Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Helmut Schmidt University – the University of the Bundeswehr

14.01.2013 - Speech

--Translation of advance text --

Professor Seidel,
Professor Staack,
Ladies and gentlemen,

For a long time I have felt that I have a bond with soldiers. As a member of the Bundestag, I have visited the Bundeswehr often. I consider the special responsibility that the German Bundestag has for the deployment of the Bundeswehr under parliamentary mandate to be a cornerstone of our republic.

Germany is experiencing the longest period of peace in its history. However, we do not live in a peaceful world. It is in this context that we must craft our security policy.

Today, Germany enjoys great respect and trust around the world. An expression of this trust was, for example, our being elected to the United Nations Security Council or, most recently, to the Human Rights Council. Given our past history, this trust is anything but a matter of course. It has been gained step by step through responsible action and through policies that take a long-term view when formulating national interests and policies that emphasize international integration. This trust is our greatest capital in terms of foreign policy.

The respect our country enjoys is founded on the strength of our economy. For many years, the close connection between economic strength and the ability to make an impact in foreign policy was underestimated.

Today we are witnessing a sea change in international policy. Countries such as China, India and Brazil have not only raised millions of their citizens out of poverty. With their economic success, their political influence is also growing. They are becoming new forces shaping global politics.

The consequences of these shifts in power are already apparent. The West, which was long the dominant force in world politics, will become weaker. We must therefore forge new partnerships alongside our traditional alliances. Anyone who wants to shape globalization needs strong partners.

On a European scale, Germany is relatively large. On a global scale, we are relatively small. In a few years, Germany will make up less than one percent of the world’s population. The challenge of our era will thus be to see that Europe is able to assert itself on the world stage by joining its nation states into a political union capable of effective foreign and security policy action.

This goal is our guiding principle in dealing with the debt crisis. For Europe to be strong it needs a healthy, competitive economy. The fiscal compact, permanent rescue mechanism and growth pact are the elements of our approach to harmonizing fiscal soundness, solidarity and growth.

However, in its efforts to overcome the debt crisis, the EU should not lose sight of the enormous changes occurring in its strategic environment.

Take the historical transformations in the countries south of the Mediterranean. Many of these countries have thrown off the yoke of authoritarian regimes and are seeking their own path to modernity. It is in our interest to accompany them down this path and offer them transformation partnerships.

We should not, though, harbour any illusions that these revolutionary processes will be over quickly or have a linear trajectory. In Tunisia we see many encouraging developments. However, the key country in the region is Egypt. The path Egypt chooses will have consequences for the entire Arab world and, of course, for Israel. Adopting a constitution is by no means the end of the democratization process in Egypt.

In Syria, the people’s call for freedom, dignity and participation in political life has, because of the Assad regime’s brutality, slid into a horrible civil war. For almost two years, the regime has been increasing the level of violence with thousands of civilian victims and grave consequences for the entire region. The Federal Government and its partners support the meditation efforts of Special Representative Brahimi and the search for an opening for a political transition process. We also have provided almost 100 million euros in humanitarian aid to the refugees.

Further south, we are concerned to see increasing instability in the countries of the Sahel region. In Mali, the attempt by the rebels to push south led to an escalation of the situation last week.

France, having consulted closely with its allies, decided then to intervene.

Germany will stand by France. From the Federal Government’s point of view, it is an important and difficult mission. Together with the Minister of Defence, having consulted with the Federal Chancellor, I have arranged to see that we quickly review possibilities for Germany to assist France outside of military action by providing concrete support, be it logistical, medical or humanitarian in nature. It is in our interest that the situation in Mali be stabilized.

We should also, independently of the current French military operation, move ahead with plans for the envisaged EU training mission for the armed forces of Mali. I think it would be useful to explore this question in the next days at a special session of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council on the situation in Mali and developments there.

I also assume that Africa’s regional organization ECOWAS will hasten along plans for its own intervention force. On Wednesday we will discuss that in Berlin with President Ouattara, the chairman of ECOWAS.

