Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the German Bundestag on extending Germany’s involvement in Operation Active Endeavour

23.11.2011 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,


We turn now to another mandate – and it’s a difficult one; I want to say that straight off. It was after we had just witnessed the terrible terrorist attacks on 11 September that the German Bundestag, in November 2001, first issued a mandate allowing German armed forces to participate in operations to counter international terrorism.

Since summer 2010, this mandate has been limited to Operation Active Endeavour. Many are asking – among us, among you – whether it isn’t time, ten years after 11 September, to bring this mandate to a close. I want you to know that I have a lot of sympathy for the need to weigh up that question. I have weighed it up myself without taking any shortcuts, examining the issue under international law with our experts and the International Law Advisor in great depth. However, I think this Government has to be aware, and is aware, that the mission is not entirely undisputed in this House.

It nevertheless remains essential to fight international terrorism on all fronts. It is still one of the central challenges facing the international community. Only very recently, the United Nations Security Council unequivocally reiterated that fact in its Resolution 1989 of 17 June 2011. That was adopted this summer; the ink has hardly dried.

Providing the necessary military capabilities remains an important part of the international community’s concerted efforts. The NATO-led sea surveillance operation is a sign of the international community’s joint will to take action against the threat of international terrorism. Germany taking part in Operation Active Endeavour serves to support NATO’s joint response to the terrorist attacks on the United States of America. This means that the mandate requires us to consider not only the past but also the implications for the Alliance.

It was only a few weeks ago that President Obama wrote a letter to NATO’s Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen. In this letter, he explicitly thanks his partners in NATO, on behalf of the American people, for their solidarity in participating in Operation Active Endeavour. We cannot ignore this aspect of the issue if we want to reach a decision on this.

Germany is a reliable partner. We are demonstrating our solidarity within the Alliance by playing our part in the Operation. I have to tell you this, as you all know that we have tried out and achieved a good deal this year. All of our partners, without exception, think Operation Active Endeavour needs to be kept going. I would ask you to be aware of that as you come to your decision.

That said, this Government is collaborating with our partners in the Alliance to examine whether and how Operation Active Endeavour might be integrated into standing NATO operations in the medium term. I have expressed my preference for taking this direction on several occasions, most recently in this House. I must add, however, that this isn’t something we alone can bring about. Progress has been made, as I trust you will acknowledge. But we need consensus within NATO. To get it, we need to proceed with the requisite circumspection.

NATO’s new Strategic Concept defines collective defence and cooperative security as the Alliance’s core tasks. These two core tasks are brought together within Operation Active Endeavour. The Operation serves our collective self-defence in accordance with Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – and I would ask you once again to take due note of that connection to international law. Operation Active Endeavour furthermore pursues the cooperative security approach. Several of NATO’s partner countries play a role in it, such as Russia, Ukraine and Morocco. It thus aids confidence-building among the partner countries. This is another aspect which we must not ignore.

In Operation Active Endeavour, NATO placed an emphasis on information gathering and information processing. Everyone involved benefits from having a more accurate picture of the situation. That too is something that mustn’t be ignored. Who could deny that having a good picture of the situation is more important than ever, particularly in the south of the NATO area and particularly at this time? There are developments underway for which we cannot predict the outcome, not least in the southern Mediterranean region.

The Mediterranean is one of the main arteries of international shipping. The uncertainty prevalent in the region south of the Mediterranean is unfortunately not being reduced; in fact, it is increasing. It remains necessary to maintain a presence there and to keep the situation under surveillance. Even though military force has mostly not been brought to bear in the past, which is good news, the operation plan of Operation Active Endeavour still provides for the relevant powers. It is therefore right that the decision on this mandate lies in the hands of the German Bundestag.

This NATO-led sea surveillance operation is sensible and necessary, in consideration both of our own security and of our Alliance obligations. I say that because I know it is an issue in the committee, just as it naturally was last year. You know it, and you know that we have examined and discussed it in great detail. To make sure we have established the right basis for decision, let me just, on behalf of the Government, lay this officially before you once more: Operation Active Endeavour is unequivocally legitimate under international law, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and Resolutions 1368 and 1373, as well as their follow-up resolutions – one of which I mentioned earlier. Making that clear is something that we owe to the servicemen and women of the Bundeswehr who are taking part in this mission; we would like to express to them our sincere gratitude and respect for what they are doing.

I therefore ask the Bundestag to approve this mandate.

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