NEW WORLD ORDER, NEW PARTNERS?
FOR GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY
Strengthening a values and rules-based world order
The fact that values and interests are inextricably linked with each other is more or less in the DNA of German foreign policy. For Konrad Adenauer, Germany’s consistent ties to the West were not only the most promising path to security and prosperity for a nation in ruins, but were, above all, a decision in favour of freedom. The steady integration of Germany into the community of free peoples became the basis of a decades-long success story, culminating, for the time being at least, in the free and peaceful unification of 1990.
Safeguarding our prosperity via free trade and innovation
Free trade and innovation are essential for Germany, with its lack of natural resources. Close strategic partnerships are needed to strengthen this core interest of German foreign policy. Intensifying such partnerships beyond existing trade relations, whether with export markets in Latin America (for example Brazil) or Asia (for example Vietnam), and adopting innovation policy initiatives from similar economies (for example Switzerland), should act as a guideline for a forward-looking economic and innovation policy.
The security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world
The security and stability of Europe are highly relevant to the Federal Republic of Germany and they therefore need to be given priority in German foreign and security policy. As a result of the European integration process of the past 30 years, Germany’s security interests are largely congruent with Europe’s security interests. Due to the close political and economic interrelations and interdependencies of the European states, security policy can only be thought of and designed as European security policy.
Securing essential natural resources and protecting the climate
Direct or indirect access to natural resources is a prerequisite for human life and economic activity. Essentially, this involves vital resources such as air, water and food, along with an environment with moderate temperatures or with the wherewithal for protecting against hazardous weather.
Regulating global migration flows
Few countries have benefited as much from globalisation – which also involves the sharp rise in global migration flows– as Germany. The number of international migrants has increased in the last 30 years by more than 100 million to more than 250 million people, while the population of the Federal Republic of Germany without immigration would be around 10 million below its current 83 million. Economic success, along with the social and pension systems, already depend to a large extent on immigration, and that trend is rising.
Europe and North America
Europe and North America are the primary points of reference for Germany’s foreign policy. They are the decisive – albeit not the only relevant – regions toward which all foreign policy action must be directed. The EU and the transatlantic partnership, symbolised by NATO, form the cornerstones of German foreign policy.
The Middle East and North Africa
Developments in the Middle East and North Africa always have an impact on Europe. The two regions are not only inextricably linked by geography, but also by historic and diverse cultural and social interrelations. The migration crisis in 2015 was a good example of how destabilisation of the Middle East and North Africa can have significant consequences for Germany and the European Union.
Germany and Latin America have been linked for centuries. No other region in the world beyond the vicinity of Europe and the North Atlantic region is as close to Germany historically, culturally and spiritually as Latin America. The predominantly Christian region with close historical ties to Europe has always seen itself as part of the western world and is therefore a natural partner in the pursuit of peace, freedom and security in the world.
Asia and the Pacific
Key future trends can already be identified in the Asia-Pacific region: a bifurcating demographic development, with high population growth rates in South and Southeast Asia (in contrast to a rapidly ageing population in Northeast Asia); expanding domestic markets and increasing global interdependence of economies (which, at the same time, are hoping that digitisation will bring new impulses for economic value creation); massive security risks from internal and cross-border conflicts; increasing “exploitation” of natural resources; irreversible environmental damages in the medium term and climate change that, thus far, has been inexorable. And Asia-Pacific is (and always has been) a starting point for global pandemics.
Even before the appearance of the new coronavirus, the introductory words in the German government’s coalition agreement on cooperation with Africa left no doubt about the relevance of this world region for German foreign policy: In no other region of the world are changes in international politics as drastic as in Africa. Working in partnership with the states of Africa is a central task of our time.
The unstable security situation throughout the Sahel region reveals the weakness of state authorities in the region. Niger’s security forces are also struggling to exercise effective control of the country. Several terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram, regularly attack military bases and also civilians. Niger is also one of the poorest countries in the world and is dealing with numerous governance problems, including regular accusations of corruption against government representatives or officials. There have even been deaths during demonstrations by young people against the rampant corruption and bad governance. The Nigerien government’s measures against the coronavirus, especially the closure of mosques, have also led to violent clashes between mainly young demonstrators and the security forces. Amnesty International is also protesting against the use of the controversial cybercrime prevention law to suppress voices critical of the government in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
With a population of around 200 million, Nigeria is not only the largest country in Africa, but it has also been the continent’s largest economy for some years now. The country is rich in oil and gas and is one of the largest oil exporters in the world. Nonetheless, Nigeria faces immense security and economic problems, which are worsening as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and could further destabilise the entire region in the medium to long term, posing major challenges for Europe. This applies both to the European interest in supporting the Sahel states in their fight against terrorism and to reducing irregular migration from Africa.
