Speech by Foreign Minister Maas at the budget debate in the German Bundestag

21.11.2018 - Speech

More than 2000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Plutarch described criteria which could apply to the ideal budget. He stated that nothing superfluous was needed that nothing necessary should be lacking. Should we actually be discussing what is superfluous and what is necessary today?

When it comes to foreign policy issues, the answer is anything but easy; some of the previous speakers have already made that clear. At present, there are so many changes afoot that there is really only one certainty in foreign policy, namely the uncertainty. Therefore, in conducting Germany’s foreign policy it’s important that we also address the question as to how much scope there is for shaping this very foreign policy.

I can tell you that our influence in the world largely hinges on one thing, namely European unity. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, the fundamental objective of German foreign policy is to hold Europe together. It must be geared to that end. For all the challenges we face in 2018 have long since become challenges that don’t stop at national borders. The globalised economy knows no borders. The climate knows no borders. The spread of digital technology and the Internet know no borders, while the migration issue is in itself an international issue.

We therefore need an organisation like the European Union more than ever before in 2018 and the years ahead. Anyone who denies this is damaging and betraying Germany’s interest.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Despite all the difficulties we have in the European Union, I believe that 2018 has definitely been a successful year in the European Union’s foreign policy.

Mr Djir Sarai, you criticised the lack of strategy in many areas, but I’d like to say to you with regard to China: the European Union has just launched its connectivity strategy, especially with a view to China. We’re in the process of formulating a new Central Asia strategy for the European Union and want to finish our work by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. As for the discussion about the nuclear deal with Iran: despite all the predictions to the contrary, the European Union has shown considerable unity to this day.

Especially during the last year, I believe we’ve made considerable progress in the field of foreign and security policy. After launching the Permanent Structured Cooperation in the defence sphere in late 2017, we EU Foreign Ministers agreed last Monday on a binding pact to strengthen the civilian aspects of the Common Security and Defence Policy. As a result, we will be establishing a European centre of excellence in Berlin.

There we will train people who will subsequently be sent to trouble spots to help ensure that crises don’t turn into wars. I believe that will enhance Germany’s foreign policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, even closer cooperation between Germany and France – this too has been mentioned – is absolutely essential for such a Europe. Our joint reform proposals on economic and monetary union and on foreign and security policy were a first key step.

A further step will be the conclusion of a new Élysée Treaty which contains the pledge to tackle all major challenges together in future.

That’s in line with what Emmanuel Macron said a few days ago: we intend to confront these challenges as a Franco-German duo. I’d like to give you an example with regard to the United Nations Security Council. Next April, we will hold the Presidency of the Security Council, while the French will hold it in March. We’ve decided together with France to, as it were, turn these two Presidency months into a joint Presidency. That means that the French will begin addressing our issues and we’ll tackle the French issues during our Presidency.

You can see that we haven’t just begun preparing this. For the preparations began long ago. I think that’s a good example that illustrates that the Franco German duo is not merely a snappy term but has long since been reality. It’s a reality in those areas where it matters, for instance in bodies such as the United Nations Security Council.

Another point which is the focus of particular attention in Europe is the exchange with our Central and Eastern European neighbours. During the last few months, we’ve greatly strengthened this exchange within the scope of German foreign policy. Take, for example, the Three Seas Initiative, which Germany has joined.

Ultimately, in my view, a new division of our continent, in East and West, cannot be in our interest, especially not in Germany’s interest. We call this a European Ostpolitik, aimed at overcoming the current minimal consensus in the European Union’s policies vis à vis its Eastern neighbours. That will only succeed if firm principles and dialogue go hand in hand. However, we first of all have to convince many of our partners in Europe of this.

At any rate, Germany is a good bridge builder between East and West within the European Union and in Europe. Especially in this area, German foreign policy is about extending our hand and not preaching at others. That, too, is good for our image in Germany, in Europe and beyond.

Ladies and gentlemen, the UK is another key issue. No one knows today what the House of Commons in London will decide. However, we’re prepared for every outcome with regard to the UK’s exit: with our without a deal. However, one thing is clear: the UK is a key partner that shares our values when it come to democracy, human rights and freedom, both in Europe and beyond. Regardless of whether or not the UK is a member of the European Union, we will continue to coordinate our goals with it. We’re therefore working to realise a close strategic dialogue in the foreign policy sphere after the UK’s exit. That, too, is a good thing. Indeed, it’s crucial.

What are the issues we want to focus on during our stint on the UN Security Council, Ms Deligöz? Naturally, we’re not going to decide as we go along. Everything was set out clearly during the election campaign. I can say that human rights issues, the key role of women in peace processes and the link between climate change and security will be the priorities of our two years on the Security Council. In my view, they’re a good choice.

Let me touch on one final point. Germany and Europe are needed more than ever as pillars in the international order. Above all and particularly at the present time, this applies to the disarmament and arms control architecture. We want to put disarmament and arms control back on the international agenda in the coming months. For what is at stake is no more and no less than humankind’s survival. That’s why we’re working to persuade the United States not to hastily withdraw from the INF Treaty. We don’t want Europe to become the scene of a debate on a nuclear arms build up.

But we want more; for that isn’t enough. Questions have arisen since 1987 when the INF Treaty was concluded, questions which no-one could address back then. They are: “What’s happening in the arms sphere today?”, artificial intelligence, space weapons, cyber wars. The latter is especially important. I firmly believe that the possibilities offered by the cyber world are the most likely to create a threat scenario in Europe or elsewhere in the world. The greatest challenge is to ensure that cyber attacks aren’t carried out on critical infrastructure.


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