Madrid: The Spanish view on German foreign policy

In cooperation with ECFR, the German Federal Foreign Office kicked off the review of German foreign policy with a launch in Madrid on 9 October.

Chaired by

Peter Tempel, German Ambassador to Spain

To promote discussion of German foreign policy among the German public and its European partners, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has launched a review of German foreign policy on two main themes: Germany’s role in Europe and Europe’s position in the world. In cooperation with ECFR, the German Federal Foreign Office organised several discussion events in European capitals to gather opinions and suggestions so as to critically assess German’s current policy. The series was launched on 9 October in Madrid at a meeting with Germany’s ambassador to Spain, Peter Tempel, with the participation of Spanish politicians, journalists, diplomats, and foreign policy experts.

The painful experience of the economic crisis has helped to build a distinctly Spanish perspective on Europe. Spanish participants in the review process spoke out for a strengthened, more integrated Europe. They believe that Germany’s own national interests would be served if it were to embed its own strengths in the European Union and increase its responsibility in the European community.

On the principle that “foreign policy begins at home”, the participants at the Madrid meeting talked about problems within German domestic politics. Is Euroscepticism becoming so widespread that it limits the scope for Germany to create European and foreign policy? Solidarity with its partners in the European Union and in NATO has been a defining characteristic of post-war and especially reunified Germany. Is this solidarity now at risk, along with the idea of collective responsibility for others?

In Spain, at the periphery, enormous attention is paid to German foreign policy positioning, particularly because of the interdependence between intra-European integration and foreign policy-making. Successful conflict resolution (and prevention) requires that partners should be economically and financially stable. This is evidenced by the challenges that face Europe today, from the Islamic State to Libya to Ebola and to the threat posed by the Ukraine crisis to Europe’s energy supply.

As expected, the discussion on German “leadership” in Europe brought no agreement. No clear answer emerged as to the level of management that is required or desired from Germany, or to the question of when such management would become dominance. However, the participants welcomed the willingness of the Federal Foreign Office to put the basic principles of German foreign policy to an open discussion and to listen to the voices of its partners through its cooperation with ECFR.