Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

La lettre diplometque
Entretien exclusif
Diplomatie & Défense
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
  M. / Mr. Fritjof von Nordenskjöld

Germany: A Key Player in the Budding New World Order

Already a mainstay of the European construction process, Germany has stepped up to play a key role on the international stage in these difficult times marked by the Sept. 11th attacks and worsening North-South relations. H.E. Fritjof von Nordenskjold, the Ambassador of Germany to France, speaks of Germany’s views on international cooperation and reaffirms the importance of ensuring the Franco-German partnership remains a driving force.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, In September 2002 German voters reelected the center-left coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroder since 1998, to another four-year term. In the first quarter of 2003, Germany slid into its second recession in two years. Are the structural reforms implemented by the government starting to turn things around? What is being done to reflate Europe’s number-one economy, and make it more competitive?

H.E. Fritjof von Nordenskjold: With the Agenda 2010, the Federal Government is taking action in two main areas:
– Rekindling economic growth in Germany,
– Making the German economy more competitive.
As for rekindling economic growth, the debate over the reforms called for in the Agenda 2010 has already helped  improve our economic indicators, reflecting the heightened confidence business executives and sales managers now have in their companies’ future. The IFO indicator (which gauges business leaders’ confidence) has risen for four consecutive months. Fortunately, their hopes are not all that has been rising. Other so-called “solid” indicators, such as figures for industrial production and the trade surplus, started climbing sharply for the very first time in July 2003. If the economic situation of the European Union’s biggest market economy has improved, it is because, for the first time in many years, the government has set to work steadfastly implementing urgently needed reforms. The compromise between the government and the opposition on health care reform has allowed us to move forward and take our first key decision. Other laws implementing additional reforms will be enacted shortly.
We should also underline the importance of tax cuts for both the corporate sector and wage earners. This will initially be a three-stage tax cut. The Federal Government hopes to start the final stage at the beginning of 2004, instead of 2005 as initially planned. This will give a huge boost to the country's economy. The total planned tax cuts equal 0.75% of German GDP. The very lowest income groups will benefit greatly from these measures, which we hope will further bolster the economy.
The Agenda 2010 also aims to heighten Germany’s competitiveness on world markets, in the long term. This objective can be reached by easing the pressure on the labor factor. While contractual wages have traditionally been set by employers and labor unions – and must remain so – the State still lays down social welfare laws and thus has a decisive impact on outlays to finance the social welfare system. In Germany, this system is financed primarily by contributions made in equal parts by employers and wage earners. These expenditures must be reduced. If we manage to cut them sufficiently now, we will have already taken the necessary precautions to ensure that future demographic growth does not overburden  our businesses and active contributors. We are moving to shore up measures that encourage patients to rationalize their health expenditures. With regard to retirement pensions, the State is offering subsidies in the hope of prompting individuals to take out supplementary pension plans to offset the lower pensions paid by the public retirement system.
All these reforms are designed to boost confidence in Germany’s economic future, and should thus bring a drop in unemployment. A social system that plans for the anticipated aging of the population is foreseeable in both the medium and long-term. This is an important factor for investors in our increasingly globalized world, and will consequently make Germany a far more attractive place to do business.

T.D.L.: Thirteen years after it was first launched, the German reunification process is still not complete. Could you give us a general overview of the progress made to date, and tell us what must yet be done to set both halves of Germany on an equal footing? Does the expression “wall in our minds” still hold true today? On 17 July 1990 your country recognized the German-Polish border set out in 1945. What can be done to resolve the questions raised by the expropriation of German refugees expelled from Czechoslovakia at the close of World War Two?

H.E.F.V.N.: For the younger generation, German reunification is indeed finished, and has been a true success. We see this whenever we work with young people from the new Lander, as we do on a daily basis. But for the older generation, it was optimistic to hope that the scars wrought by forty years of division and the two successive dictatorships endured by the people of the GDR could be erased that easily. Our task has undoubtedly been made all the more difficult by the hardships we have encountered in the economic arena, due in part to the global economic slump.
Today, many of the new Lander have more modern infrastructures than those found in the “former” Federal Republic. Communications infrastructures are a good example of this. A great many jobs have been created; many new companies have been launched. On the other hand, most of the old industrial fabric has collapsed, with well-known consequences. Nevertheless, the reforms I outlined earlier will certainly help resolve these problems.
With regard to our relations with our direct neighbors to the East, they are better than ever. This is particularly true of our ties with the Czech Republic, in spite of minor incidents which have caused occasional strains. The German Chancellor’s visit to Prague in early September offers excellent proof of this. Our two countries are key bilateral trading partners. I am convinced that the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union, on 1 May 2004, will promptly usher in a climate of long-lasting and reliable cooperation.
T.D.L.: The Iraq crisis has opened up a brand-new era in international relations, while putting tremendous strain on Trans-Atlantic ties. What is the German government doing to help diffuse this tension? Could you summarize Germany’s current stance on the Iraq question? In view of the new situation on the world stage, where do you see NATO heading in the years to come?

