The DNA of Ger­man for­eign pol­icy

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The harsh re­al­ity of the past year has cre­ated un­prece­dented chal­lenges for Ger­many and its for­eign pol­icy. The cri­sis in Ukraine spi­raled out of con­trol, with Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea, fol­lowed by mil­i­tary es­ca­la­tion in the eastern Don­bas re­gion, call­ing into ques­tion the post-1945 Euro­pean or­der. And, though the mea­sures agreed in Minsk ear­lier last month of­fer an op­por­tu­nity to en­ter into a po­lit­i­cal process, other crises – for ex­am­ple, the Ebola epi­demic in West Africa and the ad­vance of ISIS – have pre­sented new, ur­gent chal­lenges.

Whether Ger­many should as­sume greater re­spon­si­bil­ity for seek­ing to re­solve such is­sues is a hotly de­bated ques­tion, both in­side and out­side the coun­try. Dur­ing a year-long “Re­view 2014,” ex­perts, of­fi­cials, and the wider public dis­cussed chal­lenges, pri­or­i­ties, and in­stru­ments of Ger­man for­eign pol­icy, and tried to de­fine Ger­many’s role in the world. At the end of the day, out­comes are al­ways con­crete. In some ar­eas, we have been suc­cess­ful over the last year; in oth­ers, we can and want to do bet­ter.

Ger­many is widely ap­pre­ci­ated for its com­mit­ment to pro­mot­ing peace­ful con­flict res­o­lu­tion, the rule of law, and a sus­tain­able eco­nomic model. Yet it is abun­dantly clear from the Re­view that our part­ners ex­pect a more ac­tive – and even more ro­bust – Ger­man for­eign pol­icy in the fu­ture. Ex­pec­ta­tions are high – per­haps too high at times. So it is up to Ger­many’s peo­ple to an­swer the dif­fi­cult ques­tions: Where do our in­ter­ests lie? How far do our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties ex­tend? What, in short, is the “DNA” of Ger­man for­eign pol­icy?

The ba­sic tenets of Ger­many’s for­eign pol­icy – close part­ner­ship with France within a united Europe and a strong transat­lantic al­liance in terms of both se­cu­rity and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion – have with­stood the test of time, and will re­main a cor­ner­stone of our ap­proach. But now we must ad­dress three key chal­lenges: cri­sis man­age­ment, the chang­ing global or­der, and our po­si­tion within Europe.

For starters, we must face the fact that glob­al­i­sa­tion has made crises the rule, not the ex­cep­tion. Though glob­al­i­sa­tion and digi­ti­sa­tion are driv­ing rapid eco­nomic growth, they are also putting pres­sure on gov­ern­ments world­wide to meet cit­i­zens’ ris­ing ex­pec­ta­tions – even as they con­strain in un­prece­dented ways gov­ern­ments’ abil­ity to act.

In our glob­alised world, many peo­ple feel a grow­ing de­sire for the clear an­swers and time­less va­lid­ity of­fered by straight­for­ward and clear-cut iden­ti­ties. When th­ese iden­ti­ties take the form of na­tion­al­ism or rigidly de­fined re­li­gious or eth­nic cat­e­gories, the con­se­quence, all too of­ten, is bru­tal and un­re­strained vi­o­lence, whether through ter­ror­ism or civil war.

In con­fronting crises, Ger­man for­eign pol­icy must strengthen its fo­cus on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, me­di­a­tion, and pre­ven­tion – or risk be­ing left with no other op­tion but dam­age con­trol. Ger­many is will­ing to do more in this area in­ter­na­tion­ally. We want to act sooner, more de­ci­sively, and in a more sub­stan­tial man­ner – not just when crises be­come acute, but also by fo­cus­ing on con­flict pre­ven­tion and post­con­flict man­age­ment. This re­quires that we hone our tools and de­velop new ones, rang­ing from early-warn­ing mech­a­nisms to en­hanced means of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion.

We will re­view how we can help the United Na­tions more sig­nif­i­cantly in safe­guard­ing and build­ing peace. We must ad­dress, with re­straint and pru­dence – rather than with a re­flex­ive “nein” – the dif­fi­cult ques­tion of whether mil­i­tary means are nec­es­sary to safe­guard po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions. We do not know when and where the next cri­sis will erupt, but we do know that it will – and that we must be bet­ter pre­pared when it does.

