Europe embarked on an innovative and very successful path. Despite all the weaknesses we see right now, the EU is a great success story. Recently, however, this has been called into question in some quarters. Without doubt, the EU will need to make strenuous efforts to overcome the debt crisis some of its member states are currently facing. This is where we can learn from the Asian countries’ capacity for reform and renewal.

We in Europe must understand that what is needed to overcome this crisis is not to roll back European integration but to drive it forward. For the internal discussions ahead this is a key parameter.

Our fundamental values are of course not something we can force upon others. Yet we do regard the dialogue with partners about this as important. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are attractive ideas that we believe have a stabilizing influence as well. We should have confidence that their attractiveness will grow as globalization advances. However, we must credibly live up to these values ourselves and expect to be judged accordingly.

Especially in the light of ever more complex global power constellations, the international community will continue to need Europe as a “powerhouse”. Europe’s economic strength and resulting contributions to the United Nations, its technological know-how, its experience in shaping the international order and in peacekeeping can be of great value. Europe is our continent’s logical answer to globalization. It is important that we Europeans speak with one voice when we forge partnerships with emerging new players.

A disunited andinstitutionally weak Europe will not succeed in developing joint responses to global challenges. Strengthening Europe is a responsibility we owe not only to the citizens of Europe but also a responsibility we owe to our partners in Asia and around the globe.

Asia and Europe need to live up to the challenges of global governance. What will happen if we fail is what we experienced just two years ago at the Copenhagen climate conference. Without neglecting the role of the USA (it was enormously important), the situation was, on the one hand, that the Europeans were full of good intentions and ready to agree to binding cuts in emissions. When it came to the crunch, however, they were not united on their negotiating options and positions. The result was that they were no longer represented at the decisive informal round – the “deals” were struck by others. Major Asian players, on the other hand, were represented right to the very end but adamantly refused to go beyond Kyoto and enter into any binding commitments – even though in many respects they already rank as industrialized countries. The lesson of Copenhagen, however, as regards improved global governance cannot be stagnation or disengagement, but rather the admission that we need stamina and much more patience.

At international level, we now have a situation where not only the most dynamic Asian players but also countries such as South Africa and Brazil aspire to a share in global governance that matches their increased economic clout.

This is not only legitimate but also in Europe’s vital interest. It is important that the new players should both participate actively in efforts to tackle increasingly complex global problems and assume responsibility accordingly, whether what is at stake are environmental, climate or energy issues, the volatility of the financial markets, nuclear proliferation or other global threats to security.

TheG20 has demonstrated what a valuable contribution they can make to overcoming the economic and financial crisis. We are keen to see the G20 do even more than in the past to encourage international economic cooperation.

Both the G20 and the G8 are first and foremost important informal forums for coordination between major industrial countries and the emerging economies. Yet they are not an alternative to the United Nations. No other international organization has anything like the same degree of legitimacy. That is why Germany is working to ensure that the work of the G8 and G20 serves to strengthen the United Nations and is not a substitute for it. The fact is, however, that especially as regards the composition of the Security Council, the UN neither reflects present-day realities nor meets present-day requirements. Through the G4, Germany accordingly supports a reform model that would also give Asia significantly more weight.

In Europe, we have to get used to the fact that in future the international order will be shaped much more than in the past by the ideas, perceptions and interests of the Asian countries. We are dealing with partners who are confident of their own abilities and also keenly aware of the risks and problems associated with the rapid pace of their development – high levels of resource consumption, high dependence on exports and a growth model which fails to ensure that everyone gets a share of the benefits, to mention only a few.

Against this background, it is crucial that European policymakers have a proper understanding of the views and interests of their Asian partners. Only if we work together intensively and in a spirit of mutual respect will we be successful in tackling the major global issues of our time.

For many Asian partner countries, Germany is their number one trading partner in the EU. Recently we held our first bilateral intergovernmental consultations with China and India. Our Asian partners have accordingly high expectations regarding the assistance we can offer as they seek to improve their relations with the EU. We are happy to provide whatever help we can. This includes pressing for the European Commission to drive forward the ongoing negotiations with the Asian countries on free trade agreements as well as on partnership and cooperation agreements. And it also includes lobbying our European partners for even better attendance at joint high-level events. The goal is challenging: ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan expects a “full house” for the next summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos. Following the experience in Brussels and Budapest, this is a reasonable expectation. We see this also in the context of the EU’s efforts to become a participant in the East Asia Summit.

At the same time we have an obligation, we believe, to promote understanding among our Asian partners for the complex nature of the European integration process. For many Asian partners, and, above all, for the ASEAN member states, the EU is an important reference point. Or, to put it in the words of Surin Pitsuwan, the EU is “an inspiration but not a model”. In our cooperation with ASEAN this is precisely how we see our role. That is why it makes sense, as we see it, for Germany and the EU to support the organization’s secretariat. The more closely the countries of the region cooperate with one another, the more ASEAN, with its 600 million inhabitants, will become a “fourth pillar” in Asia. This is true not only in economic terms but also in terms of ASEAN’s potential role as a force for stability in the region. What ASEAN and Europe have in common is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts: their individual member states lack the stature to assume an all-round leading role in world affairs, but the aggregate of their members has that stature.

Asia’s rapid modernization has already made the world a profoundly different place – and the process is still far from being complete. Asia’s new role as an economic heavyweight will inevitably produce a further tectonic shift in the global political order, whose basic structure still reflects the post-World War II world.

It will be important for us to communicate to our respective publics that these changes are not so much a threat to us as a challenge to take action and help shape the course of developments. If we are to meet this challenge, however, we policymakers will need to devise different ways of working in the international arena – become more open, more flexible and more networked than in the past, while remaining of course true to our fundamental convictions. Transatlantic cooperation, our relations with longstanding partners such as Japan and the Republic of Korea – with whom we have a stock of shared values – will be indispensable also in the future. At the same time, we want and need to build and deepen further strategic partnerships with the new, dynamic players. Germany is ready to make its contribution and fully intends to do so. Only if we address the challenges of globalization as a joint responsibility – with a united and strengthened Europe joining forces with its Asian partners – we will be able to manage the immense changes confronting us in a way that brings benefits to everyone.

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