Reinhard Brandl (Christian Social Union), Agniezska Brugger (Greens), Viola von Cramon (Greens), Bijan Djir-Sarai (Free Democratic Party), Roderich Kiesewetter (Christian Democratic Union), Lars Klingbeil (Social Democratic Party), and Stefan Liebich (Left Party)1
Despite all the political differences between us, we consider it necessary to highlight certain common views that are essential for shaping German foreign policy beyond the current parliamentary term. These constitute key elements that Germany’s next government should take into account, irrespective of which parties it consists of.
For that to happen, there needs to be a much more active public discussion of German foreign policy, and we need to raise awareness of the relevant issues.
Over the past four years, the EU has spent too much time navel-gazing. Dealing with the eurozone crisis is necessary, but it should not distract from the fact that the EU needs to be an active player in what can be a very difficult international environment. If the EU is not willing to take its part in shaping the global order, it is effectively allowing others to determine the course of world events.
Germany has an interest in supporting a more active common European foreign and security policy. It should feel obliged to do so—even though, of course, German interests do not always tally perfectly with those of its European partners. Yet acting through the EU framework gives Germany an influence in international affairs far beyond what is possible through purely national means.
A beefed-up European foreign policy should focus on five areas.
First, the EU has at its disposal a unique mix of instruments for managing crises in Europe’s neighborhood. In the past, national governments have not always shown the political will to use these instruments in a timely and lasting fashion. But Europe can and should be a force for peace; to do so, it needs to enlarge and reinforce its competences.
This means strengthening the capabilities and tools for crisis prevention, crisis management, and crisis follow-up; developing common analytical capabilities at national and at European level; working toward global disarmament and arms control; and helping to support and strengthen the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. At the same time, parliaments should be more closely involved in security policy decisionmaking, both in Brussels and in national capitals.
Second, the EU is right to advocate effective multilateralism. Germany can make a valuable contribution to that. Together with its European partners, it should push for binding global rules in areas that so far have remained largely unregulated: cyberspace, space, and the oceans.
This will involve cooperation—as well as the occasional controversy—with partners like the United States and emerging powers such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and others. In today’s world, acting multilaterally also requires taking into account the interests of nonstate players. Germany should also offer to cooperate with countries that are reticent on security matters. Together with those EU members willing to enter into enhanced cooperation, Germany should press ahead with the concept of a common European security policy.
The third area to focus on is energy. Germany has a stake in transforming the EU into an “area of resource conservation and solidarity.” A sustainable energy policy that ultimately helps to preserve peace needs to use as few fossil resources as possible.
Germany’s contribution should consist in implementing massive energy savings, expanding renewable energies, and abandoning the use of nuclear energy. This can only be achieved in cooperation with the EU’s neighboring regions. In the medium term, while fossil energy is still used, there needs to be an emphasis on diversification and on avoiding energy dependence.
We are concerned to see that, in countries with authoritarian and repressive regimes, profits from oil and gas exports contribute to political stagnation and can impact negatively on human rights. This goes against the interests of a responsible German foreign policy. If we want to achieve an energy policy based on solidarity, we need to create a fully integrated energy market and an infrastructure that allows all EU partners to have the same secure energy access.
Fourth, Germany should campaign for a Europe that remains open to the world. In particular, this means visa liberalization. Wherever possible, visa requirements for visitors from partner countries should be abolished. Students and young workers should be granted easier entry to the EU. Temporary and circular migration, as well as exchange programs for the purposes of education and training, should be facilitated.
Such measures serve both sides: they help to stabilize and transform the countries of origin, and help EU countries to meet their demographic challenges. In this context, EU mobility partnerships are a new and important element. They combine the goals of migration and development policies and allow for a fair balance of interests with partner countries.
Finally, Germany should push for a Europe that is committed to maintaining good relations with its neighbors. As no further EU enlargement is expected over the coming years, it is particularly important that the EU play a stabilizing and formative role in North Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Western Balkans. There should be more support for common initiatives and concrete activities in the Far North, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea. This would prove that, even beyond the borders of the EU, Europe sees itself as a project of for peace, human rights, cooperation, openness, and prosperity.
In time, Europe’s further development as a global player will lead to a situation where demands for a single permanent EU seat at the UN Security Council no longer seem as unrealistic as they do today.
1 The authors are members of the German Bundestag. This article originated with a debating circle at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. The Institute has been advising the Bundestag, the federal government, the business community, and interested specialists on foreign policy issues for over fifty years.