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Germany's Foreign and Security Policy in the Face of Global Challenges

Germany's Foreign and Security Policy in the Face of Global Challenges

Speech delivered by Dr. Angela Merkel, Member of the German Bundestag (Chairwoman  of CDU), Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany; at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy. Munich, (Bavaria), February 4, 2006. Source: 2006 Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Dr. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany, during her speech. Photo by Sebastian Zwez.

Dr. Angela Merkel during her speech - Photo by Sebastian Zwez

Mr Teltschik,
Excellencies, Ministers, Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, Mr Teltschik, for your kind welcome and for reminding us of what was said last year. I was happy to accept your invitation to deliver this opening speech today, as over the years the Munich Security Conference has rightly become a trademark - one for frank and honest dialogue on shared foreign and security-policy challenges, as well as a dialogue which takes place not only in this room but also in the many, many conversations conducted on the fringes of this Conference. These are equally important.

This year you have given the Security Conference the motto of "Restoring the Transatlantic Partnership". If we look back in time once again, the Cold War came to an end because, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, freedom won in the whole of Europe and in other parts of the world. All this was and still is accompanied by a gain in both economic and freedom terms which we call globalization. Today we have a hitherto-unknown interconnection of investment, capital, communications and information streams. This means we have completely new, qualitatively new opportunities, but of course also dramatic fears, if I think of Germany, which in many instances is having great difficulties coming to terms with this openness.

The symmetric threats of the Cold War have become a completely new kind of asymmetric threat. The erosion of state structures, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unreliable regimes - these are just a few key words we use to describe the challenges and threats we face in our age. The world as a whole has become more transparent. Almost no-one any more can ignore conflicts elsewhere. This is a situation which we must face up to.

The question now is how do we - and I am asking this for Germany - reply to these new challenges? I am convinced that we can only address them together, and I use this term primarily with a view to the transatlantic partnership. Why should we, some may ask, now that the Cold War is over? There was no automatic need for it. In my opinion it is because we are united by a shared set of fundamental values, a common understanding of freedom with responsibility, and a shared view of humankind and human dignity. I believe that due to these fundamental values we can assume that the transatlantic partnership will continue to be the basis enabling us to face the challenges of the 21st century.

For us in Germany the process of European integration on the one hand and the transatlantic partnership on the other hand form the pillars of our foreign and security policy. Let me clearly state that in this regard united Germany is prepared to take on responsibility, indeed greater responsibility, beyond NATO's boundaries, in the cause of safeguarding freedom, democracy, stability and peace in the world.

I would like to use four conditions to illustrate what is needed for this:
First, Germany must develop in a proper way economically, as in my view our economic strength and our security-policy leeway are linked. Second, we must play our role in ensuring that NATO can face and adapt to the changed overall conditions. Third, we need a stronger Europe, a stronger European Union. Fourth, we must pool our activities regarding a joint international-order policy. I feel that only if we are successful in all four areas can we meet the challenges facing us today.

Allow me, using these four points, to sketch out what contributions we must make. I want to start with a domestic-policy idea: We, the new German Government, pledged to return Germany within the next ten years to the EU's leading group in terms of growth, jobs and innovation. I think this is important because it is not only the precondition for prosperity within our country, but also for our being able to use that domestic political strength to assume foreign-policy responsibility. A country whose citizens are insecure will find it hard to assume international responsibility.

For that reason we must reduce bureaucracy, reform the labour market, but above all we must invest in research and development and address the demographic challenge, in other words, we must make our social systems fit for the future. With this in mind we must - and I am speaking quite frankly - address a budget situation in which we will regularly, for the next decades, spend more than we receive in income, and this in the light of a demographic situation which will not ease the problem in the future.

This means that, while we can and intend to assume responsibility, in some fields we may not be able to meet everyone's expectations regarding our financial scope for defence spending. What I always reply is that we may not be able to do everything, but what we do, we do very efficiently. We play our role in Afghanistan with 2,500 soldiers in the ISAF mission. We play our part in Kosovo as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina with around 3,500 soldiers. We are present on the Horn of Africa, in Sudan and in the southern Caucasus, to name only a few major regions. Now Germany participates in the mission in Rafah, which is a totally new experience, as this is a commitment to a wholly new region. We provide the largest contingent to the NATO Response Force. We are implementing the decisions taken at the Prague NATO Summit in a highly committed way in the field of strategic airlift. In other words we are making our contributions in many respects, helping many people.

We have a parliamentary army. Extending its operations to cover almost the entire world is a clear political challenge, one which requires a great deal of discussion, but we - government and opposition - have again and again jointly brought the majority of these discussions to a positive conclusion. Of course we also want to use the synergies within the European Union, and in this connection there is greater European cooperation, for example allowing us to increase the share of deployable troops, to name just one aspect among many.

