Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Munich Security Conference: “Building a Euro-Atlantic Security Community”

04.02.2012 - Speech

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Foreign Minister Westerwelle underlined the key role to be played by the EU in the creation of a Euro-Atlantic security community and the need for the Common Security and Defence Policy to be open to new partnerships.

- Translation of advance text -

Ladies and gentlemen,

The time has come for a renewed attempt to create a genuine, cooperative, Euro-Atlantic security community. Its objective must be a fair and enduring peace order for the Euro-Atlantic area.

We share a responsibility for creating such an order. The European Union has a central role to play in this. The EU is more than a single internal market or a currency area. The European Union is a political union. And, increasingly, it’s an anchor of security in the Euro-Atlantic area. We are supporting the transition in our eastern and south-eastern neighbourhood. Through our civilian and military operations from the Western Balkans to the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan we are making crucial contributions towards international crisis management. And the European Union’s recent decision to extend sanctions against Iran once more demonstrated that Europe isn’t prepared to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.

All of this shows that an effective EU and a strong NATO are not mutually exclusive. One of the aims of the Lisbon Treaty was to create a comprehensive security and defence policy for the EU. The Common Security and Defence Policy is in keeping with the logic of Europe’s political integration. And it’s essential if we want to guarantee our security more effectively.

However, we can only create a Common Security and Defence Policy which deserves that name if the EU has the necessary civilian and military capabilities. We have to enable the EU to plan and conduct operations more efficiently. That’s the core aim of the Weimar Initiative for a permanent planning and command capability, which I put forward together with Alain Juppé and Radek Sikorski.

A stronger CSDP must be open to new partnerships. In concrete terms, that means the involvement of the US, Russia, Turkeyand other partners in EU operations. It’s high time to overcome the absurd stalemate between the EU and NATO.

In particular, the changes which have swept through the Arab world show how keen an interest the EU has in a strategic dialogue and closer cooperation with Turkey – also within the scope of the Common Security and Defence Policy.

For more than 60 years, NATO has been the main pillar of European and transatlantic security. The global changes are altering the environment in which the Alliance operates. The spectacular rise of new players and powerhouses is an impressive demonstration of this. However, this has in no way detracted from the Alliance’s key importance – indeed, it underscores it once more. NATO remains both irreplaceable and unique. A strong NATO will continue to be the guarantor of our security in future. Only the Atlantic Alliance can offer the mutual defence guarantee enshrined in Article 5. NATO is based on a firm foundation of shared interests and values. Turning to new partners is the necessary response to a new age. However, it doesn’t mean that we’re turning away from close and trusted allies.

Afghanistan remains another of the Alliance’s major tasks. We agreed on a joint strategy in Lisbon and Bonn. Together we want to conclude the transition and withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014.

One of the issues we’ll discuss at the NATO Summit in Chicago will be the distribution of burdens and capabilities. We cannot spend more money on defence in financially straitened times. Rather, the task at hand is to utilize our limited resources more intelligently and efficiently. That’s why we support new approaches such as Smart Defence. However, they will only be successful if as many partners as possible take part in them.

Security will only be engendered if we work with and not against Russia. Enduring stability is only possible if Russia, the other countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia find their place in the Euro-Atlantic security community.

Whenever we act together, we will be rewarded with a genuine security gain. It would be virtually impossible for ISAF to make its military contribution towards stability in Afghanistan without transit through Russian territory. And Russiaand NATO have been working together for years to train Afghan and Central Asian forces to combat drug trafficking.

More is needed and more is possible. The proposals put forward in the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative show the right way forward. The NATO-Russia Council is not a “fair-weather” forum. Rather, it’s the place for political debate, for finding joint answers – especially to difficult issues. This is the only way to nurture trust.

NATO and Russia have a shared interest in protecting us against possible missile attacks. What we have no interest in is allowing a dispute over missile defence to mar the strategic partnership between NATO and Russia. Instead of drawing red lines, we should work together now to identify common ground.

So during the countdown to NATO’s Chicago Summit let’s lend all our energies to finding a common solution. Comprehensive political guarantees, transparency and verification measures, the exchange of data and experts: these can all be features of a NATO-Russia understanding here. The time is now ripe to test concrete options for future cooperation in the area of missile defence. It’s precisely for this reason that Germanywill be hosting a joint NATO-Russia missile defence exercise next month. It’s my firm belief that the security gains offered by a missile defence shield will be all the greater, the wider the area it covers.

In the long run missile defence will create a new strategic reality. Taking this path will also help us make progress towards President Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. I’m also thinking here of the tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. They are part of the legacy of the Cold War. The reduction and eventual removal of all these tactical nuclear weapons would be an important contribution to enhanced pan-European security. The same goes for the modernization of conventional arms control. This must now be pursued with a firm sense of purpose. Transparency helps build trust. This is the core ingredient of preventive security policy in Europe.

Common security is based on mutual trust. And trust is generated by engaging in practical cooperation. We must be prepared to adopt new approaches – such as the trilateral meetings between my colleagues Radek Sikorski, Sergey Lavrov and myself. And it requires us to overcome mindsets lingering on from the 20th century. We want to leave behind us outdated thinking in terms of confrontation, spheres of influence and zero sum games.

The ongoing conflicts in Moldovaand the Caucasus underline how persistent this kind of thinking is. They pose a threat to our security. Resolving them would mean greater security for the whole of Europe.

It would be a fatal error to merely define security in military terms. Security in the 21st century is more than the absence of war or the threat of war. Increasingly it means: the security of our societies, our infrastructure, our energy supply. A modern security policy for the 21st century will rely ever more on civilian resources. And it must have a cooperative approach if it is also to be effective against the new asymmetric security threats.

We have to open up our civil societies as well as our economies and encourage them to forge closer links. This is a core OSCE concern. And this is also what the EU is seeking to achieve through its partnership policy.

The intention here is to advance economic modernization and establish new and comprehensive free trade areas between the EU and its partners. The better we succeed in creating a pan-European economic space, the more secure peace in Europe will be.

And we must not lose sight of the great goal of creating a transatlantic free trade area. Europe and Americaare already the most closely linked regions in the world in economic terms. A transatlantic free trade area which strengthens rather than weakens our efforts within the WTO to foster free global trade would be the next logical step.

Security can only be realized if we uphold fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. For ultimately, oppression and the denial of freedom generate conflict both at home and abroad.

Preventive security policy in the Euro-Atlantic area must also mean standing up for our shared values and principles. A Euro-Atlantic security community will only function in the long term if it sees itself as a community of values.

Over twenty years after the end of the Cold War, we now have the opportunity to fine-tune a Euro-Atlantic security community based on cooperation and mutual trust. Let’s not waste a single moment more.

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