H.E.F.V.N.: Trans-Atlantic relations are the cornerstone of peace and stability around the globe in this 21st century. Only if Europeans and Americans work together will we be able to transform the current world disorder into true world order. Maintaining balanced Trans-Atlantic relations requires a Europe able to act independently, for it too must be a pillar. The enlargement and strengthening of the European Union consequently serve the best interests of the United States as well.
NATO remains the bedrock of our collective defense. No other organization will be able to meet this vital task anytime in the near future. The Alliance is, however, undergoing a transformation, and major changes are clearly needed. The creation of the NATO rapid response force and  the reform of the command structure are laying the ground for this transformation. The European Security and Defense Policy will not, in our opinion, ever replace NATO. We see it as a European pillar that will further reinforce NATO. We must not forget that cooperation between the EU and NATO, most notably in the Balkans, only stands to reason.
On the Iraq question, the initial tension has been replaced by cooperation with the United States in drawing up a new U.N. resolution. The German government believes that the fundamental political question is: how can we get the Iraqi people to see the presence of foreign troops in their land as a form of assistance, and not an occupation? And with that end in mind, should the current strategy – which has produced mixed results – be modified?
We believe that top priority must be given to restoring Iraqi sovereignty as quickly as possible. Yet a simple troop pullout would create a power void that could be extremely dangerous. The United Nations must play a central role during the transition phase. The Federal Government is in complete agreement with the Secretary General of the United Nations on this score. Finally, it is important to get moderate Islamic Arab States involved in efforts to both restore and maintain security. The Federal Government is prepared to take an active role in distributing humanitarian aid and rebuilding Iraq. We are ready to take part in this work, if the conditions have been clearly laid out. Transparency and international control are the sine qua non conditions for German participation.
T.D.L.: In September 2002, the United Nations General Assembly elected Germany to a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Will your country be championing strong views on U.N. reform? Does it still hope to gain a permanent seat on the Council? German soldiers are taking part in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Is this another step forward in Germany’s drive to bolster its role in the international political arena?

H.E.F.V.N.: Germany has taken up its duties as a non-permanent member of the Security Council at a time that is indeed particularly difficult. Attempts to reform the Security Council in the 1990s came to a dead end. The reforms must now be crafted in a manner that reflects the world’s new balance of power and influence, including in developing and newly industrialized countries. Germany is ready to shoulder even greater responsibility in a reform of this sort. The Security Council’s two European permanent members, France and the United Kingdom, share our view on this point. Moreover, given the progress the European Union has made with the Common Foreign and Security Policy, an additional European seat on the Security Council would seem inevitable in the medium-term.
For the first time since the close of World War Two, German soldiers took part in combat outside the European Union, in Afghanistan. I should also mention our long-standing involvement in various crisis zones in the Balkans, working in close concert with France. We have also lent our support to operations in Africa. At present, over 9,000 members of the German armed forces and police are taking part in international peacekeeping missions. We have fully recognized the fact that we cannot wait until the new dangers threatening us – and terrorism, in particular – reach our borders before standing up to defend ourselves.

T.D.L.: Paris, Berlin and Moscow came together to voice staunch opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
This  kindled the idea of a new “rapprochement” or “axis” uniting all three countries, cemented by the issuing of a three-party declaration on 15 March 2003. Are the foundations of this rapprochement strong enough to create a long-lasting alliance? As Russia’s leading trade partner, in what other areas does Germany hope to strengthen its ties with the Russian Federation? How do you see relations between Russia and the European Union evolving in the coming years? What type of ties do you think NATO should forge with Russia?