Dr. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany, during her speech. Photo by Sebastian Zwez.

Dr. Angela Merkel, Federal - Photo by Sebastian Zwez

  • However, my second point is that internal strength, economic strength and our own contributions have to be combined with this question: How will a future NATO operate?

I feel that NATO remains the bond keeping together the transatlantic community of shared interests and values. But if it is to retain that function, say, in ten or twenty years' time, we must in my opinion discuss quite openly what NATO has to do. In my view it must be a body which constantly carries out and discusses joint threat analyses. It must be the place where political consultations take place on new conflicts arising around the world, and it should in my opinion be the place where political and military actions are coordinated.

I think we have to take a decision: Do we want to give NATO a kind of primacy in transatlantic cooperation, meaning an attempt first being made by NATO to carry out the necessary political consultations and decide on the required measures - which doesn't mean everyone participating in everything all the time - , or do we want to relegate NATO to a secondary task? This is a decision which has to be taken. In my view we should decide that NATO has that primacy, and that other courses should not be explored until the Alliance fails to arrive at an agreement. If this is, so to speak, the shared opinion of all concerned - which is something we must discuss - then the NATO Council can of course take over these tasks, and it may become clear from day-to-day political consultations that this is practicable.

This also means political conflicts being discussed for which no immediate military operations or actions are required. In other words, I feel that the situations in the Middle East or Iran must be discussed at NATO. For this we need the political will, and to be able to take action we then of course need the right military capabilities. I am giving away no secrets, I'm sure, if I say that at the moment these are not always available. Over the next few years we will have to decide whether or not the political will is forthcoming. I expressly advocate this. I also know that we Europeans must then naturally take care that the technological gap between us and the USA doesn't get wider but rather narrows where possible. But I am also aware that this is an extraordinarily difficult issue to talk about, if one looks at the real situation.

It is clear that the main litmus test for NATO's ability to act and its credibility remains the success of its operations. There is no doubt about it. Here we can say that the spectrum of Alliance operations has become huge over the last few years - ranging from military operations to peace-supporting measures, training, transport and advisory measures and indeed now operations following natural disasters and the protection of major sporting events, such as the coming football World Cup in Germany, to which I of course warmly invite you all. Unfortunately, I have no tickets to give away! But we do have a lot of video-walls on our streets, and you are warmly invited to be there, in Germany, when it is "A Time to Make Friends", as the World Cup motto states.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we look at the breadth of NATO's spectrum of activities, the sheer variety is, I think, impressive. Precisely this leads us of course to ask: Where are the limits of what the Alliance can do? Resources are scarce. I think the Secretary General can recite monologues on this subject. Therefore we must more clearly define its tasks. This was done at the 1999 Washington Summit, where the Strategic Concept was elaborated, and continued in Prague in 2002 with the establishment of the NATO Response Force. I feel that the theoretically correct steps have been taken and that the practical implementation is in many respects progressing well. If I think of the NRF, at least the German contribution is pleasing.

But we must also realize that the world has changed again considerably since 1999. For that reason I propose that we discuss whether we want to look again in 2008 or 2009 - ten years after the last Strategic Concept - at how we should develop it further; remember, 1999 was before 11 September 2001, before the major round of enlargement. We do want other countries to join NATO. This means that countries like Croatia, Macedonia and Albania can be justly hopeful about becoming Alliance members. But that leads to new challenges, and this is why I would propose such a discussion for 2008.

We know that Ukraine and Georgia also want the prospect of NATO membership. Let me state here that there can be no automatic accession, but that it is definitely necessary to look at the efforts made by the potential candidates and the extent to which those efforts harmonize with the values on which the Alliance is based. The yardstick must be that it is not just a question of enlargement but naturally of the maintenance of quality.

  • Ladies and gentlemen, my third point involves European integration and transatlantic partnership.

I want to say to our American friends that they should not view European integration sceptically, but rather see it as an opportunity. I feel that the European Union, the more it acts with one voice, can make NATO more efficient. Over the last few years we - with considerable contributions by Germany and France - have given the EU a Security Strategy. We are in the process of creating a common European armaments industry. Since 2003 there have been independent European operations, some NATO-supported, some based on the EU's own structure. If I only look at, for example, the ALTHEA mission in Bosnia, I can say that if we look back to the early 1990s and see where we are today, at the start of the 21st century, then Europe and the EU have grown into a role in which we are truly prepared to assume independent political responsibility, including the military security aspect. I think we Europeans can be justly proud of finally being able to help maintain peace and security on our own continent. Of course, we do this with the support of our American partners, while being more and more convinced that this is our task.

