Paris: A fresh look at German foreign policy

On 8 October, ECFR's Edouard Tétreau and Ms Susanne Wasum-Rainer, the German ambassador to France, coorganised a debate with a group of 25 experts to address the sensitive yet strategic angle of Germany’s research involvement in defence matters

Guests

Guests:

Arnaud Danjean, prominent MEP; former chairman of the EU Parliament defence committee; member of ECFR Council

François Godement, leading French expert on international and French-Asian affairs

Ambassador Bitterlich, former secretary advisor to Chancellor Helmut Kohl

 

Chaired by

Susanne Wasum-Rainer, the German ambassador to France

Edouard Tétreau, head of the ECFR Paris office

On 8 October, Ms Susanne Wasum-Rainer, the German ambassador to France, and Edouard Tétreau, head of the ECFR Paris office, coorganised a debate dedicated to the « Review 2014 – Un regard neuf sur la politique étrangère allemande » process, in the German ambassador’s Parisian residence at the Hotel de Beauharnais. Among a group of 25 experts on French-German and European diplomatic and defence matters, France decided to address the sensitive yet strategic angle of Germany’s research involvement in defence matters. Arnaud Danjean (a prominent MEP as well as former chairman of the EU Parliament defence committee and member of ECFR Council), François Godement (leading French expert on international and French-Asian affairs) and Ambassador Bitterlich (former secretary advisor to Chancellor Helmut Kohl) fuelled the debate, unique to the Paris political scene.

Despite their constitutional limits and a wary public opinion, Germany has increased its involvement in the defence efforts of the European Union. The key points to take away from the discussion are as follows:

1.    Germany’s main partner, France, is now at ease with an increasing and assumed German co-leadership in this area.

2.   Germany should not be ashamed of this courageous involvement, but should instead communicate more about it in a more positive and assertive way.

3.   MEP Arnaud Danjean summed this up with four recommendations for German diplomacy:

  • The EU needs to remember that German military involvement is already substantial: German troops are still present in Afghanistan and in the Balkans, while French ones are not, and Germany has been significantly engaged on military grounds since the Kosovo war (e.g. Afghanistan, “arms to Kurds” actions, Mali).
  • The German defence budget is more important in terms of absolute value than France’s (33 billion vs. 30 billion euros).
  • Germany has more than one interest zone: German diplomatic expertise is more universal than we think.
  • Germany is involved in mediation operations in fragile regions, like Sahel.

The experts illustrated their arguments with key words. Indeed, some participants did not hesitate to talk about a good Franco-German relationship, but we don’t dare to say it. Arnaud Danjean reminded that Germany does not have to be a shameful leader, as it has the necessary expertise to get involved on military scenes. Joachim Bitterlich explained his vision of a German foreign policy seeking its role in terms of defence, which could start with a new Franco-German defence and security strategy. Many specialists argued that German diplomacy is unknown and deserves more recognition, but explained that Germany broke taboos in taking brave stances on pressing issues at the top of the international agenda.

This debate reveals an existing and efficient German diplomacy that fully needs to assume itself. And Germany’s partner countries, including France, are ready.