H.E.F.V.N.: The triangular cooperation between France, Russia and Germany was not born with their joint stance against an intervention in Iraq within the United Nations, but dates all the way back to the mid-1990s. Our three capitals stood in agreement at the start of this year because they were convinced that a military intervention was not the best way to resolve the problems raised by Iraq. Given its great demographic and economic potential, Russia will eventually overcome its internal problems. It remains an important partner not only for France and Germany, but for the European Union as a whole. This is why we are working so hard to reach an agreement with Russia on key international security issues. This was the case with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, to take just one example. Germany continues to bolsters its ties with Russia, its leading trading partner. We are also expanding bilateral relations within our civil societies. The unique strategy the European Union adopted towards Russia a good many years ago is now being revamped. While Russia is too big to become a member of the European Union, it remains an important partner and neighbor.
There has been a considerable softening in relations between Russia and NATO in recent years. It has been over ten years since the former leader of the Warsaw Pact and NATO considered each other enemies. They have, to the contrary, set up a series of cooperative programs in several key areas, such as their innovative cooperation projects in the military aircraft manufacturing sector. I believe that Russia has accepted that the renewed NATO is an essential tool for ensuring political stability.

T.D.L.: Bolstered by its world-renowned environmental policies, Germany reaffirmed its support for international cooperation in the water sector at the March 2003 Kyoto Summit. Could you summarize German development aid policy for our readers? What is Germany’s stance on the key issues raised at the 5th WTO Conference in Cancun, namely trade in agriculture and access to vital drugs?

H.E.F.V.N.: In its Action Program for Development, the Federal German Government has given a very clear idea of how it will help achieve the most important global task: initiating measures to noticeably reduce poverty. It is simultaneously urging other actors to step up their cooperation, and trying to make the German public more aware of the need to fight poverty on a worldwide scale.
The German government sees the war on poverty as a key element in its comprehensive policy, which is based on the principle of sustainable development. Our development policy views the fight against poverty as a cross-disciplinary task that can only be accomplished by launching measures across the board: social justice, environmental accountability, and economic performance. This also includes measures in the political arena, such as promoting democracy, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
The German government regrets that the Doha Round of the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Cancun, came to a halt without producing any real results. We are among those who believe that Cancun was a missed opportunity to come together and send out a message in support of renewed international trade in goods and services. This revival would have had a positive impact in industrialized and developing countries alike. As for the main themes of the ongoing talks, despite a lack of results in other areas under negotiation, the German government is pleased that the compromise giving developing countries greater access to drugs that fight epidemic diseases will apparently continue. In the agricultural sector, the German government helped to draft the European community’s position and has given it full support. France and Germany’s agreement on the future of the common agricultural policy was an important step forward for the EU’s compromise proposal to the developing countries. Partial farm subsidy cuts, based on acreage rather than production, will ease the pressure exerted by EU agriculture exports on world export markets and will improve the outlook for agricultural products from developing countries. Europe has put forward another interesting proposal concerning the reduction of export subsidies, which we helped put together. In view of the strides made in Cancun towards harmonizing our points of view, the German government has good reason to hope an agreement will indeed be reached before the current round of negotiations comes to a close.

T.D.L.:  On 22 January 2003, Germany and France celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, renewing the friendship and cooperation pact signed in 1963. How would you assess current Franco-German cooperation, in light of the crisis in Iraq? Is close cooperation between our two countries vital to the European construction process? Have our two governments launched joint measures to help build a stronger, more democratic Europe that is even closer to its citizens?

H.E.F.V.N.: The 40th anniversary festivities underscored the breadth of Franco-German ties and just how strongly they are rooted in both our countries’ civil societies. Franco-German cooperation is going through a particularly intense and fertile phase. This is reflected in other areas besides their shared view on the Iraq question. We are, however, fully aware that the solidarity between France and Germany – precisely as concerns the debate over Iraq – has prompted critical reactions from some of our European partners. The reservations voiced by some of our smaller partners about their larger European neighbors – doubts they have always harbored – have played an important role in this respect. And yet these same partners are well aware that the Franco-German partnership is vital, if we want to keep pushing Europe forward. We have reached compromises in key political areas over this past year. I’ve already talked about agriculture. There are also institutional questions within the framework of the European Convention, addressed in a joint proposal put forward by France and Germany. We have made joint proposals in other areas as well: economic governance, the justice system, and internal affairs. This is not the sign of a shared desire to take control of Europe, but a constructive contribution by two countries whose initial stances are often miles apart.  

