Statement by Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier at the first reading of the motion to extend the mandate for continued German involvement in Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) in the German Bundestag on 16 January 2014

16.01.2014 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Madam President,
Members of this House,

As you know, the mandate for Bundeswehr involvement in Operation Active Endeavour came to an end on 31 December last year. We are proposing a motion today to request approval for the continuation of Germany’s involvement, albeit with some changes in the conditions.

However some people may wish to see it, this constitutes a break. It is not simply more of the same. What makes it a break? Well, the operation I am talking about was decided on more than twelve years ago in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. As the NATO rationale had it at the time, it serves as a defence against the terrorist threat in the Mediterranean. It was founded on the right to self defence enshrined in the UN charter and the obligation under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to render assistance. I say that only because we all know the realities on the ground for this operation are very different now, and have been for some years. We are not alone in our assessment that the terrorist threat in the Mediterranean is extremely low these days – many of our partners in NATO share it. Not even Operation Active Endeavour’s rules of engagement provide for any powers of intervention to counter terrorist threats.

Instead, the whole operation has morphed into a reconnaissance and observation mission, a platform for cooperation with the southern Mediterranean countries. In that form, it remains in my view a useful and up-to date mission. What makes it useful and up to date? Well, we have to have a shared interest in maintaining as complete a picture as possible of the situation in the Mediterranean, in observing where potential risks might develop, where important changes are taking place that need to be taken into account. That monitoring and that information is provided by the mission we are asking you to approve today.

The way I see it, there is a considerable disparity between the original mandate and what the operation is really doing today. We need to exert an influence, politically, on that situation. We have therefore reached a number of conclusions and made some changes to the mandate before you today. For example, we have removed those powers which are no longer justified by realities on the ground. This affects the monitoring of shipping, and it affects support for specific NATO operations in response to terrorist activities, as they were described early on.

We have reduced the maximum number of our soldiers to be involved at any one time from 700 to 500. We have reduced the running time to eleven months, to make clear once again that this is intended as something of a transitional mandate. We are using this text to develop the mandate – but we also want to point out that the mandate itself needs to be grounded in an up dated rationale. More than twelve years since 9/11, the mutual defence clause can no longer provide a viable legal basis for the long term; what we need to do now is create the legal basis for the kind of observation and surveillance mission I have outlined today. The Foreign and Defence Ministers now need to negotiate with our colleagues in NATO. I believe we will meet with a lot of support from many of our NATO partners. As we all know, though, NATO adheres to the principle of unanimity. We therefore need to direct our efforts chiefly at persuading two NATO partners who do not as yet share our opinion, and as I see it, we need to aim to create a correct and up to date legal basis for an observation mission by the end of the year. I ask you to vote in favour of the motion.

Thank you very much.

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