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Key Note Speech at 10th German Nordic Baltic Forum 2018

Botschafter Dr. Hans Jürgen-Heimsoeth

Botschafter Dr. Hans Jürgen-Heimsoeth, © Deutsche Botschaft Stockholm

15.11.2018 - Artikel

Dear Minister, dear Ann Linde, dear Björn Fägersten, distinguished guests and participants, ladies and gentlemen, 

The German Nordic Baltic Forum 2018 meets for the 10th time, and that in Stockholm. Let me thank the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) and the Institute for European Politics (IEP) from Berlin for organizing this event and giving me the opportunity to speak.

I am particularly impressed by the fact that this long-standing cooperation does not only show the very close links between government officials and academia from Sweden and Germany, this event also brings us together with our friends and neighbors in the Baltic sea area.

You have come together to exchange views on “EU 4.0” – the future of the EU, as I read the title. You will for sure tackle questions such as: Which future developments can we anticipate, which challenges does the European Union have to face now and in the years to come? How can we best react and prepare the EU?

The agenda of the forum today and tomorrow covers a wide range of – as one says in Swedish “spännande” - issues, ranging from Cyber Security and Resilience, as well as European Security after Brexit, to the Priorities of the Future EU Budget. It will end tomorrow with a panel on “Democracy, Participation and Communication” This already shows how diverse the topics and challenges are.

We must face the fact that we Europeans find ourselves in an uncomfortable world today. We see fundamental changes in the international order that for many years was shaped and preserved by Europe and the United States. We see the rise of new actors on the international stage that no longer share our values and interests. We witness politicians who play on people’s fears with populistic simplifications in order to get elected. We witness fragility and armed conflicts in our immediate neighborhood. Newly emerging technologies are contributing to the complexity of the security challenges we face.

And at the same time, the importance of European countries is shrinking, in terms of population and in economic terms. In today’s world, there are no big and small EU Member States. Every EU Member State, whether it has 10 million or 80 million inhabitants, is a medium-sized country at best.

This makes one thing very clear: We need to work towards a strong and sovereign Europe, a Europe that will be weather-proof for the future. How can we reach this? Well, let me mention four areas where Germany together with your governments can work together in achieving this goal.

First, Europe needs to be united in its positions on the international arena. We all know: the only choice we have is between having a joint voice in the world or no voice at all. At the same time the multilateral system of rules and values has been put at a serious test. Germany is prepared to cooperate closer with all those who are prepared to preserve our rules based world order. As Chancellor Merkel just said in the European Parliament: We cannot anymore blindly rely on others, we have to act ourselves, therefore the EU has to increase its weight and capabilities in the area of foreign and security policy. This is not meant to replace the US. Nobody ever should forget the transatlantic support and security  that has contributed strongly to the prosperity and strength of Europe. This is meant to bridge the gaps that we are seeing recently, be it in the area of global action against climate change or in questions of security or trade. Looking at the maintenance of international peace and security, The United Nations Security Council is at the very heart of the system. Our Security Council membership, which begins next year, will put us in a position to participate in, and contribute to these efforts.

We know that all of you are going in the same direction. That is why we are prepared to make use of our non-permanent membership in the Security Council from 2019 onwards in order to make European positions more visible.

Second, Europe should grow more adult when it comes to its own security. We are well aware of the concerns in the face of the security environment in Northern and Eastern Europe. Violations of airspace, an increased number of military exercises, and Russia’s tight grip on Kaliningrad: the Baltic Region is experiencing a constant threat. This region has experienced an obvious step backward, when it comes to the perception of our own security situation.

Post-War Germany has dealt with several challenges posed by Russia. The German Ostpolitik is a notion that stood for a vigilant and careful way of dialogue and opening in times of the Cold War. Today, our countries have again to find the right answer in how to deal with Russia and European security. We must find clear words and we have to strengthen our resilience; the importance of both NATO and of the EU security and defence policy will increase – which is why Germany leads the eFP battalion in Lithuania and which is why we advocate for a closest possible partnership of Finland and Sweden with NATO. This is the fundament on which we, again and again, have to try to explore possibilities of dialogue. We are prepared to explore this new way forward together with you.

Good progress has been made on the common foreign and security policy of the European Union. The steps taken in the last two years, agreeing on the Global Strategy, working out PESCO in a few months can be really considered a breakthrough. PESCO has very ambitious projects from our Nordic and Baltic partners. In some of the projects like Medical Command, Training and Military mobility we are already working with some of you around the Baltic Sea. These pillars clearly show the EU’s ability to move ahead in times of increased challenges. Now, it is time to enhance our joint action in the civilian capabilities. I am optimistic that the Civilian compact, which is close to an agreement, will strengthen EU capabilities, resources and strategies in order to react to crises in our close or even farther neighborhood.

The topic of cybersecurity which you are going to discuss will play its role in strengthening the resilience of the European Union. We have to be aware how difficult it is to come to global norms on cybersecurity. All the more it is crucial that we Europeans set standards and head the way: The European rule of law has to define the way forward.

Thirdly, Europe has been and will be an economic powerhouse. In order to be successful in the future, Europe needs to work even harder to defend the international Trade system, to open up alternative ways to secure its access to markets, FTAs recently closed with countries in Asia or those under way such as with Mercosur are an example for this. It is also your countries, your industries that are worldwide recognized for their innovative spirit - be it in the field of digitization or climate protection. In this field the partners in the Nordics & Baltics are of particular importance for us.                               We need to join forces and work together on this to keep Europe competitive and attractive on a global scale.

Sweden will be in the limelight next year as partner country of the Hannover Messe – an opportunity to show its competitive edge, not only by the big business companies. But each and every country contributes and should have its voice heard inside the European Union to strengthen our internal market and our economies.

And finally, Europe needs to get stronger from inside. I agree: Not an easy task those days. But let me just mention the debate on the European Budget.  The Coordinator from the German Foreign Office for the multiannual financial framework will also be joining this conference. My take is that if we succeed to modernize the budget, to strengthen the EU for new challenges, such as internal and external security, on making the Eurozone resilient against shocks and on investing in innovation, in our future, we will send a strong signal that the EU is fit for the global challenges to come. And I am glad that these goals are shared by our Nordic and Baltic partners.

Getting stronger from the inside demands, of course, also progress in the fields you defined with “Democracy, Participation and Communication”. I am very much looking forward to the outcome of your discussion.

I am convinced that an intensive exchange between German, Nordic and Baltic representatives from think tanks and governments can bring about substantially positive and progressive ideas to feed into this debate on the future of Europe. Because, after all, the Nordic and Baltic countries are among Germany’s most like-minded partners in the EU. We try to find solutions based on shared values, and we count on you to make the EU fit for the future.

May you have fruitful discussions, not only in the panels of the Forum, but also this evening in the German residence, to which I am happy to invite you.

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