Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in the German Bundestag on the special fund
On 24 February, we woke up in a different world. In the 100 days since then, our world has not become better, but even more brutal. In addition to the war of annihilation that we’re now witnessing in the Donbass, we’re also seeing a Russian grain war and, above all, fatal consequences around the world in the poorest countries on this planet. Russia’s brutal war of aggression, as bitter as it is, is creating a new reality in Europe – and it is a reminder to us that protecting the freedom of our lives is a precious commodity that we must now defend militarily if need be.
We did not choose this world, but we have to face this new reality. That is what political responsibility means.
Especially in these times, when old certainties are being cast aside, it’s all the more important that we face up to this responsibility across party lines. That is why our agreement on the special fund is about more than just 100 billion euro for the Bundeswehr. It’s also an expression of our Alliance capability and thus also of our European capability.
When we look at hard security, this isn’t just about Germany; after all, we’re not – fortunately – an island detached from the rest of the world. Defence today and in the future means cooperative security much more than ever before.
It’s good that Alliance capability has not been deleted from the law, as the CDU/CSU originally intended.
Mr Dobrindt, I thought it was quite something when you said just now that everyone has shifted, except for us. - If that’s what you need to boost your ego, then be my guest. I’d also rather overlook the fact that you actually wanted to enshrine two percent in the Basic Law or only have 75 Members of the Bundestag vote for it. But what I found astonishing, to be honest – yes, that’s why I held such intensive discussions and debates with you – is that you, as the pro-European party over many decades – that was always the CDU’s great and, to my mind, genuinely impressive label – dogmatically opposed efforts to strengthen our partners’ capabilities, of all things, up until the very last minute. That not only surprises me; to be honest, I don’t think it’s particularly responsible.
After all, you’re now calling again – and rightly so, I’d like to emphasise, because I agree with you – for greater military support, especially for our Alliance partners. But then you weren’t prepared to co-finance this strengthening of our partners’ capabilities via the special fund. It would have been a small amount. It would have been important. I still can’t get my head around that.
To be honest – and this is evidently what distinguishes me from you, Mr Dobrindt, or the CDU/CSU from the Greens – I have no qualms about saying that, yes, I would have preferred the original draft bill because it includes stabilisation and enhancement assistance and because it also includes cyber capabilities. We’re hearing everywhere that the great challenges of our time are not only the fact that missiles or bombs can fall, but also that attacks on hospitals and public facilities can happen in the future.
We will now – this is the compromise – jointly fund these measures via the establishment act and the next budget. However, I would also like to be very clear when I say that everyone will then bear responsibility. After all, security requires comprehensive security, and this House has a special responsibility for this for the decades to come.
Even if the special fund is now less forward-looking to my mind, it is no less important. After all, we cannot, not for one second longer, accept the shortcomings in the Bundeswehr – analogue radio systems with which our servicemen and women are unable to communicate reliably in an emergency; 350 Puma armoured infantry fighting vehicles, of which only 150 are operational. If we’re honest, we’re making good on things that were neglected for many years. With this special fund – as the Defence Minister pointed out – we’re also reforming procurement processes. We’re doing – you have to admit as much – what sections of the CDU/CSU didn’t want for a long time, namely putting the security of servicemen and women and the Alliance at the heart of our security, and not the interests of the arms industry or of whoever shouts the loudest.
The most absurd things happened in the past, to put it mildly. Puma or A400M were procured – without spare parts, maintenance contracts or even ammunition. In the future, we will, to a far greater extent, purchase off-the-peg systems that other armed forces have already tried and tested. Instead of relying on expensive in-house development because that might go down well in the constituencies that the defence industry calls home, there will be clear transparency in procurement. I think a little self-criticism is called for at this juncture.
At the same time, it’s clear that a special fund isn’t enough for this new challenge. Alliance defence capability is far, far more than this. We must tackle these issues together as well.
I’d like to say very clearly at this point that I can understand that some of you have issues with this. I think all of us, probably from all parties and political groups, are having to field the question: 100 billion euro for the Bundeswehr? There’s a shortage of nursing staff in our hospitals. There are no nursery school teachers in our day-care centres. - I believe that this, too, is the responsibility we face today, namely tackling these issues together.
But we must not play social justice and security off against each other now. That is what I ask of those who are still wavering. The special fund creates room for manoeuvre, especially for other budget items. Yes, we still have to reach a joint decision on these items, but we want to and we will do this together.
I’m coming to a close now, Madam President. - To those who say: “but funding for hospitals hasn’t improved now”, I say: that’s true; but what kind of signal would it send at this moment if we as the German Bundestag, because we cannot reach a two-thirds majority, say no now? We are at a point in time when our allies need us, both in the Baltic and in the Sahel. We cannot say that the combat helicopters are still not available. - I believe that this is a historic moment, not only because we’re adopting a special fund of 100 billion euro in these hallowed halls, but also because Germany is saying that we’re there when Europe needs us. - And Europe needs us now to jointly protect our most precious asset: security for the freedom of our lives.
Thank you very much.