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“Germany –Looking Beyond its Borders” - Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at “Carnegie Europe” in Brussels on March 16, 2015

16.03.2015 - Speech

Ladies and gentlemen! Dear Jan Techau!

Thank you for the warm welcome!

I am grateful for your invitation to Carnegie Europe – not only because I look forward to our discussion but also because I am happy to do more in Brussels than just the usual council meetings. You would be surprised:

I may come to Brussels quite often – but the only building I really know is named Justus Lipsius! And that’s a little bit like saying: 'Yes, I’ve been to the Pyramids… but I only saw the parking lot.'

When I come to Brussels as the German Foreign Minister, there are two basic messages that I bring:

First, when I think about German Foreign Policy, I think European! German Foreign Policy must be European.

And second, the other way round: When I think about Europe, I think Foreign Policy! – I think about Europe in the World. Let me explain both of these thoughts in turn.

Jan Techau already mentioned my “Review” of German Foreign Policy.

There are two reasons why I started this process 15 months ago: Firstly, the world is changing fundamentally. The tectonic plates of international politics are shifting. But secondly, at the same time, Germany's role in the world is changing.

We are faced with big expectations!

Here's an example: One expert wrote to us that Germany must –quote– “build bridges between North and South”, Germany must “Europeanize Russia” and “multilateralize the United States”...

'Easier said than done', I am afraid… But guess where the expert was from? Not from France, not from Poland – from India!

So we face growing challenges and growing expectations. And that's why – when I speak of “German responsibility” – I don't mean that Germany is searching for more responsibility – I think we simply have it!

Our Review process started on a simple question: “What is wrong with German foreign policy?” Or, to be honest, the question was: “What, if anything, is wrong with German foreign policy?”

We worked through that in three phases.

In phase 1, we asked the experts – academics as well as practitioners, from Germany and abroad, including many European friends.

In phase 2, we debated with the public. We tried to reach beyond the “usual suspects” of foreign policy. Because let’s be honest: those who deal with foreign affairs on a daily basis, in Berlin and in Brussels, do so in pretty exclusive circles. Our goal is to break that up. Defining Germany’s responsibility in the world is not something that elites can decide on – it has to be negotiated at the heart of society. That’s why I personally and the leadership of the Foreign Office went out to listen and to explain. We held more than 60 events throughout Germany and across Europe. And we tried new formats – a lot of them online, but also in the form of town-hall meetings and even in workshops where we simulated real-life foreign policy decisions.

Phase 3, finally, meant taking stock within our own organisation. All Foreign Office staff were called on to re‑examine their daily routines. Some of them didn't quite believe it. 'The people at the top want to know what I really think??' Yes, we did mean it! We wanted change and we identified a whole range of measures that we are now going to put into practice.

The results of our Review are printed in this lovely brochure and I will take the remaining forty‑five minutes to read it out to you… No, I won't. Anyone who hasn't had enough of German foreign policy after tonight can pick one up by the door.

Just very briefly, the three main areas of our results were the following:

The first is expectations. The Review revealed a big rift: The world expects a lot of German foreign policy –sometimes too much (I've shown you an example). But if you ask the German public if they want their country to get more involved in the world, 60 per cent of them say, “No, thanks!” That is the rift that German foreign policy has to overcome – and it has a lot to do with improving our communication!

The second area is crisis and order.

The current accumulation of international crises –from Ukraine to ISIS– is not a coincidence. It is symptomatic of a world where the structures of international order are eroding. But as a globally connected society and an export-based economy, Germany –more than others– depends on a functioning rules‑based order. That’s why we –more than others– need to manage two things at once: improving our crisis resilience and strengthening international order.

The third question concerns our policy instruments. Far too often, people think foreign policy has only two options: either idle diplomatic chitchat or military intervention. Our Review and our current political engagement prove the opposite: That the foreign policy toolbox is much broader and that we need to make use of that whole spectrum.

These three areas had a lot of debate and controversy. But one thing was striking!

Across all controversies, there was one message that everybody agreed on:

German foreign policy only works in and through Europe!

We saw that in all three areas:

First, the issue of crisis:

If it is true that international crises are going to be the norm rather than the exception, then we need to strengthen Europe’s resilience as a whole; especially with regard to our neighbourhood, to the East and to the South. The more European our instruments of crisis reaction are, the more effective they will be.

And that’s not theory – it is tested every day in practice. Take the Ukraine-crisis:

Our greatest strength in this crisis has been and continues to be our ability to act jointly! Our unified positions and joint declarations led by the High Representative, our decisions to exert political and economic pressure on Russia in the Council, our negotiations in the Normandy-format in close coordination with the EAS—

All these steps rest on a European foundation.

Second, the issue of order:

To us, the European Union is the first and foremost frame of reference for international order. The European Union is the world’s most sophisticated example of a regional order; and as such, we need to defend it! And only as such, we can bring our full weight to bear on the global order.

