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Talk on “Future Foreign Policy and Strategic Security Challenges for Germany and Europe"

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  • August 22, 2012
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    Speaker: Dr. Andreas Schockenhoff, Member of German Bundestag (German Parliament) and Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU- parliamentary group in the German Bundestag for Foreign Affairs, Affairs of the European Union and Defence Policy.

    Chair: Lt Gen (Retd.) Satish Nambiar, Distinguished Fellow, IDSA

    Lt Gen (Retd.) Nambiar initiated the proceedings by highlighting the importance of the European Union (EU) in being a role model for international cooperation and management of economies and borders. At a time when Germany continues to be the mainstay of the 27 member Union, he argued that India can learn many things from it especially when India wants to play a leading role in South Asia.

    Dr Andreas Schockenhoff opened his presentation by calling for India to play a more prominent role in global affairs. He emphasized that EU must harness India’s enormous global economic, political and strategic potential through improved trade, economic, political and technological cooperation. Elaborating on the lessons learnt after 2 centuries of division and 2 devastating wars in the 20th Century, Dr. Schockenhoff emphasized on the importance of European countries to strive for integration in European trans-national structures. Integration is a sign of strength and has the inherent potential to solve global crisis. Present day Europe represents 40% of global trade, 20% of global production and by the end of this century will represent less than 5% of the global population. Therefore, more political integration of Europe is a question of political and societal survival. Dr. Schockenhoff observed that the current Euro crisis is not just a currency but also a debt crisis of national budgets. Although there is a single market along with a common currency, there are also numerous fiscal and social policies and different forms of public spending. The challenge is to achieve economic and political integration in Europe since growth and fiscal consolidation are complimentary to each other.
    Dr. Schockenhoff argued that questions remain over the strategic role of EU in a multipolar 21st Century and whether it will have the economic and the political leverage to play a meaningful role in global affairs. Achieving this target would involve not just political but also defence and security integration across Europe. On some of the international initiatives of the European Union, Dr. Schockenhoff highlighted its transformation partnership with Tunisia and Egypt,? which he termed more credible than the previous EU neighbourhood policy. It aims to promote rule of law, democracy and governance. Economic development is a pillar of this programme but there are stringent conditions to prevent its misuse. But the more significant question is how to deal with Islamist parties. He felt that the jury is still out on two pertinent issues: a) the degree of separation between state and religion and b) the nature of religious freedom enjoyed by the minorities. The onus is now on the ruling parties to prove that they have distanced themselves from religious dogmatism and people are free to practise other religions.

    On the developments in Syria, Dr. Schockenhoff emphasized that the EU remains committed to the Syrian people’s struggle for freedom, democracy and dignity. There is a need for initiating an inclusive and transparent national transition political process. This can be achieved only if Assad steps down since he is responsible for most of the killings. In addition, the opposition groups should try to settle differences between they have. He called on Russia and China to end their support and protection of the current regime and felt that the UNSC must condemn and isolate Assad. The UNSC should also look at imposing sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN.

    On the Iran-Israel conflict, Dr. Schockenhoff argued that Germany is continuing with its defence partnership of selling submarines to Israel as part of its responsibility to protect the Jewish state. The submarines are a vital part of Israel’s defence strategy though it is not known whether they are armed with nuclear weapons. However, the prevalence of nuclear bombs on board will be vital for a second strike capability essential to the country’s survival. The submarines also act as a nuclear deterrent. Dr. Schockenhoff called upon Iran to immediately meet is international nuclear obligations. He observed that there is a need to make Iran feel the impact of stringent sanctions so that effective negotiations can take place. The red line for Israel will be Iran entering its ‘immunity zone’ when the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon. That moment could come very soon.

    On the question of Afghanistan, Dr. Schockenhoff emphasized that EU is committed to the completion of transition process as mentioned in the NATO Lisbon summit of 2010 and reconfirmed in the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012. The principle of ‘together in and together out’ is sacrosanct with Germany committing its troops till the end of 2014. While ISAF troops are being withdrawn, a second mandate for the withdrawal of troops will be approved. This will include separate forces for the protection of the withdrawing troops. He said that Germany is committed to the country’s long term stability and development.

    On the issue of the European defence, Dr. Schockenhoff argued that Europe needs its own strong and credible defence and security policy. Given the prevailing financial crisis across the Eurozone, the ability to take effective action in the realm of security policy can be guaranteed only through closer military cooperation and integration. Germany can aim to achieve military integration and pooling of resources with other European countries over projects like joint air and coastal defence, joint training, single command and control structures and information systems. However, the Bundestag (German Parliament) must have the right of recall with reference to such decisions.

    Dr. Schockenhoff concluded by highlighting the two pillars of ongoing European Reforms:

    1. Greater political governance of European market and currency involving fiscal and budgetary discipline;
    2. Increased military cooperation and integration of military capabilities.

    Points raised during discussions:

    1. There is a huge potential to develop India-Germany partnership especially in areas of education, renewable energy, technological research, innovation, space, earth observation and climate change.
    2. China has not taken responsibility in promoting international stability and security but is more interested in protecting its own interests.
    3. In a multipolar world order, India should not adopt a neutral position on key global issues. Taking decisions implies takings risks but it also involves shouldering responsibilities.
    4. It is difficult to ensure balance between non interference and regime change from outside. The answer could be engagement. Civil wars and homicides are no longer regional but are international problems.
    5. Instability in Pakistan is a more dangerous threat to international stability than the situation in Afghanistan. There is a need to make sure that disruptive elements in Pakistan are not a threat to its neighbours and the international community.

    The highlight of the interaction was the general consensus amongst the scholars and the German delegation of the need for both countries to work together on a global platform to solve problems of mutual concern.

    Report prepared by Rajorshi Roy, Research Assistant, IDSA.

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