Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the occasion of the SWP’s 50th anniversary

17.10.2012 - Speech

Germany’s role on the world stage was the focus of SWP’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Berlin. In his speech, Minister Westerwelle turned the spotlight onto developments in Europe.

SWP, or the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik – German Institute for International and Security Affairs, celebrated its 50th anniversary on 17 October. At an international colloquium, foreign policy experts from Italy, Greece, India and the United States discussed Germany’s position on the world stage, and what is expected of Germany, with the TV broadcaster ZDF’s editor-in-chief, Peter Frey. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave the following speech as part of the event.

-- Translation of advance text --

Minister Westerwelle during his speech
Minister Westerwelle during his speech© AA

“Making Sense of It All” – a few years back, that was the slogan of the BBC World Service. It could just as easily have been the slogan of SWP.

The institute helps politics make sense of an increasingly complex world, think outside the box, and base foreign-policy decisions on the best facts available. Injecting sense into what happens in foreign affairs – not constructing meaning, but analysing events and detecting connections – that is the contribution of SWP, sometimes invisible but always indispensable to those of us who conduct policy.

As I congratulate it on its first 50 years, I must therefore also voice my expectations for the future. After all, as digitalization speeds up the media cycle, it is ever more important to highlight the long view.

SWP aren’t the only policy analysts on the market – but they are among the very best. The institute operates as part of a worldwide network. That’s more vital than ever these days. Modern foreign policy is conducted within a web of governmental and non-governmental players. In its role providing a platform and direction to German foreign policy, the Foreign Office needs strong partners who can contribute their own specific skills to a foreign policy for an interconnected world.

I am therefore convinced that SWP’s close collaboration with the Foreign Office will keep growing closer still.

Germany has responsibilities. We see two tasks before us in our international role. For one thing, we need to get our house in order in Europe. For another, we need to work with our strategic partners old and new in this increasingly interconnected world to create a global order within which we can secure peace and prosperity and promote our values and interests.

This will only be possible if our foreign policy remains open to new knowledge. We need policy that accounts for Germany’s interests as well as international expectations and finds solutions to problems and conflicts of interest. We need foreign policy in which the Foreign Office, while still providing the framework and the direction, becomes yet more of a coordinator and partner in the work of other foreign-policy stakeholders.

What’s more, success is only possible if our foreign policy is rooted in sound values. At a time when we find ourselves facing high expectations, our foreign policy remains bound as ever to the core precept of our society, as recorded in the first article of our Basic Law: “Human dignity shall be inviolable.”

Let me make three basic points about the long view behind Germany’s foreign policy, which I think will offer some response to what previous speakers have said.

1. Europe

Germany’s future can only be bright if Europe and the project of European unification are doing well too. That remains true in the 21st century. It’s not for nothing that the preamble of our Basic Law identifies a united Europe as a goal. The great value of that goal is reiterated wonderfully by the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the EU. It goes without saying, though, that this recognition also places the onus on us to carry on, encouraged, into the future.

The Prize should give us self-confidence amid the self-doubt that has been spreading – the self-confidence to contradict the dangerous and irrational desire to return to more nationalism that some in the EU have been voicing.

First, however, we need to get our house in order. We intend to make the monetary union fit for the future by complementing it with closer collaboration on economic and fiscal policy. This will require us to transfer more sovereign powers to the European level. As we do so, Germany will remain shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with those of our neighbours and partners which are bearing the brunt of the crisis and the huge reform efforts being undertaken.

Secondly, we need to ensure that Europe continues to have effective and democratically accountable institutions. Citizens and states will only transfer more rights to the European level if this Europe represents their interests with vigour and is subject to their full democratic oversight.

Third, we want to see Europe develop its full potential as a global player. Unless we have a strong Europe, our own clout in the world of the future will shrink too. What we need is a comprehensive approach to European foreign policy that brings together all the instruments at our disposal.

2. The Arab world/Syria/preventive security policy

The changes that swept the Arab world last year started a process that can quite rightly be described as historic. The new roads that the countries south of the Mediterranean have embarked upon are directly significant to us in Europe. We therefore have an elementary interest in seeing the transformation processes go well.

That principle is what guides our German policy, set in the context of the overall European approach. In our common interest, we have been offering support on education and jobs, on investment and growth. Over the coming years, the struggle between the non-violent and the violent, between moderates and extremists, will take place within these societies. Our values and our interests put us on the side of those who stand up without violence for freedom, human dignity and self-determination everywhere – in Tunisia, in Egypt, and around the world.

Violence in Syria is growing on a daily basis. Germany has, as it must, taken sides in the dispute. The suffering people are facing there – as I witnessed myself when I visited the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan – is unbearable. The suffering may render us speechless, but it also spurs us to action. The Security Council has arrived at stalemate, but our efforts mustn’t stop there. In the coming months, we need to work to alleviate human suffering, improve the chances of a political process, and limit the risk of conflict spilling over into the whole region.

In many other countries, in Asia and Africa, we are supporting political transformation by assisting economic and social development. Providing such help is in the interest of the whole international community. You can’t have security without development. You can’t have development without security. That applies to our work in Afghanistan, to which we will remain committed after combat troops are withdrawn in 2014. It also applies to the stabilization of Somalia and Yemen, and to the countries of the Sahel. In the Sahel, we are going to set up a joint mission with the EU to support Mali.

One cause of particular concern is the still unresolved conflict with Iran about its nuclear programme. What’s at stake here is the security of Israel, and the stability of the entire region. At the same time, though, this is about averting the risk of a nuclear arms race with unforeseeable consequences for international security. That’s why I see our efforts within the E3+3 as a contribution to long-term preventive security policy. We mustn’t lose sight of our goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

3. New global players

The world is seeing a shift in the balance of power. The economic and financial crisis didn’t cause it, but certainly speeded it up drastically. Europe accounts for an ever smaller share of the world population. China is now the world’s second largest economy. Emerging economies today own more currency reserves than industrialized countries. Even in crisis, they are enjoying higher growth rates than industrialized countries. This huge surge of economic growth is one of the key changes affecting international relations.

In February this year, the German Government adopted a strategy paper on shaping globalization in order to help direct that development. The paper defines our objectives in global politics and outlines a comprehensive approach to collaborating and forming networks with these countries.

We see the development of these relations as an integral part of better global governance. Only if we can create a dense network of dialogue and exchange will we be able to find shared solutions to international challenges. Only by taking a broad, cooperative approach will we be able to combat climate change, ensure supplies of energy, food and natural resources, and enjoy the benefits of an independent, accessible and safe Internet – only with an approach grounded in confidence-building and the slow, patient work of identifying common interests.

That basic principle of cooperation is going to stay at the heart of German foreign policy.

Thank you.

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