The strategic partnership with the United States remains a cornerstone of our security policy. The close alliance that we have forged within NATO continues to be the basis of our partnership.

A large number of German soldiers are deployed in international NATO stabilization operations.

In Afghanistan, thirteen years after the beginning of the mission, we have together created the conditions that will allow the complete handover of responsibility to the Afghans in 2014.

In the Balkans, German armed forces bear the biggest share of the burden in ensuring a peaceful course of development in Kosovo.

German units are now on their way to our ally, Turkey, to strength the air-defence system there and send a signal of solidarity.

We do not take the decision to deploy German troops lightly. Sending young people on a dangerous mission to defend our values and interests is the most difficult decision any politician can make.

For me personally, the most difficult moments as Foreign Minister have been meeting the parents, partners and relatives of those German soldiers who have given their lives in this mission.

The difficult decision to deploy the Bundeswehr will remain one that we approach with a sense of responsibility and great caution. We will uphold the culture of restraint in military matters.

The transatlantic partnership is not unaffected by the strategic orientation of the United States towards the Asia-Pacific region and the debt crises on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the future, Europe will have to take on more responsibility for its security and the security in its neighbourhood. Because funding is scarce, we are pushing forward with the smart defence initiative within NATO and the concept of pooling and sharing within the European Union. The approach behind this is the same and can be illustrated with one single number:

In 2010, the 23 European NATO countries spent 275 billion dollars on defence. That is more that the defence budgets of China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Australia combined. This enormous effort largely evaporates, being spread as it is over 23 mostly independent defence budgets. In order to change this, Germany has for years been pursuing an approach based on integration in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

I hope that we will see joint Franco-German proposals on this, also with a view to the European Council on Common Security and Defence Policy in December 2013.

We should also give our transatlantic partnership new impetus: the EU and the United States account for around half of the world’s aggregate output today. Right at the start of President Obama’s second term, we should try to reach a comprehensive transatlantic trade agreement. Such an agreement would create growth and jobs. It could set global standards for facilitating and protecting investments. Its enormous common market would have the strength to set globally acceptable norms and standards.

Such a project would have positive effects on our intensive partnership in foreign and security policy. This year we will face difficult negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme in the so-called E3+3 format. The security of Israel and the entire region is at stake here. It is however also a question of the future of a cornerstone of global arms control, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

We are also bound together by a joint strategic interest in constructive relations with Russia. The completion of the project of uniting Europe is not possible in the larger sense without Russia. Lasting peace and thriving development are only possible on our continent if Europeans and Russians work together. We are on the right path: our cooperation with Russia is now broad and multifaceted. Never before have our economies and societies been so closely intertwined.

Relations with Russia are also a key factor in security policy for NATO. Cooperation in Afghanistan and in fighting piracy and terrorism is proof that a constructive and cooperative approach in the NATO-Russia Council has positive effects on NATO’s missions. We also need Russia if progress is to continue in the nuclear disarmament sphere. We want to move ahead on the path to “Global Zero”.

In addition to the classical challenges in security policy, we are facing new threats: we are slowly realizing what conflict potential there is in the spread of deserts, rising sea levels and extreme changes in the weather.

Cyberspace is an increasingly important topic in foreign and security policy. We cannot remain indifferent when authoritarian governments limit free access to the internet or hackers attack critical infrastructure. In international organizations Germany is actively involved in establishing binding standards to prevent military escalation in cyberspace.

Preventative security policy tackles these challenges with an interministerial approach. It is certainly a question of the right structure and the necessary resources. Still, whoever wants to bear the responsibility for Germany’s security needs more than an incisive analysis of the challenges.

Those who bear the responsibility for Germany’s security need to be conscious of the fundamental values of German politics as stated in the first article of our Basic Law: “Human dignity shall be inviolable.”

It is also necessary to bear in mind the standards laid down by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to recognize that Germany’s integration in the European Union not only comes at a price, but is also of incalculable value.

Opportunities must be recognized and interests formulated without losing sight of the normative basis which guides our actions.

Thank you for your attention.

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