Friday, February 21, 2014

Merkel at Bergedorf: September 9, 2011

Angela Merkel, then in her sixth year as Chancellor of Germany, gave the opening address for the 149th Bergedorf Round Table discussion on September 9, 2011. The Bergedorf Round Table was founded in 1961 and brings together diplomats and intellectuals from around the world. These thrice yearly meetings are held with the goal of discussing current international issues. Merkel was asked to speak as part of the Bergedorf Round Table’s fiftieth anniversary which, incidentally, occurred two days before the tenth anniversary of 9/11/01. 

Merkel reflects on world events of the last decades as well as Germany’s stance on foreign policy moving forwards. She stresses the necessity of diplomacy and close allies as well as the acceptability of force. Her comments regarding her American allies are intriguing when one considers the phone- tapping scandal that would occur two years later.

Despite all our daily cares and the challenges of today’s world, we should remind ourselves time and time again what a great boon it is to live our lives in freedom – a boon for each one of us and also a boon for our country. Some had hoped in 1989 that once the cold war ended, a new golden age would dawn. Today we know that hope was bound to be disappointed. Tensions long overlaid by the East-West conflict suddenly erupted. We looked on as the Balkans were engulfed by wars that cost over 200,000 lives. The Transdniestria conflict broke out. The conflict over Nagorny Karabakh began. Abkhazia and South Ossetia attempted to secede from Georgia. There was turmoil in the northern Caucasus.

Outside Europe the hope that, with the cold war over, it would be easier to resolve conflicts in the Middle East, Korea or Kashmir proved equally unfounded. The opposite was the case, we soon found. Not long after the Iron Curtain was torn down Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait brought us back to earth with a bump. That was not the end of it. In addition to the classical territorial conflicts I’ve mentioned, we were also faced with totally new, so-called asymmetrical threats: terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy and cyber attacks. In the years ahead there are likely to be increasing conflicts, too, over water and commodities.

The day after tomorrow will bring the tenth anniversary of the most devastating
asymmetrical attack we have ever witnessed. The horrific images that reached us from New York and Washington on 11 September are still fresh in all our minds. Everyone remembers, I expect, exactly where we were at the time.Some 3000 lives were lost. Today, as then, our thoughts and sympathy are with the families of the victims.

So as we’ve seen, ladies and gentlemen, the initial euphoria over the end of the East-West conflict has given way to a more sober assessment of the new realities. Yet despite all the crises and setbacks of these past two decades, it’s vital to remember that these years have also brought a host of extremely positive things –first and foremost the enlargement of the European Union from 15 to 27 countries. After centuries marred all too often by doom and destruction, Europe has become a unique bastion of freedom, peace, stability and prosperity. Following the bloody conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, NATO and the EU have brought the Balkans a measure of stability. The European perspective that has been offered the countries of the Western Balkans will also be the basis for lasting peace in the region. The civil war that threatened in 2001 in Macedonia was successfully averted. In 2005/ 2006 the European Union helped resolve the conflict in Aceh in Indonesia. In 2006 the EU played its part in ensuring the elections in the Congo passed off peacefully. Last but not least, with their ongoing antipiracy operations, the European Union and NATO are preventing a further deterioration in the situation in the Horn of Africa.

There are three main conclusions to be drawn from all these developments, conflicts and engagements.

Firstly, in an increasingly connected world there is no way Germany – or any other country – can resolve conflicts on its own. We – like all our partners, including the United States of America – are dependent on functioning partnerships and alliances. Whether developments in Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan are the issue, or the best way to deal with the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes or the constitutional crisis in Bosnia, one thing is clear: the many actors involved need to work together if any  progress is to be achieved.

For Germany one fundamental remains unchanged: our partnership with the United States and the transatlantic alliance. These are the cornerstone of our foreign and security policy. That’s why the 9 /11 attacks were not only an attack against the United States but also an attack on us. And beyond that, they were attacks on the entire free world. So it was only logical that NATO responded by invoking the mutual defence clause in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Since then Germany has been working together with our partners in Afghanistan to ensure it will never again be a base for exporting terrorism to our countries. We’ve also joined forces with our partners to tackle the problem of Iran’s nuclear programme. And we’re part of the efforts to resolve the conflict in the Middle East and the remaining problems in the Balkans.

But our relations with the United States are built on more than just a security partnership. Their foundations go far, far deeper. We have a multitude of ties across the Atlantic, ties shaped by a shared history, a shared culture and above all by shared values. This is what enables us to pull together in tackling the many global challenges facing this 21st century. I firmly believe that in future, in a multipolar world, Europe and America will, by virtue of their shared values, be welded together even more closely – and for the same reason also challenged. As we Germans see it, these shared values are the foundation of both transatlantic partnership and European integration…

It’s true of course that in this integrated Europe Germany and France certainly don’t have the deciding voice. As for our other partners, they may be smaller, yet we must never forget them, let alone our neighbour Poland, for that matter. But it’s also true that without Germany and France pulling together, it’s hard to imagine how any progress in Europe can be made. Recent years have done little to alter this fact – and I expect it will be no different in the foreseeable future either.
The friendship between Germany and France is never directed against anyone, however. It is about one thing and one thing only: deepening European integration.  Both today and in future this is the key to our continent’s security and prosperity. That is why, also in the current debt crisis, we’re pulling together. For it’s our common belief that solidarity coupled with solidity is the right way to safeguard the euro over the long term – as a stable currency and hence guarantor of a Europe that holds together.

