I am pleased that the Federal Academy for Security Policy has invited me to speak to you today.
I am even happier to be here because the Federal Academy for Security Policy embodies something that is also a general priority of the German Government, namely international crisis management and engagement, focussing on all available capabilities of the ministries.
Mutually complementary instruments should be a natural choice. But in the area that we are discussing today, this is becoming ever more important.
During the time I spent at the UN General Assembly in New York two weeks ago, you could literally feel the winds of change.
At all of the panel discussions, there was a sense that the world order is crumbling, or has already been lost. What is more, this is what people were talking about in the hallways – and that’s often an important indicator of what’s on everyone’s mind.
Old certainties are disappearing. This is true for the transatlantic relationship, as it is for cohesion within the EU. Dr Kamp has already spoken about Brexit, which is an issue that we are struggling with these days.
What it boils down to is that peace and security are more threatened today than they have been for a long time. It’s what we are debating in Europe and in the wider region, while at the same time the number of crises and conflicts is not decreasing.
I will just name Syria, Libya and Yemen – all of which have serious humanitarian consequences. Then there is the withdrawal of our closest allies from international agreements, and there are the violations of international law by Russia, our large neighbour. There’s the issue of Ukraine, and the illegal annexation of Crimea – all of these questions, conflicts and crises remain unresolved to this day.
That is why, ladies and gentlemen, we have reached a point where the rules-based international order itself is at stake.
German and European foreign policy must face up to this new and difficult challenge.
While I don’t see a reason to panic, I do believe that we need to start thinking about, and find solutions for, how we tackle these new challenges. I also believe that we can’t respond by simply returning to “business as usual”.
That said, “business as usual” doesn’t describe what we’ve been doing the past few years. We have gained a wide range of experience, also in connection with these conflicts. To some extent, we have also made necessary readjustments.
Today, Germany has moved on considerably from the days when it was frequently singled out for “chequebook diplomacy”.
In this regard, let me mention our operations in Afghanistan, the stabilisation mission in Mali, our civilian engagement in Iraq and our important lead role as framework nation in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania.
Moreover, ladies and gentlemen – and there has been much discussion about this in recent weeks and months – there has been a change with respect to defence expenditure, which is now set to rise.
What is more, we are making a committed effort to completely rebuild Europe’s conventional arms control architecture, for example through the structured dialogue on security-policy challenges in Europe that we ourselves initiated.
It is true that we are not taking the easy road. We have been quick to rethink our political strategy numerous times before engaging in a mission. I don’t see this as an obstacle, but rather as an accomplishment.
Because, at the end of the day, the question of how a military operation can assist peacekeeping efforts must also be asked – and this must include how one can help the political process and create development opportunities for the local population.
“Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace” – these ideas are at the heart of our guidelines. The aim is to ensure that foreign, security and development policy truly work hand in hand.
These guidelines supplement the White Paper on German Security Policy.
When combined, these two elements form a highly efficient toolbox that ranges from early detection, prevention and stabilisation to reconstruction and long-term partnerships for development.
However, all of these instruments would be useless – as the focus of today’s event shows – if Europe were not part of our equation, if our efforts did not centre around a comprehensive approach that combines civilian and military measures and that is anchored in Europe and the EU.
Already in 1953, Thomas Mann called for “a European Germany” in a lecture to students. His words ring too true today – because a strong and sovereign Europe that is capable of action is a chief priority of Germany’s foreign policy.
Considering the fault lines that continue to run through the EU, this may at first glance appear to be very wishful thinking. After all, the Brexit negotiations are only one sign of the centrifugal forces that are currently pulling at Europe’s seams.
Nevertheless, I have great faith in a unified Europe, in a Europe United. And that is clearly one of Germany’s vested foreign policy interests. Germany’s current objective has a name – and that name is Europe!
That’s because it is in our genuine interest as Europeans to take on more security responsibility. That’s what we will have to do, and of this I am firmly convinced. We must make Europe a major pillar of the world order, a major actor in an alliance of multilateralists.