Particularly if you look at the Balkans you can see how vital the European perspective, in other words the prospect of EU membership, is for allowing us to decrease our military presence there. I believe that we will not be able to lead the countries of the Western Balkans into a peaceful future without giving them that European perspective. Of course this must be a gradual process, but the perspective must be there.

We will conduct further missions under the auspices of the European Union. We are currently discussing how far we are able to respond to the United Nations' request for assistance with the elections in the Congo. I would like to take this opportunity to explicitly state that we as Europeans have a keen interest in seeing a successful conclusion to the United Nations' stabilization efforts in this country. But I must also say that a few years ago the idea of holding a discussion of this nature in the German Bundestag would have been beyond the scope of our imagination, and even now it is still uncharted territory.

Of course, we still have a long way to go. We had planned to appoint a Union Minister for Foreign Affairs with the entry into force of the Constitutional Treaty. The Treaty's prospects have been scuppered by referenda in some countries whose populations did not vote in favour of this project. We can do a certain amount to improve the efficiency of European foreign policy without the Constitutional Treaty, but in the medium term we will have to establish new institutional conditions within the European Union. I have not abandoned the hope that this could take place within the framework of a Constitutional Treaty.

Ladies and gentlemen, the significance of the partnership between the European Union and NATO is growing. The European Security Strategy, NATO's Strategic Concept and the National Security Strategy of the United States of America provide a suitable foundation on which to conduct more intensive dialogue on the form our common security agenda should take. We only need to go through them once to see that they correspond to a remarkable degree. I don't now intend to start philosophizing on the differences between the words "preemptive" and "preventive", but it is fascinating to see that things are moving in the same direction.

The EU and NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs met for the first time last year for an informal exchange of views within a small group. I believe these talks should also continue. But if they do - and I am returning to my position on the role NATO should play - they should complement the political discussions within NATO. They should not be perceived as a counterweight but as a supplement.

I think it would be fair to say that NATO and the EU are the most successful value-based and security alliances in recent history. They could therefore also become an anchor of stability in the world, if indeed they are not already. The European Security Strategy states, "Acting together, the European Union and the United States can be a formidable force for good in the world.

  • That leads me to my fourth point.

As powerful alliances it goes without saying that we also need security partners in other regions of the world. The NATO Secretary-General made this point yesterday or the day before. We cannot do everything. We would be overstretching ourselves if we acted as if we could. It is therefore crucial that NATO establishes a dense network of partnerships with countries and international organizations with very varied priorities and objectives. It is precisely this diversification, the breadth of the conflicts and areas of cooperation that is the hallmark of the 21st century. The Cold War was, as it were, a clash between relatively homogeneous blocs. Today we have to face very different conflicts. This also calls for the ability to adapt very swiftly to the conflicts concerned.

In this context I believe that the regional organizations particularly should in future assume greater responsibility for security. I am thinking of the African Union, for example. NATO should help such organizations to develop their own skills and capabilities and put them in a position to help themselves. In other words, I believe this could be an additional task for NATO.

We must be more active in the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. We must intensify our cooperation and consultation with partner countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan. This means that a wealth of political activities are therefore necessary, which could eventually lead to military cooperation.

I would like to re-emphasize the large number of flashpoints we have to deal with by citing four examples. To begin with I want to talk about Afghanistan. I consider Afghanistan to be a fascinating example of how we can manage to gradually build up stable political structures out of the central threat of the 21st century - the threat of terrorism, and out of the situation of an almost impotent state. For me, the interaction of operations such as Enduring Freedom, which have a clearly military character, with operations such as ISAF, which are designed to foster stability and range from military tasks, through policing, to work to establish political structures, and which also encompass the activities of non-governmental organizations, development aid and reconstruction efforts, is exemplary. Such operations span the entire process of moving basically from a totally unstable structure to a politically stable country. This must be our goal.

Incidentally, this corresponds to the expectations of our people at home, who naturally ask, "What are you doing there?" They want to see progress. They want to see that something is happening. I think we have a great responsibility to account for our actions. For this reason it is vital that we are involved across the entire spectrum.

I believe that the conferences in Bonn and Berlin, which have now been extended with the Afghanistan Conference in London, demonstrate that we consider the continuation of the political process as important as the military operations in this region. Many will use the example of Afghanistan to decide whether we are able to take effective action. I do not intend to sweep the problems under the carpet, but I am convinced that we can succeed.

