11 June 2013, Berlin
TIERGARTEN CONFERENCE 2013
Global Power Shifts and Progressive Foreign Policy
In recent years, European countries have changed their point of view towards their neighboring country Germany. After Germany's predominant depiction as the »sick man of Europe« in the 1990's, reports about German dominance have become more frequent today.
On the one hand, Germany's constant orientation towards the EU and the NATO as central references has inspired confidence after the Second World War. On the other hand, it laid the foundation for the economic and political success of Germany. »Nevermore alone« has become the principle for German foreign policy.
However, in the view of numerous EU countries, the crisis in the Euro area has started to bleaken Germany's generally positive reputation. Germany's economic strength has manoeuvred its government in Berlin into a leading role in Europe which it had not been prepared for. In many member states, Germany's strict austerity programs and the unusual rough tone have been confronted with growing criticism. Among the G8 and G20, irritations about the German decreed austerity are on the rise as well. With the continuous duration of the crisis, Germany's voice has gained in importance worldwide.
Altogether, emerging nations have changed global power for their benefit. Although this results in Europe’s comparative loss of power, Germany’s importance in consultations with BRICS countries is increasing. High-ranking consultations as with China and India illustrate the increasing international interest in Germany as well as a changed self-image of German foreign policy. For the large part, the German public does not realize that these exclusive relations have also evoked mistrust towards the basic orientation of German foreign policy. This mistrust was strengthened by the German abstention during the Libya crisis.
On the other hand, according to a former speech of the Polish foreign minister Sikorski, Germany is facing further expectations to take on a stronger leading role. A progressive impulse for German foreign policy should face new global conditions and look for answers in accordance with its basic orientation. Willy Brandt once formulated the maxim: »We seek to be a nation of good neighbors, to ourselves and to the world.« This principle is more current than ever.