ECFR and the Foreign Office on Germany’s Foreign Policy

In early 2014, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the “Review 2014 – A Fresh Look at German Foreign Policy”, a process of self-assessment…

In early 2014, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the “Review 2014 – A Fresh Look at German Foreign Policy”, a process of self-assessment and critical analysis by the German Federal Foreign Office. The intention was to generate a debate within the political community and greater German society on the interests and objectives of German foreign policy.

ECFR decided to use its unique position as a pan-European think tank to engage with the Federal Foreign Office in order to influence this important process. Considering our experience and broad European network, as well as Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s efforts to reflect and discuss German foreign policy within a European context, ECFR offered the MFA to co-host a joint series of debates across Europe.

Between 8 and 22 October, all six non-German ECFR offices organised workshops, dinners and conferences in collaboration with the local German embassies. The events provided a platform for dialogue between representatives of the German MFA and important stakeholders in national policy communities, media and civil society in London, Paris, Rome, WarsawSofia and Madrid (which launched the series on 9 October and then held a second event on 24 October). The debates dealt with issues including the Ukraine crisis, Germany’s relationship with Russia, Berlin’s role in European security and defence policy, and challenges in the Mediterranean and MENA regions.

As a conclusion to these debates, on 21 November the Berlin office co-hosted a final conference in cooperation with State Secretary Dr. Markus Ederer and the German Foreign Office in Berlin. This event included an internal workshop of all ECFR heads of office and policy planning staff as well as the senior leadership of the European department of the Federal Foreign Office. In the afternoon, a public event was held in which senior diplomats from key European partners interacted with the MFA on the core issues revealed by our workshops.

The events came to a number of pertinent conclusions, which can be briefly summarized as follows:

     1. Germany’s foreign policy community needs to build a new constituency for foreign policy through inviting debate and engagement.

     2. Germany’s role should go beyond brokering agreements among member states. Rather, Berlin should work to keep the longer-term perspective of European integration alive and rally member states behind common ambitions.

     3. Germany should seek to become the hub for European initiatives, be they directed at improving the coherence of the EU, or aimed at strengthening the EU’s international position in the assertion of European interests.

     4. Germany should advance joint programmes for governance reform, develop infrastructure investment schemes with other member states, build deeper cooperation on energy, or launch initiatives on joint border management.

     5. Germany should therefore seek to strengthen the established layers of interaction in the wider European context, namely OSCE and the Council of Europe, both of which have stood in the shadow on EU neighbourhood policy up until now.

     6. German foreign policy should strengthen its anticipatory capacity and prepare for more discontinuity in international affairs.

     7. Germany should go beyond strengthening its conflict prevention and intervention instruments, and consider expanding its humanitarian assistance capabilities.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.