Minister, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), your coalition partner, is arguing about the UN Global Compact for Migration. Why is this agreement good for Germany?
The Global Compact for Migration is the joint response from the international community to a question that affects us all. Migration is quite simply a reality all over the world. The purpose of the Compact is to put it on a viable footing. That is not only good for Germany. It is good for everyone. The Compact for Migration makes clear that human dignity is indivisible.
Do we need a treaty for that?
The Compact for Migration is a big step forward. It is a political declaration of intent to which most of the 190-plus countries of the United Nations will pledge their support. The aim is as far as possible to establish the same standards for repatriation. We need to put a stop to human trafficking, secure borders and fight what causes people to flee. Migration is one of the world’s most pressing issues. That is why it is good if as many countries as possible join forces behind this UN Compact.
The heated debate about the Compact for Migration – is it a campaign by the right-wingers?
Right-wing populists exploit the issue of migration and use false claims to fuel fears. That is nothing new. This makes it all the more important to encourage broad debate on the subject. That way, we can counter the claims with facts: the Compact for Migration is not a threat but a rational act.
But “Europe united” doesn’t work in the case of migration ...
On the contrary: no country in Europe will be able to deal with the issue of migration single-handedly. Regulating and controlling migration is a global challenge. We can only tackle it together. In Europe we need to reach at least a minimum level of consensus on migration issues.
In spring, when Germany will sit again for two years as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council, you intend to form a dual European leadership team with France within this global institution. Are we going to see “Europe united” versus “America first” after all?
No, but our influence on policy is at stake. We Europeans have no chance of defending our values and interests on trade issues, for example, or in the dispute on the nuclear agreement with Iran, if each country confronts the United States individually. That applies all the more to controversial issues with Russia or with China. Only together as “Europe united” do we have any real chance. Our ability to defend our values and interests depends on that.
So, a European army?
It is clear that Europe needs to move forward also in the area of defence policy. The EU can contribute and dovetail military and civilian capabilities here. Moreover, if we now also became more capable of acting in the foreign policy arena, by no longer having to decide certain issues unanimously in the Foreign Affairs Council but by taking majority decisions, we would be another step further.
Does the UN Security Council still reflect the world as it is today – or does it need more Africa and more Asia? Germany would like to have a permanent seat on the Security Council itself.
The world has changed dramatically. The UN Security Council in its current format no longer reflects that. It needs to be reformed. To this end we have joined forces with countries which share similar interests with Germany, such as Japan and India. The reform process itself has been dragging on for years. We need to stop beating around the bush and start real negotiations on Security Council reform, as the vast majority of the member states has wanted for a long time.
Does more German responsibility in the world also mean more German UN blue helmets?
We see our role as peacebuilders. Military operations are always only a last resort. We would rather tackle the causes of conflict. These include particularly climate change and migration. And we are a member state that is willing to assume responsibility where it is in a position to do so.
Also in eastern Ukraine?
We want to use our time in the UN Security Council also to discuss a UN peace mission in eastern Ukraine. The Presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, do not reject the idea of such a UN mission in principle. Yet they have very different ideas of what form such a mission should take. It is very difficult to make progress. The Minsk peace agreement of spring 2015 is still largely unimplemented. Despite all the difficulties, we must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to inject new momentum into the peace process.
A UN mission with Russia’s blessing together with the gradual lifting of the sanctions against Moscow – is that conceivable?
Those sanctions have been imposed on Russia by the European Union. Our direct goal remains to stabilise Ukraine and to achieve a true ceasefire. If the implementation of the Minsk agreement is then successful, we can begin negotiations on an end to the sanctions. But then and only then.
Putin sympathiser Gerhard Schröder has criticised you for your clear words on Russia’s policy of distancing itself from the West. Is that just an old feud between members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)?
My attitude towards Russia depends solely on how the Russian Government behaves. We need dialogue with Russia to resolve international conflicts. Yet to achieve this, we also need to be crystal clear about formulating our own expectations. This applies not only to Russia’s role in Ukraine, but also to the war in Syria.
When will you be travelling to Saudi Arabia again?
I don’t need to be in the country to make our position clear. We call for transparency and want to see full investigation into the despicable murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The perpetrators and those pulling the strings must be brought to justice. We have put a complete stop on arms exports. That also goes for deliveries that have already been authorised.
Interview: Michael Bröcker, Holger Möhle