German Leadership Examined
On Wednesday, 4th December 2013, the GMF Warsaw Office organized a panel discussion on “German Leadership Examined”, based on the recently launched GMF-SWP report: “New Power, New Responsibility: Elements of a German foreign and security policy for a changing world.” The report is the product of a taskforce convened by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP – German Institute for International and Security Affairs), and supported by the policy planning staff of the German Federal Foreign Office.
The report was presented by Dr. Constanze Stelzenmüller, senior transatlantic fellow at GMF, with comments by Jakub Wiśniewski, director of the Department of Strategy and Foreign Policy Planning at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Paweł Świeboda, president of demosEUROPA. Michal Baranowski, GMF Warsaw Office director, moderated the discussion.
Constanze Stelzenmüller began her presentation by describing the process by which the bipartisan taskforce (40 experts drawn from the Bundestag, government, academia, business, foundations, think tanks, media, and non-governmental organizations) was set up and divided into four working groups on Germany and the international order, Germany and Europe, Germany and its strategic partnerships, and Germany and international security. The four groups met in three plenaries between November 2012 and June 2013; there were numerous group meetings in between, at which chapters were drafted and discussed. She emphasized that the report is not a consensus document, and that all task force members were participating in an individual capacity. Stelzenmüller then briefly reviewed the four main chapters of the report, emphasizing its key message: Germany’s existential dependence on globalization gives it an overwhelming strategic interest – and responsibility – in preserving, protecting, and adapting the free, collaborative and peaceful international order which makes globalization possible.
The comments as well as the discussion touched on a broad range of issues, from the coalition negotiations in Germany and the role of think tanks in its strategic culture, to immigration policy; the possibility of a British EU exit, the growth of populist sentiment in Europe, and the enlargement of the Eurozone were also discussed at length.
Whereas one panellist argued that Poland will not adopt the euro because of the currency’s weakness, another noted that Poland might do well to follow the example of Latvia and Lithuania and join, because this would give Warsaw even more leverage in Europe (and over Germany), ultimately giving Poland a stronger voice within the EU.
German-Russian relations – a key concern in Warsaw – were described as currently cool and pragmatic at best. But the panellists agreed that Germany and the EU must not remain passive towards Russia’s civil society, all the more because Europe’s Eastern neighbourhood remains in flux. They noted that if Ukraine finally signed the EU accession agreement, this would have a ‘game changing’ effect on the entire EU – Russia relationship.
Meanwhile, Polish – German cooperation remains productive. In fact, the two neighbors have never been on better terms. Polish discussants nonetheless noted that Germany should use its ‘New Power’ more vigorously (and with Polish support) to help to solve problems within the EU and beyond its Eastern borders, in particular, helping the civil societies of Ukraine and Belarus societies to move closer to the EU. Poland, as one of Germany’s strongest allies, is the key to open many doors in this region.