In the area of crisis management not just NATO but also the European Union is now playing an increasingly major role. We can see this in Georgia, in Kosovo and in Operation ATALANTA off the Horn of Africa. Nevertheless, the way the Common Security and Defence Policy and the European External Action Service are developing still lags behind expectations. More concrete and practical engagement, a greater  presence on the ground would count for more than ceaseless disputes on institutional issues between the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament.

For Europe’s institutions to agree on who does what isn’t enough, I may add. European policy-making will be effective only if member states, national governments and parliaments and the public at large are involved in the process and their interests taken into account. That goes also and in particular for foreign and security policy, which is of course a quintessential part of national sovereignty.

The first point I made – that no country can solve the problems of this world alone – leads on quite logically to my second point: the emerging economies must now assume greater responsibility. That goes for security, environmental, climate and energy issues as well as other matters of global importance.
That’s the very reason Germany has agreed with Russia, China and India to hold regular intergovernmental consultations. For the first time this year we’ve held such consultations with China and India with a view to intensifying our relations. This has been a valuable experience for us. And it has also driven home to us just how different our countries are in size. When the German and Chinese agriculture ministers, for example, discuss their various tasks, one is speaking about slightly more than one million people, the other about some 400 million.   

As the economies of these new players grow stronger, it’s only natural and logical that they should assume greater responsibility for managing regional conflicts. For the  United States and Europe would be biting off far more than they can chew if they were to intervene in every conflict around the world. Operations such as the election support mission in the Congo five years ago must remain the exception. That’s why we see our task as to support these new players as well as regional organizations…

In situations where we’re reluctant – after the appalling experience in Somalia in 1993/94, for example – to intervene ourselves in a conflict, it’s usually not enough to offer other countries and organizations simply words of encouragement. We need to assist countries willing to contemplate it to prepare for such engagement. Assistance of this kind, let me make plain, may also be in the form of arms exports – but of course only in accordance with clear and generally recognized principles. We would do well, however, to try and go a step further. If we agree with our Atlantic Alliance partners that NATO can’t resolve all conflicts and it’s up to the emerging economies and the regional organizations to assume greater responsibility, we as an Alliance should seek progressively to develop a common policy on arms exports. Such a common policy must and will always be restrictive in nature. In every single case it must and will be geared to a foreign policy aimed at promoting respect for human rights. Otherwise any value-based policy will be sheer impossible…

That takes me to my third point. While the use of military force as a last resort can and must not be ruled out, none of the conflicts we’re faced with today can be resolved by military force alone.

This is the conviction underlying the European Security Strategy and NATO’s new Strategic Concept. So we have the six party talks and the E 3 + 3 talks on the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programmes, the 5 + 2 talks on Transdniestria and the efforts of the Middle East Quartet. In Afghanistan, too, there needs to be a political solution that brings all parties on board. This is the only way to build lasting stability. Or let’s consider Libya, the most recent case. There can be no doubt that the intervention of NATO, of our allies, played a pivotal role in bringing down the  Gaddafi regime. I have profound respect for this operation. Incidentally, our abstention in the UN Security Council at no time signified neutrality on our part. What’s  important now is to give the country whatever support it wishes in building democratic institutions. From all this it’s clear that in many parts of the world – and particularly in Afghanistan – Germany is making a major military contribution, while insisting also on the need for civilian engagement and the importance, too, of economic sanctions, I may add. To get dictators to fall into line, targeted sanctions directed against those responsible for human rights abuses should be imposed much more often in fact. That’s why in the UN Security Council Germany is urging that severe sanctions be imposed on Syria and Iran. Given the way Iran continues to develop its nuclear programme, whose supposedly civilian nature is purely a facade, the international community ought, in my view, to consider further sanctions. The close cooperation between Presidents Ahmadinejad and Assad speaks volumes.

Ladies and gentlemen, these, then, are the three fundamental parameters of Germany’s foreign and security policy in the 21st century. Firstly, conflicts in today’s world cannot be solved by any country acting alone but only by viable alliances and partnerships. Secondly, the emerging economies need to assume greater responsibility in the international arena. Thirdly, to be effective, crisis prevention and crisis management require a mix of tools – diplomacy, development and cultural policy, police work and also military measures.

Germany knows its responsibility for the wider world. The prosperity we have achieved in a world order built on freedom, our interests and our values – all this requires us to assume responsibility. In today’s interconnected world it’s in our own vital interest for democracy and stability everywhere to be strengthened…

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Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, “Germany Knows Its Responsibility for the Wider World,” The Bergedorf Round Table, Berlin, Germany, September 9, 2011. 

--Taby Katz

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