A new awakening for Europe – also in peace policy? Germany’s role between national guidelines and European reform processes

13.06.2018 - Speech

Keynote by Minister of State Niels Annen

Ladies and gentlemen,
Advisory Board for Civilian Crisis Prevention,

Exactly one year ago, the guidelines on “Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace” were adopted by the Cabinet.

We pledged to strengthen the Advisory Board in the guidelines – and we regard this event as a first joint step. I would like to thank the Advisory Board most sincerely for this invitation.
The ministries began drafting the guidelines in 2016. At the same time, they established the Peace Lab – a blog and events in which experts – that’s to say us here today and other colleagues – can engage in discussion both on and offline.

I, too, contributed to the Peace Lab blog back then as foreign affairs spokesman of my parliamentary group. I’m therefore all the more pleased to support the implementation process in “my” ministry in my new capacity as Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office and to continue the debate with you – both here in this room and online per podcast.

I stated in the Peace Lab in 2016 that the German Government needs more than a distribution of tasks in the sphere of prevention policy. That it needs an interministerial strategy.
I’m glad that I can now say: our guidelines form the strategic foundation on how we contribute to resolving crises in the world, promote political solutions, mitigate human suffering, combat the causes of refugee and migrant movements and help enhance global security – in short, assume more responsibility.

We have to engage at an early stage, rapidly and strategically in order to effectively support international crisis management. For this purpose, these guidelines provide us with a modern compass.


Some of you were more closely involved in the drafting of the guidelines than I was.

Nevertheless, I would like to examine a few key points this evening:

1. We have defined guiding principles for peace policy.

It links our interests with the values on which German state action is based. It thus provides guidance for selecting spheres of action and instruments in various crisis contexts.

2. The guidelines provide us with a compass for all phases of conflict, which in reality often overlap:

• The guidelines stress the importance of prevention – as does UN Secretary-General Guterres in his reform agenda. In the guidelines, we describe approaches to analysis which will allow us to better identify crises at an early stage. That will enable us to design more targeted prevention measures.
• Beyond prevention, the guidelines describe instruments at hand which can be deployed when an armed conflict has already broken out. With its stabilisation approach, the Federal Foreign Office has drawn up a strategy on how to ensure that peace dividends can be created quickly and within a short space of time. Peace processes should be supported in this way. At the same time, we’re expanding our mediation expertise even further, thus making it a useful political aid.
• Let me give you an example. In Yemen, we’re working very hard to support the UN Special Envoy so that there is a chance that peace can be restored. We are supporting the Berghof Foundation, currently the only high-ranking platform for informal political talks between the parties to the conflict. This track 2 mediation keeps channels of communication open – until official peace talks resume.
• However, it’s also clear that peace will only be established in the long term. Resolving conflicts requires patience – that, at least, is what the situation in Afghanistan shows us to this very day. In the long term, therefore, we have to invest in civil society, in those who stand for positive change while, at the same time, enhancing state structures.

These three aspects alone show that no ministry can achieve this on its own. The famous coordinated approach which pools short and long term civilian, police and military approaches and uses the various instruments in a strategic fashion is required.

The guidelines commit the German Government to an “interministerial approach”:

• In Berlin, the guidelines resulted in the establishment of interministerial working groups on promoting the rule of law and reforming the security sector.
• Meetings of experts and interesting contributions to the debates on the Peace Lab blog have provided sufficient food for thought from civil society and players in the field.
• The task now is to draft interministerial strategies, that’s to say, to formulate the scope of the guidelines.

That was one of the demands I made in my blog contribution of 2016: the guidelines should not remain an abstract strategy paper but become a clearly defined plan of action.

However, even with the best national compass, we cannot of course succeed on our own anywhere. The European reflex is just as much integrated into German crisis management as a UN reflex.

There is, as it were, a 360-degree approach to crisis management. Bilateral and multilateral partners on the ground must be coordinated, both internally and with each other, in order to achieve progress together with local partners.

We’re therefore all the more delighted that the guidelines met with a very positive response internationally.

Both at the UN in New York and in Brussels, our ambitious vision and concrete voluntary commitments made an impression – on our colleagues and on civil society.

EU – Global Strategy

That brings me to this evening’s discussion: Europe as a force for peace – what is Germany’s contribution?

The question as to how Germany’s policy for peace, as outlined in the guidelines, fits into the EU context is relevant in many different ways.

Since 2010, a peaceful trend over many decades has been reversed: there are more and more violent conflicts and they have become more complex, last longer and are taking place on our doorstep – and in the case of eastern Ukraine on our continent.

It has become clear that neither Germany nor the EU were equipped to deal with these crises.

It’s no coincidence therefore that a generally shared view in Germany and in the EU has triggered an almost parallel development: Germany and the EU are required more than ever to act as agents for peace.

We have to confront changed challenges, assume political responsibility and become crisis-proof through efficient structures and the right resources.

The new direction in German crisis management outlined in the guidelines thus strengthens European engagement and vice versa.

Let me give you some examples.

Within the EU we have been actively involved in the formulation of a global strategy while taking action at national level in the form of Review 2014 and the creation of Directorate-General S (Crisis Prevention, Stabilisation, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance) at the Federal Foreign Office. The integrated approach has thus become the hallmark of European crisis management and is in keeping with the spirit of the guidelines.

PRISM – a counterpart to the Federal Foreign Office Directorate-General S – was established within the European External Action Service last year. Its duties are crisis prevention, stabilisation, mediation and implementation of the integrated approach.

The German Government provides PRISM with political, conceptual and personnel support.

However, the Global Strategy has triggered more dynamic developments in the sphere of the EU’s crisis management.

With regard to the Global Strategy, the European Council has formulated ambitious security and defence policy goals: the EU should be able

1. to react to crises and conflicts operationally,
2. to expand the capabilities of partners to strengthen their resilience and
3. thus to ensure the security of the Union and its citizens.

For this we need an effective Common Security and Defence Policy which makes possible an independent EU crisis management with both civilian and military capabilities.

The German Government is thus working hard to further develop and intensify the Common Security and Defence Policy. Last year we took an important step together with our EU partners:

We launched permanent structured cooperation in the defence sector, thus creating a new way of strengthening the EU’s military capabilities. 25 member states are taking part and we’re now in the process of implementing concrete projects.

This year, we want to achieve comparable progress within the framework of the civilian CSDP, for if the civilian side isn’t strengthened the further development of the CSDP cannot be completed.

Our goal is to conclude an agreement at EU level between the member states and the EU itself which will make possible qualitative and quantitative improvements in civilian capabilities.

We’re working on this in the spirit of the coalition agreement, which states that in strengthening Europe as a force for peace priority should be given to civilian means.

Ladies and gentlemen,

During the last few years, we were able to make quite a substantial contribution to Europe’s conflict resolution architecture and many steps in the right direction have been taken.

A core message from the guidelines, however, is that only political solutions can secure peace in an enduring and viable fashion.

Just as Germany’s engagement is based on the primacy of politics, the instruments at EU level mentioned above have to be used as part of a clear political strategy.

The member states are called upon to play their role and this will be the most difficult part: on the one hand, we have to demand strategic action from the EU and political leadership from the EEAS. On the other, however, we have to then also allow this and provide assistance at the bilateral level.


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