In practice that means: the United Nations. We should make our European voice heard in the United Nations and its organizations, and we must get better at coordinating that.

Or take an example from a different context: TTIP. If we do it right, then TTIP will not just be a free trade agreement, but a major chance for Europe and the U.S. to set the tone for the future of globalisation; to set economic and social standards for an interconnected world!

And finally, what I call the “European reflex”:

To me, that’s a key result of the Review process. German foreign policy needs to strengthen its European reflex on a very practical, every-day level. I am talking about Minister-Vorlagen, Querschnittsreferenten, Staatssekretärsrunden… I know this sounds like the deep quagmire of German bureaucracy but it’s exactly the bread-and-butter-business where the European reflex must operate.

So much about the Review process – it confirmed to me once more: When I think about Foreign Policy, I think about Europe!

But now let me turn it around: When I think about Europe, I think about Foreign Policy.

Last year, as the foreign minister, I travelled 385.000 kilometers. That is the exact distance from here to the moon. So one day, when I am out of this job, maybe I qualify as an astronaut…

Anyway – In all my travels as foreign minister, I get to feel one real privilege: I get to look at Europe through the eyes of the world. It’s a remarkable experience!

Last year, I went to Angola and I met young people there who told me: “We want to build a society where education is for everyone, not just a few at the top”. And when they said that, they said: “…just like you in Europe”.

Some weeks ago, I met students in Tunis who said: “We want to build a society where we can say what we want and live like we want”. And when they said that, they said “Europe”. They even said 'Balad Euroba' – the “country Europe”.

Europe looks far more attractive from the outside than it often feels from the inside, in news-talkshows or in populist slogans. People inside Europe have come to think of Europe in numbers: deficits, financial rescues, bond markets. People outside Europe see Europe as a model of society; a society where freedom and solidarity go together!

I think we need to find back to that perspective! We need to strengthen the global perspective in European politics.

Because that perspective gives us the strongest argument for a unified Europe:

If we want the “European Model” to matter in the world, then we have to stick together! If the 28 states of Europe want to have weight in the world, then only as one!

But let’s be honest: Our instruments and our decision‑making processes are far away from that! As a banking union; as a capital markets union; as an economic union, Europe has made progress in recent years – but not enough as a foreign and security union.

So we need to add to our toolbox! We need to improve our processes! Above all, we need to align our perspectives on the responsibility we have in this world!

For all that, the current process leading to a new European Foreign and Security Policy strategy is the perfect opportunity.

Federica Mogherini saw that from day one and her leadership has my full support.

What are the areas we need to work on?

Jean-Claude Juncker just renewed the idea of a European army. Not for tomorrow, but as a vision. Yes, we should exploit the full potential for integration that the Lisbon Treaty gives us. But a vision is not enough – we need step-by-step progress. So let’s improve the state of our institutions as they are now, in the field of Common Security and Defense. Let’s improve the planning and the conduct of our missions and operations; for example by creating a permanent civilian-military planning and conduct capability in Brussels.

However, what I said about our German Review also holds on the European level. Foreign and Security Policy is a lot more than the military aspect: It's the diplomatic toolbox, it's crisis prevention, mediation, development and economic cooperation, financial instruments, etc. Making the toolbox bigger and making it better is what the new strategy should do! In short: Making the comprehensive approach work.

The External Action Service has already done a lot: Take the Early Warning System, take the new Crisis Management structures, or take the Algiers Talks on Mali, where the EAS brings in its expertise in mediation. And most importantly: We are about to reset our neighborhood policy – making it less bureaucratic, more flexible, more tailored to our neighbors' interests. In short: Let’s make our neighborhood policy more political!

And finally, let me say a word about the Foreign Affairs Council. It should be the place where we develop one common view of our joint responsibility – rather than just deliver individual statements of national interest. At the Council, the game shouldn't be “Me taking on 27” – it should be “28 taking on the world”!

Responsibility is the keyword in all this –and it’s a long way on both sides. Yes, national foreign policy, also German foreign policy, must not only think European but be willing to act European. But at the same time, that can only happen when, on the European level, we are able and willing not just to talk and coordinate, but to really define and carry a European responsibility in the world.

With that in mind, we should think about the issues that are making headlines these days. I see many journalists in this room and I know what they might ask: 'Minister, if you are focusing on Europe’s foreign policy, does that mean that Europe’s internal affairs are less important?' Of course not – but my point is: Let's not think one without the other!

Let's remember that foreign policy begins at home. Europe can only be strong on the outside, if the inside architecture is solid! The “European model” of freedom and solidarity can only stand out in the world if it is alive inside. Let's keep that in mind in our current debates!

To take one example: I cannot imagine what the values, the reputation and the strength of European foreign policy would come to, if Great Britain weren't a part of it!

And also: I cannot imagine what would happen to our outside credibility and outside effectiveness if Greece left the Euro.

And with these two thoughts, I hope we are left with enough things to discuss...

Thank you.

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