In the run-up to the Munich Security Conference [February 17-19], leading German foreign policy experts [called] on the EU to reposition itself on the world stage, replacing the United States as the West’s “torchbearer.” Since Washington’s change of government, the United States no longer “qualifies as the symbol of the West’s political and moral leadership,” according to Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Munich Security Conference. It is therefore up to Europe “to make up for this loss.” Chancellor Angela Merkel [gave] a programmatic speech…, focusing on the future relationship between the EU and the USA. In anticipation of the looming power struggle, in the German capital, the EU [was] already being warned not to allow itself to be torn apart by outside rivals. Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth cautioned against “special deals” being made between individual EU countries and the new Trump administration. If there is sufficient coherence necessitating, for example, majority decisions in foreign policy, “we Europeans” could become an “impressive political and military power,” Ischinger cajoled.
The calls for the EU’s repositioning on the world stage have been sparked by the profound transformations in global power structures, as indicated by the “Munich Security Report 2017,” published on Monday [February 13]. Since 2015, the organizers of the Munich Security Conference have been publishing an annual report to accompany their event and promote political discussions. The authors remind of China’s continuous rise, a platitude, which, for years, has been part of discussions on the development of international politics. They also state that Russia’s influence is growing. It seems that Moscow’s intervention in Syria may be “successful.” The Russian government, in fact, has initiated a peace process for Syria without western participation.Irrespective of its success, this is an outright breach in the West’s domination of global policy since 1990 and there are signs of similar developments in other countries. The world may be “on the brink of a post-Western age, one in which non-Western actors are shaping international affairs,” according to the new Munich Security Report.
Germany’s Profit Model
There are also serious contingencies between Berlin and the new US administration, with President Donald Trump’s rejection of free trade playing a primary role. Free trade, however, is the basis for the continuation of the German export industry’s boom, to which the German establishment owes a large portion of its prosperity and power. Trump’s announcement of a renegotiation of free trade agreements or levy of import taxes, threatens Germany’s profit model with its huge trade surplus, at the expense of its markets. The German government, therefore, does not exclude a trade war with the United States. At the same time, Germany is seeking to assume the role of the defender of global free trade — in clear contrast to the USA and in the hopes of realizing a long-cherished project — ascending on the world stage to “eye level” with Washington.
In its political PR, Berlin is extolling its struggle for free trade, as a struggle for “liberal values” — a travesty, in view of the EU’s deadly repulsion of refugees or the close cooperation with repressive regimes such as the dictatorships on the Arabian Peninsula. This PR, however, has success, thanks to widespread international indignation over the new US President’s racist-chauvinist policy. Chancellor Merkel had already assumed this posture in her first reaction to Donald Trump’s election victory. Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Munich Security Conference, has expressed a similar view. “The United States, unfortunately, no longer qualifies as the West’s symbol of political and moral leadership,” Ischinger declared last weekend. “The advent of Trump, signifies the end [of] the West, with the USA as the torchbearer.” Now it is up to Europe “to replace this loss, so that the West does not completely lose out as the model and example” on issues, such as “human rights, liberty, dignity and the role of the individual.” German media have already begun to attribute the role of the “Anti-Trump” to President-elect Frank-Walter Steinmeier. This is remarkable considering the former head of the Chancellery’s involvement in Germany’s support for the CIA’s program of kidnappings and torturing of suspects.
The Emancipation of the EU
At the same time, Berlin — currently stronger than ever, economically and in terms of political authority — is calling on the EU to close ranks even tighter. Had the EU — following the signing of the Lisbon Treaty — “been able to establish a political union … without a crisis, it would today be an authoritative power,” Ischinger says. However, unfortunately it finds itself “in an existential crisis.” “It is so bad that in Munich (at the Security Conference, editor’s note), certain EU members refuse to sit on the same podium with this or that other EU representative,” even though “an emancipation of the EU” is long overdue. “We need to end particularism now — not in 20 years,” Ischinger appeals. A transition to “foreign policy majority decisions” is essential. Berlin does not need to worry. “Over the past 20 years, we Germans have hardly ever been overruled by a majority vote in EU foreign policy decisions.” Still, as a safeguard, “an opt-out possibility should be created, for extreme cases.” “Such regulations are possible.” Ischinger extends the bait: “Together with a foreign policy decision-making authority, we Europeans would then be an impressive political-military power.”
For the looming power struggles, not only with Russia but also, at least partially, with the USA, Berlin and its followers in Brussels are already appealing to the EU members to maintain unity against any form of outside lobbying efforts. Concerning Washington’s potential offers, Michael Roth, Deputy Foreign Minister, declared, “it won’t benefit anyone in Europe, if individual countries get involved in special deals with the U.S.” President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker is already attempting to rally the rest of the EU member states against Great Britain. “The British” will have “little problem” in “dividing” the EU-27, and they “know very well how to go about it,” alleged Juncker…. “Country A will be promised this, country B, that, while country C, something else, and in sum, no European front will be formed.”
The War Union
At the same time, Berlin is resolutely pushing for the EU’s comprehensive militarization. The necessary preparations were already initiated last summer. Concrete measures are currently being undertaken, while further steps are in preparation. german-foreign-policy.com will report more tomorrow Wednesday.
5. See Rekorde mit Risiken.
6. See Transatlantic Trade War.
9. “Donald Trump macht mir Angst”. http://www.tagesspiegel.de 11.02.2017.
11. See A President’s Policy. german-foreign-policy.com.
12. Donald Trump macht mir Angst”. http://www.tagesspiegel.de 11.02.2017.
13. “Die EU ist Opfer einer perfiden Diffamierungskampagne”. http://www.welt.de 13.02.2017.
14. “Die Briten werden die EU-Staaten auseinander dividieren”. http://www.deutschlandfunk.de 12.02.2017.
(February 14, 2017)