London: Reviewing German foreign policy in a changing Europe

On 16 October, ECFR London held a two-panel workshop as part of the German foreign ministry’s project: “Review 2014 – A Fresh Look at German Foreign Policy”

Guests

 

 

Chaired by

John Peet, European editor of The Economist

Dr Hartmut Meyer, Fellow and Lecturer at Oxford University

On 16 October, ECFR London held a two-panel workshop as part of the German foreign ministry’s project: “Review 2014 – A Fresh Look at German Foreign Policy”. Experts from the London foreign policy community came together to discuss issues including greater German leadership and a more active role in security and defence. Among the 50 participants were former British ambassadors to Germany as well as current representatives of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, experts from Kings College, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and Chatham House, as well as journalists from the Guardian, Economist and Independent. [1]

The first session, chaired by The Economist’s John Peet, focused on the question of Germany’s foreign policy leadership. Panelists agreed that a more active contribution by Germany is to be welcomed. Bernd Heinze, deputy head of the German Embassy's political department, called Germany an “awkward size” – “too big to be completely ignored, too small to bring about major changes in the world on its own”. This complicates decisions on when and in what way to get involved internationally. 

There is much to be admired about German foreign policy, as noted Chatham House’s Quentin Peel, including its “extreme hesitancy about military intervention” and “fundamental stress on the importance negotiation even at the cost of losing face,” as well as its use of the European institutions. Nonetheless there are many problems and ways it could approve. Former UK Ambassador to Germany Sir Paul Lever spoke of the need for leadership that was always Germany’s role inside the EU but not in external relations. Its excessive focus on economic interest was counter balanced during the Cold War, but is no longer.

The second discussion, chaired by Dr Hartmut Meyer of Oxford University, looked at British and German perceptions of European security and defence. Although it was pointed out how Germany is in fact doing far more than it used to, with forces now in Africa, and sending supplies into conflict zones, it was still said it is not playing a role consummate to its importance and resources. It was suggested that perhaps dividing areas of responsibility between the medium powers could be acceptable. Britian may more naturally take a greater role in the Middle East, Germany on the euro crisis – both are issues of long term security for Europe.  


[1] For official photos taken by the German Embassy, visit their official Flickr page.