Germany as a “Force for European Orientation”

Norbert Röttgen outlines his expectations for German foreign policy

07/05/2015 | 18:30 - 20:00 | DGAP Berlin | Members only


Category: Germany, International Policy/Relations

Röttgen, who chairs the Bundestag’s committee on foreign relations, identified three major upheavals that are threatening stability in the world today: the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the collapse of states in North Africa, and the internal erosion of EU unity. These are the greatest challenges for German – and European – foreign policy, said the CDU politician. His speech was given to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the DGAP. Audio file below (in German).

© DGAP/Dirk Enters

How robustly should German foreign policy respond to the crises? The country presently enjoys a high degree of political and economic stability. According to Röttgen, this makes it all the more appropriate and necessary for Germany to take on new foreign policy responsibilities. He spoke of the country’s “role as a force for European orientation.” Whether Berlin wants it or not, other nations are going to orient themselves toward Germany.

While the term “force for orientation” (Orientierungsmacht) is not set in stone, Röttgen sees it as better suited than the oft-used expression “shaping power” (Gestaltungsmacht). Germany as a foreign policy actor can only engage in “shaping” while working together with international partners, and in doing so, Germany must take on a role as a force for orientation. In political terms, this means working on solutions and showing resilience even after media interest has passed. It also means explaining foreign policy positions to the public.

European Unity and the Transatlantic Relationship

The politician from the Christian democratic party stressed that European unity is the greatest strategic asset for solving acute problems. Without it, there is no ability to negotiate. This is as true for the solving the Ukraine crisis and repairing the relationship with Russia as it is for addressing other international emergencies. For, according to Röttgen, these can only be met if the spirit of European solidarity is revived. If the EU is not in a position to mend its own inner splits, outsiders will not perceive it as a full-fledged foreign policy actor.

Transatlantic unity, moreover, needs not only to be preserved but also founded afresh. There are no more monopolies in international relations. The West is a shrinking minority in a globalizing world. “If we want to preserve values such as rule of law, reason, human rights, and tolerance, then we need a new transatlantic relationship and a new policy on the part of the West.” In the discussion that followed his speech, Röttgen explained that, in light of the NSA scandal, it is not so much a matter of redefining Germany’s relationship with the US as of rethinking its relationship with its own services.

International Crises: A Key Area of Action

Arriving at a common European policy toward Russia is, in Röttgen’s opinion, the EU’s primary challenge for the future. He expressed optimism that outside pressure would help reestablish a cooperative relationship with Russia. Only united action is an option for the EU. A military option would bring no solution to the conflict.

Röttgen had sharply critical words about the new waves of migration to Europe. Policy here has been “in denial” for too long and reacted to developments too slowly and hesitantly. The growing number of migrants from the Middle East and from Africa who are attempting to cross the Mediterranean is a problem that cannot be responded to be “with a little bit of police training.” In the discussion following his speech, he conceded that the basic problem had “unsolvable dimensions.”

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11.05.2015 | von | Länge: 1:36:7