This includes – and that is a change we must deal with – a balanced partnership with the United States. This implies strengthening the European pillar of the transatlantic alliance, also in the form of NATO. Only in this way can we create the basic prerequisites for Americans and Europeans to still be able to rely on one another in the future.
In all this, I am particularly grateful that we have a close partner in France, a partner that is just as ambitious as we are in this domain.
Whether it be Mali or our efforts to implement the Minsk agreements –
our cooperation is already now extremely close.
However, the further deepening of Franco-German security and defence cooperation is absolutely essential, also with a view to the entire European security policy project.
It is perfectly clear that true progress will only be achieved by acting in concert with all European member states, soon to be 27. This will require a great deal of courage, because we know that public debate on these security policy issues usually proves to be rather difficult and requires persistent political efforts to convince our publics, not only at home.
Ladies and gentlemen,
During my talks at the UN General Assembly two weeks ago, my conversations proved one thing, namely that expectations towards Germany have grown.
In a new world order, I was told that Germany – and Europe – would need to pull more weight. That’s basically the task I was set.
The expectations on us are indeed high. I don’t think that this will change in the foreseeable future. To fulfil these expectations, we must also make available the necessary capabilities.
I think that in recent years the first foundation stones have been laid. Our strategic guideline is the EU Global Strategy that was presented in 2016. Since then, we have been thinking in a different and entirely new way about European security.
Because we know that not a single one of our countries is strong enough to face up to the current challenges alone.
The common foreign and security policy of the European Union is the foundation and lies at the heart of these efforts – in particular with its civilian and military instruments that in recent years have not only been talked about, but also further developed.
In 2017, we achieved what I believe was a breakthrough in the military domain with the establishment of the Permanent Structured Cooperation, also known as PESCO. For the first time, member states declared their intention to take joint and coordinated action to enhance their military capabilities.
Also highly significant is the Commission’s European Defence Fund, the design of which is currently the subject of negotiations in Brussels.
In terms of joint development of capabilities, we want to finally make some progress and close the current gaps – not only by paying lip service, but with actual materiel, that is, modern equipment, naval vessels and transport helicopters. All of these items are currently being discussed.
For, in the end, Europe can only be a strong and sovereign security policy player if it has the requisite capabilities.
To get there, we must be willing to invest in security. And that’s what we’re ready to do!
One thing is clear — no matter how much progress we make in our efforts, there will be limits. Our engagement needs to be focused on areas that directly affect our security, namely in Europe’s wider neighbourhood. This includes, for example, the Balkans, the Near East and North Africa.
We also attach particular importance, together with our friends in France, to the Sahel region, Mali and Niger. In these places, we are supporting the military, as well as the police and border guards. Enhanced security and stability is essential for people in this region. The aim is not only to tackle the problems that exist there, but to also address the roots of illegal migration.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have taken important steps in the military security domain. Yet this is only one part of a bigger picture. It is just as important to finally make progress on the civilian side.
The Federal Foreign Office has more experience here – it’s an area in which we can truly be a factor for change.
Further development of the civilian aspects of the CSDP is an essential pillar for building the European security and defence union.
This year, we are working on finalising an ambitious and long-overdue compact, through which the EU member states would make binding commitments to strengthen their civilian capabilities.
The civilian dimension of the CSDP can be used in a wide range of scenarios and with a view to promoting peace and stability – ranging from observers in Georgia to judges in Kosovo.
However, our engagement is not purely abstract. It has concrete effects on people on the ground – who, after all, are what this is all about.
For example, the EUCAP civilian assistance and training mission for Somalia trains port police officers in Mogadishu, not only teaching them how to inspect suspicious vessels and ensure safety in the harbour, but also provides very practical support, for instance by giving police officers first aid classes.
The measures implemented by Germany are thereby actually improving security for people who find themselves in distress along the shore or off the coast, thanks to more rapid rescue capabilities and better-trained personnel. That should not be underestimated.
To make Europe even more capable of action in a more conflict-ridden world, we must also strengthen our ability to rapidly respond to crises. For this, we must enhance the professionalism and rapid deployability of our European response assets.
