Speech by Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth at the conference “A Partnership for Progress and Peace? Nordic-German cooperation in EU-affairs and beyond”

27.09.2018 - Speech

Ladies and gentlemen,

thank you very much for your kind invitation. I am very glad to be here today. We in the Foreign Office have always appreciated the SWP’s and RENOR’s scientific research and insights in the field of EU affairs, regional cooperation and German-Nordic cooperation. With your work, you lay the scientific foundations for what now needs to be put into practice on a political level.

I especially remember the SWP’s article on “Mini-lateralisms in the European Union” – stating that Germany should embrace smaller dialogue formats between different EU Member States as a means to strengthening cohesion.

Which states could be better suited to start with than the Nordic countries? The Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, are possibly Germany’s most like-minded partners in the EU.

We all pursue equally ambitious national climate goals, we have similar views on economic and single market policies and strengthening the EU’s civil Common Security and Defence Policy is our priority. Moreover, as members of the like-minded group on the rule of law we are trying to defend and strengthen the European fundamental values. That’s one of the most pressing issues on our European agenda!

Speaking of the future of Europe, I believe that we have to face the fact that we Europeans find ourselves in a pretty uncomfortable world today. We witness fragility and armed conflicts in our neighbourhood. We see fundamental changes in the international multilateral order. And we see the rise of new actors on the international stage that do no longer share our values and our interests.

At the same time, the importance of European countries is shrinking, in terms of population and in economic terms. In today’s world, there are no big and small EU member states.

Every member state, whether it has 10 million or 80 million inhabitants, is a medium-sized country at best. And what we witness is only the beginning of this international trend.

This makes one thing very clear for me: Our only choice is between having a joint voice in the world or no voice at all. We Europeans need to succeed in uniting ourselves, in speaking with one voice. So we need to do both: We need to speak and act together as the EU as a whole.

But to prepare this joint approach, it is absolutely key to have a constant communication and cooperation at different levels: in big and small formats, bilaterally, multilaterally – and mini-laterally.

I am convinced that Germany and the Nordic countries can together make a substantially positive and progressive contribution to the debate on the future of Europe. And I encourage the Nordics to actively participate in the current discussions. Europe absolutely needs the constructive Nordic voice. Don’t be quiet, you have a lot to offer!

Ladies and gentlemen,

German-Nordic cooperation has an impact which goes far beyond Europe and European Union affairs. This becomes especially obvious in the Baltic Sea Region.

Airplanes flying with transponders that are turned off, hybrid threats and an increased number of large scale Russian military exercises – the security situation in the Baltic Sea Region has become more complex over the past years.

The Nordic countries and Germany share the same view: We have to find clear and frank words when dealing with Russia, but keeping dialogue channels open and trying to find ways to work together is equally important.

Hence the Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and German engagement in the Council of Baltic Sea States where this sectoral cooperation with Russia is practiced on a daily basis. And hence our engagement to maintain dialogue in the NATO-Russia-Council. Our common understanding in this regard is one of the reasons why Germany actively advocates a closest possible partnership of Finland and Sweden with NATO.

These are only a few examples that show how close and valuable the Nordic-German partnership – in EU affairs and beyond – really is. I’m convinced that the potential of Nordic-German cooperation is even bigger and that we should fully exploit it.

Our so-called “Like-Minded-Initiative” hence aims at deepening our links to the Nordic countries in selected areas of common interest. Crisis prevention and mediation, for example, are such areas where the Nordic countries have become front-runners and which are overarching priorities for Germany as well, in particular as a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council in 2019/20.

But I am also thinking about areas far beyond classical foreign policy issues, such as digitalization and digital education, cooperation in the health sector – especially e-health –, Artificial Intelligence or circular economy. I consider these areas as especially interesting since it seems to me that we could learn a lot from each other.

And that is what Europe is about: Learning with and from each other! To strengthen and deepen this “cooperation on equal footing” with our Nordic partners is a declared goal of German foreign policy.


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