Second. The results of the parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Territories and the victory of Hamas is an outcome we have to respect. Nevertheless, they give us cause for concern. I therefore wish to reiterate what I said during my visit to the region and which could affect the financial assistance the Palestinian Authority receives. Israel's right to exist must be recognized. It must be clear that violence is not an acceptable form of political expression and the Palestinian Authority must recognize the steps taken so far in the peace process. Anything else would be an incredible setback. I believe that the European Union and others have made this clear and I am very glad that this is the case. I maintain that we have to state this in no uncertain terms.

The commitment to stability is, of course, also a priority with regard to Iraq. We are supporting the creation of democratic and economically viable structures. We will continue to train soldiers and police officers in close cooperation with the new Iraqi Government. We intend to assist the Iraqi authorities in building up the justice system, in establishing a free press, in training university tutors and engineers and especially in developing vocational training. We are providing considerable financial support for Iraq by cancelling debts to the tune of 4.5 billion euro. I believe that this, too, is essential if the process there is to continue.

Fourth, we must of course pay close attention to the developments in Iran these days. We want to prevent the production of Iranian nuclear weapons, and we must. Iran's nuclear programme prompts the justified suspicion, the justified concern, the justified fear that its goal is not the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy, but that military considerations are also in play. Iran has wilfully - I am afraid I have to say this - and knowingly overstepped the mark. I must add that we are, of course, compelled to respond to the totally unacceptable provocations of the Iranian President. I am particularly called to say this in my role as Chancellor of Germany. A president who questions Israel's right to exist, a president who denies the Holocaust cannot expect Germany to show any tolerance at all on this issue. We have learned the lessons of our past.

We want to find a solution to this conflict. Many offers have been made. The negotiations within the Board of Governors are still under way. I would like to add that the referral to the UN Security Council is not intended to provoke Iran, for in my view the UN Security Council ought to be the legitimate place to discuss conflicts with international ramifications. I can therefore only say that it would be good if we were able to resolve this issue quickly. Many offers have been made, but they all depend on a willingness on the one hand to dispense with the rhetorical activities and on the other hand to accept the terms of negotiation on offer.

I believe that the degree to which we can build far-reaching partnerships beyond the EU and the United States will be very important in connection with Iran. I see Russia as a major factor here. Russia's role in this Iran conflict will certainly be of prime importance. It could also undoubtedly influence the position other countries take on this issue - I say this with great caution. The strategic partnership between Germany and Russia will therefore also have to prove itself in the resolution of the conflicts with Iran. I am hopeful and optimistic that this will succeed, although I am sure we still have a few difficult discussions ahead of us.

The stance on the issue of Iran adopted by countries which are gaining in prominence - I will cite China, India and Brazil as three examples of many - will also be a deciding factor. The broader the consensus among the international community on what is and what is not acceptable, the deeper this will impress upon Iran.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have many other regions to take into consideration. I do not intend to list them all - Belarus, the southern Caucasus and Central Asia are three. We must give thought to how we can handle all these conflicts and implement solutions within global structures and institutions.

We need rapid responses, and I am therefore of the opinion that the reform of the United Nations is of special importance. The United Nations is currently too slow in its response capability, and this therefore requires more than mere structural changes. It concerns the capability to act of a global institution to which Germany and I myself attach considerable importance. At the United Nations Summit in September 2005 some progress was made. Certain steps were taken - I am thinking of the Peacebuilding Commission, for example. But the reform of the Security Council is dragging its feet. This will be a crucial factor in whether the United Nations can be transformed into a more capable instrument.

I personally also believe that the tools of conflict prevention and crisis management have to be made more effective. This requires an international legal basis. In my view international law must be developed within the context of the United Nations - at least, that would be the optimal solution - to ensure the existence of a legitimate, widely supported foundation on which to base our responses to the entirely new challenges of the 21st century. Germany intends to do what it can to achieve this.

Ladies and gentlemen, Germany knows what it has to do. Germany feels a strong allegiance to the European Union and intends to do its part to foster integration within the European Union, and Germany believes in the transatlantic partnership. We know our strengths, but we also know our limits. A country with 80 million inhabitants will not be able to overcome the challenges of globalization single-handedly, neither in seizing economic cooperation opportunities - here we need institutions such as the WTO and many others - nor in guaranteeing our own security. We are therefore convinced from the point of view of our own deepest interests that we need alliances such as NATO, and that we need the transatlantic partnership. In my experience this self-interest is in politics always the best motivation for high-level cooperation.

I want to state explicitly that the positive message I heard during my trip to the United States was that here, too, there is a deep awareness that the United States of America needs the Europeans. We were not always sure whether that was the case. But in the mutual recognition that none of us can master the challenges of the 21st century alone, I believe that we need to strengthen the transatlantic partnership and that we can also influence the strengthening process. Germany, for its part, will do what it can to this end.

Thank you very much!

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
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