Despite its relatively small population of approximately 28 million inhabitants, Ghana is growing in relevance for Germany. This is evident not least of all from the fact that Ghana has been included in the Compact with Africa project since 2017 and became one of Germany’s reform partner countries in the same year. Ghana’s willingness to accept reforms in the economic and fiscal policy sector, along with its framework, which is relatively stable and reliable compared to many other Sub-Saharan African countries, made Ghana an interesting partner for the G20, and especially for Germany (as a reform partnership).
Kenya is the most stable country in East Africa and is an economy that is oriented toward the west. With consistently strong economic growth in the twelve years before the coronavirus crisis and a GDP of just under 88 billion US dollars (2018), Kenya is the largest economy in East Africa and a growth engine for the entire region. Thanks to the port of Mombasa and the airport in Nairobi, the country is an important hub for trade and finance. Many international companies have chosen Kenya as the seat of their (East) Africa branches.
According to Federal Minister Müller, Africa is to become the “green continent of renewable energies”. South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, is pursuing ambitious goals in this field, similar to what is being debated in Germany. Examples include the reduction of CO2 emissions and minimizing the dependence on coal. In order to do so, South Africa has introduced a carbon tax in 2019.
The Expo 2017 world exhibition, a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (2018), the peace talks on Syria: no country in Central Asia is as oriented towards Europe and Germany as Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, much of what has happened recently in Kazakhstan and Central Asia has remained below Germany’s threshold of perception.
For decades, Afghanistan was the country with the largest diaspora in the world. In 2015, this position was taken by Syria. Afghanistan looks back on 40 years of fleeing refugees, emigration and expulsion due to civil war, violence and destroyed livelihoods. Since 2001, the country has been one of Germany’s most important security partners in the Middle East. Afghanistan is also a reliable partner in migration policy and has never used migration flows as political leverage.
For Germany, Japan is one of the most important economic and value partners in Asia. In addition to the wish for jointly maintaining and further developing the multilateral order, there is also the desire for closer cooperation in future technologies. Japan and Germany face similar challenges, particularly in regard to the future of industrial production and the demographic development of their societies.
Germany has a vital interest in maintaining and consolidating a world order based on the values of liberal democracy and on the centrality of the United Nations (UN). Given the USA’s global withdrawal, which the coronavirus pandemic has made even more evident, Germany needs to pursue this goal together with other international partners. With the Indo-Pacific Guidelines that were released in September 2020, the Federal Government expressly commits itself to this task in the region that is taking centre stage in the 21st century. India’s importance can hardly be overestimated in this respect: India is already the largest democracy in the world, and within the next decade it will replace China as the most populous country. Like Germany, the subcontinent at the Indo-Pacific interface is dependent on a solid security structure, an open trading system, and free navigation in international waters. India is severely affected by the consequences of global warming due to its vulnerable ecosystems and is reliant on multilateral approaches to solve this global problem.
Vietnam is one of the few communist countries. A “socialist-oriented market economy” determines the country’s economic status, the communist party vigorously enforces its claim to total power, and the country is subject to fierce criticism in reports on human rights. At the same time, more than three decades of economic growth and political stability have led to Vietnam establishing itself as an influential player in Southeast Asia. An early and vigorous response to the coronavirus crisis has so far managed to limit the dangers to health and the economy.
Economic growth and employment in Germany largely depend on key, energy-intensive industries, such as chemical or metal production. Despite the increasing importance of renewable energies, petroleum and natural gas – the first and second most important energy sources in Germany – play an important role for these industries.
Belarus is often perceived negatively in the West due to its deficits in terms of democracy and civil liberties. This fails to take into account that the country can be seen as an anchor of stability in terms of security policy, with its position in the centre of Central Eastern Europe, and that it has been committed to international conflict resolution for some time.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the unlawful annexation of Crimea, parts of the country have not been under the control of Kyiv. It is in Ukraine that it will be decided what significance internationally recognised borders will have in 21st century Europe, whether territories can be unilaterally altered, and whether the right of the (militarily) stronger will again take precedence over the sovereignty, self-determination, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.