One tool for this is the establishment of a European centre of excellence for civilian crisis management. It will provide the EU and member states with civilian crisis management expertise and will help to advance the respective operations.
For instance, through the EU mission EUAM Ukraine, civilian experts and police officers are teaching their Ukrainian colleagues modern de-escalation techniques that can be used to manage demonstrations.
For this purpose, they use know-how that has been gathered from all parts of the EU: from Sweden, Italy, Portugal and Romania – as well as from Germany.
On the one hand, this is a tremendous asset. On the other hand, those involved sometimes have different ideas and working methods, some of which may need to be painstakingly integrated into the mission. And that is exactly where the centre of excellence comes in. It can help to create common understanding among all those involved, across all ranks and including all backgrounds.
So-called “stabilisation scouts” could also increase the EU’s rapid response capability. When a political conflict escalates, the EU should have a small, rapidly deployable reconnaissance unit. A stabilisation scout could immediately travel to places where conflicts arise and then soon provide the EU with initial situational awareness.
This could serve as the core of a later CSDP mission, or help the Commission deploy its other instruments, through the much-talked-about integrated approach.
When I speak about our rapid response capability, I think we must take this one step further. In his most recent State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Juncker proposed to expand qualified majority voting within the EU, in the sphere of the common foreign and security policy. This can be done even without needing to amend the Treaties.
I think this is an important proposal. Germany intends to move this debate forward, in coordination with our partners.
The same holds true for the real possibility of creating a European Security Council.
This format would give a small, rotating group of member states the opportunity – acting for the entire European Union – to become more rapidly and intensively engaged in resolving current crises.
It will not be possible for such an institution to solve the problems we face if the principle of unanimity is maintained. That is why we must work to advance this discussion in Brussels. We must finally make the EU capable of pursuing foreign policy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The United Nations Security Council is at the very heart of the system for the maintenance of international peace and security. Our Security Council membership, which begins next year, will put us in a position to participate in, and contribute to, this effort.
At a time when key players are turning their backs on the multilateral system, we want to improve the functioning of the Security Council and help it return to its original task. We also want to help overcome deadlocks in the Council, some of which have existed for quite some time.
Above all, we want to transform the UN from a peacekeeper into a peacemaker. In this regard, we agree with Secretary-General Guterres, with whom we recently again discussed what steps are needed to get closer to this goal.
Yet it is also within the UN itself that we want to strengthen the central idea of Europe United. Provided we can do so and that others join our cause, we want to make our Security Council membership a European membership.
We know that our influence in many crises very much depends on EU unity. That, too, will be very high on our agenda. In April of next year, we will hold the Presidency of the UN Security Council, and in March our French friends will hold that same presidency.
We will join forces, making this a so-called jumelage. For Germany and France, March and April will be one presidency. We will use those eight weeks to launch our joint projects.
Already before one of us assumes the lead and after the other one has taken over, each of us will implement the other country’s presidency priorities. I think this is a good opportunity to prove how European our cooperation can be, also in the UN Security Council.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Earlier, I spoke about the winds of change that I sensed at the UN General Assembly in New York. This spirit can of course not only be felt there, but also in many other places around the world. Change is of course always challenging in some respects – but, and it’s important to remember this, change always harbours opportunity.
Even though we don’t know where the world is headed in the coming months and years, we do have the great opportunity, both within the EU and especially in the UN Security Council during the next two years, to help shape global developments.
Only then will we be in a position to defend what we believe to be the world’s multilateral or rules-based order. At the end of the day, it embodies trust and reliability. We need to do our part to maintain it, because here, too, we can no longer take anything for granted.
What is at stake here is the future – of Germany, Europe and beyond. I am confident that we will succeed in this endeavour, if we use the instruments at our disposal and if we do not act unilaterally, but rather together with our partners. To succeed, we will have to consistently pursue and achieve the objectives we’ve set ourselves – which, it should be noted, are often the same as those of most other countries we interact with.
If this happens, then I’m highly optimistic, despite all of the change and shifting of tectonic plates, that we will do our part in the months and years ahead to defend, also in terms of security policy, the values for which we stand: peace, democracy, freedom and human rights.