But for­eign pol­icy must not fo­cus ex­clu­sively on crises. It must also pre­pare for fu­ture sce­nar­ios. And, be­cause Ger­many is con­nected to the rest of the world like few other coun­tries, a com­mit­ment to a just, peace­ful, and re­silient in­ter­na­tional or­der is a fun­da­men­tal in­ter­est of our for­eign pol­icy. That means ad­just­ing to the long-term changes in the ex­ist­ing or­der’s pa­ram­e­ters – changes that have been wrought, above all, by China’s rapid rise.

As the tec­tonic plates of world pol­i­tics shift, Ger­many must be more pre­cise in defin­ing its own con­tri­bu­tions to main­tain­ing ex­ist­ing struc­tures of in­ter­na­tional or­der and es­tab­lish­ing new ones. We must think more deeply about ways to safe­guard valu­able public goods: the seas, space, and the In­ter­net.

As a re­sult, we must strike the right bal­ance be­tween re­in­forc­ing in­dis­pens­able struc­tures and or­gan­i­sa­tions like the UN and de­vel­op­ing new norms and in­sti­tu­tional means of min­imis­ing long-term risks. The key chal­lenge is to de­velop a proac­tive for­eign pol­icy that in­vests in or­der, in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions, and the in­tel­li­gent strength­en­ing of in­ter­na­tional law.

Then there is Europe, which re­mains the foun­da­tion of Ger­many’s for­eign pol­icy. But here, too, new chal­lenges re­quire new an­swers. Above all, we must pre­vent a strate­gic dilemma in which Ger­many felt forced to de­cide be­tween its com­pet­i­tive­ness in a glob­alised world and Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion. Europe should ben­e­fit from Ger­many’s strength, just as we ben­e­fit from Europe’s. As Europe’s largest econ­omy, we must in­vest in in­te­gra­tion. That is the source of our strength.

At the same time, we must with­stand the temp­ta­tions that come with Ger­many’s cur­rent stature. In very dif­fer­ent ways, the US, Rus­sia, and China are of­fer­ing Ger­many a priv­i­leged re­la­tion­ship. But, though we want to main­tain and strengthen bi­lat­eral ties with im­por­tant part­ner coun­tries, when it comes to shap­ing global devel­op­ment, Ger­many is ca­pa­ble of act­ing ef­fec­tively only within a solid Euro­pean frame­work.

We have no rea­son to shrink from th­ese chal­lenges. Even un­der the pres­sures of a glob­alised world, demo­cratic sys­tems that cham­pion the rule of law are more re­silient than the il­lib­eral regimes that many – in­clud­ing some in Europe – are prais­ing nowa­days. But this does not mean that we can defuse any cri­sis by means of pre­ven­tive ac­tion or clever in­ter­ven­tion. Now more than ever, un­der­stand­ing the lim­its of one’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties is an es­sen­tial part of a vi­able for­eign pol­icy.

This does not mean em­brac­ing moral rel­a­tivism. Our for­eign pol­icy must re­tain its hope­ful­ness and abil­ity to act re­spon­si­bly. Yet hold­ing firm to our moral pre­cepts must go hand in hand with a re­al­is­tic as­sess­ment of con­straints. Ger­many’s global in­ter-con­nect­ed­ness, which has long been vi­tal for our pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity, does not al­low us to pre­tend that we are ei­ther an is­land or a world his­tor­i­cal force.

Within any ef­fec­tive peace strat­egy for the twenty-first cen­tury, for­eign pol­icy must si­mul­ta­ne­ously fo­cus on cri­sis pre­ven­tion and diplo­macy, and bol­ster ef­forts that sup­port trans­for­ma­tion. For Ger­many, all of th­ese ob­jec­tives must be pur­sued within the frame­work of a strong and in­te­grated Euro­pean Union in which we as­sume our lead­er­ship re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for global peace and pros­per­ity. Ger­many has much to of­fer to the world, and we will do so with self­con­fi­dence and hu­mil­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.