In many ways, Switzerland is a central partner for Germany in terms of values and interests, particularly in the area of trade and innovation. The economies of both countries are closely intertwined: Germany has been Switzerland’s most important trading partner with more than 22 percent of foreign trade. Conversely, Switzerland is also a key economic partner for Germany: in 2018, it was number 9 among Germany’s foreign trade partners (and thus the fourth largest non-EU country after the USA, China, and the United Kingdom).
Serbia is of central importance for Germany in terms of regulating global migration flows. Since the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2014, a large proportion of refugees from the Middle East, Central and South Asia have been traversing the “Balkan route”. Its main route leads from Turkey and Greece via Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary and Croatia which form the border of the EU. Continuing on from there is difficult because the Hungarian government in particular undertakes very rigid border controls to prevent entry without valid travel documents.
In connection with organised crime, drug trafficking, and the penetration of the state by criminal groups, Mexico – a regional leader and member of the G20 – is facing major challenges that affect both internal and regional security. In view of the cross-border effects of organised crime in Mexico, which extend far beyond the American continent, migration from Central America and other regions of the world through Mexico towards the USA, the significant economic potential as a production location with a well-qualified workforce and privileged access to the US market via the North American Free-Trade Area, Mexico is of great importance for the stability of the region.
According to official data from the Colombian migration authorities, approximately 1.8 million of the more than 4 million Venezuelan migrants are currently in Colombia. According to estimates by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the flow of migrants could increase to 3 million by the end of 2020, not including “transit migrants” or commuters.
Peru is an exception in Latin America in terms of its enormous wealth of resources and biodiversity. The country has three large landscape zones: the coast, most of which is covered by desert, the Andes and the jungle region. According to the World Resource Institute, Peru is one of only eight megadiverse countries in the world, possessing 84 of the 104 existing life zones. 76 percent of the country is occupied by rainforest, which means that the country has the largest share of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil.
In comparison to other Latin American countries and despite its modest size, Uruguay serves as a model with its impressive political and socio-economic status. In a region that is not always stable, the country can look back on a long democratic-republican tradition with functioning institutions and a diverse media landscape.
Secularisation and modernisation have shaped Tunisia’s policies since independence in 1956, especially under the leadership of then President Habib Bourguiba, and continue to have an impact today. Recent representative surveys show that Tunisians feel that they belong first and foremost to their country, then to Islam, and only to a much lesser extent to the Arab world. A clear majority, especially in comparison to the neighbouring countries of Libya, Morocco, and Algeria, favour the separation of state and religion.
Iraq has the world’s fifth largest oil and twelfth largest natural gas reserves. The country is a founding member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and, in recent years, has become its second largest producer. The Iraqi government considers to further expand the oil and gas sector in the coming years, thereby increasing production capacities even more, although experts as well as members of the government call for diversifying the Iraqi economic and energy sector.
In recent years, Morocco has become an important partner for Germany with respect to migration issues. On the one hand, the Kingdom has assumed a special role within the African Union (AU) and the international community; on the other hand, it is itself one of the countries where migration is taking place in varying ways. In February 2019, Morocco presented a new migration policy for Africa at the AU and focused on the prospect of development through migration. The new policy places particular emphasis on the fact that migration is not a security problem, and that there is, in the first instance, a need to combat the causes of migration and fleeing refugees.
In terms of area, Algeria is the largest country in Africa and a key security player in the Sahel. Algeria works intensively with the countries of the region on security issues. This is undertaken within the framework of the respective bilateral relations as well as via regional mechanisms, such as the Nouakchott Process of the African Union (AU), which supports the security policy cooperation of eleven states in West Africa, the Maghreb, and the Sahel.
Which foreign policy interests can be realised with which international partners?
At a time when the European Union and the transatlantic relationship are being significantly challenged and strained, when multilateral institutions and regulations are being questioned, when the liberal world order is under pressure from within and without and when many people are already talking about a new world order – at a time like this, German foreign policy must also focus on strengthening value partnerships beyond the EU and NATO. Some of these partnerships are already firmly established, while others need to be explored, re-established, and expanded.