T.D.L.: The European Convention, presided by Valery Giscard d’Estaing, completed its work on 10 July 2003. What is your view of the Constitution for Europe drawn up by the Convention? What position will the German government champion at the intergovernmental conference scheduled to begin in October 2003? How does your country feel about the enlargement of the European Union? The boundaries of this process have yet to be set. Just how far could this expansion go, notably as concerns Turkey’s membership bid?
H.E.F.V.N.: The Convention’s working methods and the drafting of a Constitution for Europe have enabled us to make truly “historic” headway towards integration. This project is in no way a “third-rate” accord, but a way to strike a fair balance between the interests of old and new Member States, between small and large Member States. It holds forth a union of States and citizens. A new and clearer division of power creates greater transparency and new proximity with our citizens: Europe has dared to become more democratic. By widening the prerogatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission, we are reinforcing the community approach. Endowing the European Council with a full-time president will give the expanded 25-member Union real operational capacity. The European Minister of Foreign Affairs, bolstered by a European Department of Foreign Affairs, will enable the Union to speak with one voice on the international stage. Launched by a joint Franco-German initiative, the Convention prepared the ground for the development of the European Security and Defense Policy. Political and economic cooperation within Europe, primarily inside the euro zone, is now carried out within a more clearly defined institutional framework. This permits better coordination of community policies as well as national fiscal and budgetary policies. There have also been tremendous strides towards full integration in areas such as domestic policy and legislation, where we have traditionally seen strong reservations prompted by national sovereignty concerns.
The European Council in Thessalonika saw the draft constitution as a good working base for the intergovernmental conference that will be attended only by heads of State and government, and their ministers of foreign affairs. Along with the other founding States, Germany supports the  timetable put forward by the Italian Presidency, which hopes to close the intergovernmental conference’s negotiations in December 2003. It will oppose any attempt to call the Convention’s results into question, as new talks will only weaken the far-reaching compromise that has already been reached. The draft constitution incorporates the progress we have made towards greater integration, without which we would not be able to meet the great challenge of welcoming ten new Member States on 1 May 2004.
In the economic and political arenas, the enlargement to a 25-member Union also presents a unique opportunity to achieve lasting peace, security, prosperity, and sustainable development all across Europe.
Accession negotiations are currently underway with two other European States. The decision concerning Turkey will be taken at the end of 2004. Turkey is making itself over and opening up to Europe, as it carries out impressive domestic political reforms. Europe must not close the door on a Turkey that is working hard to modernize itself with a firm desire to anchor itself to the West. Turkey’s EU membership bid must be submitted on the same political and economic criteria as other candidate countries, no more, and no less. For on a strategic level, Turkey’s future will be key to the security of Europe as a whole.
T.D.L.: The European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) began to take concrete shape in March 2003, when the first European military force was deployed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. What does the German government think of the strides the European Union has made in the drive to draw up a CFSP? What is your personal take on European military cooperation, and Franco-German defense ties in particular? Is the defense sector receiving ample funding to overcome the great risks and threats weighing on the European continent? Have the differences over the U.S. military intervention in Iraq had a strong impact on the CFSP?

H.E.F.V.N.: Let me start by making an objective observation: in the case of the Iraq crisis, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) did not work. European leaders have drawn the lesson of that failure: it is time to take action and to reinforce the CFSP and the ESDP. Our European partners must all realize that only by putting forward a common position will we be able to exert real sway. There has been headway, nonetheless, with both the CFSP and the ESDP. In the wake of the Iraq crisis, the EU decided to draw up a global security strategy based on a joint analysis of the current threats.
The draft constitution has also made strides in this arena. It calls for closer cooperation among Member States in times of crisis and on strategic questions. In the future, no Member State should take action on its own without prior debate within the Council or the European Council. The Convention also proposed creating the new post of European Minister of Foreign Affairs. From now on, Europe will turn a single face to the rest of the world, and speak in one voice.
France and Germany played a decisive role in achieving these results. The draft constitution incorporates many of their proposals.
– the creation of instruments to make the ESDP more flexible,
– the adoption of a “solidarity clause,”
– the creation of an armaments and military capabilities agency.
To describe the objective we are striving to achieve, we have coined the term “European Security and Defense Union.” As described in the draft constitution, the ESDU should lead to more structured cooperation that is open to all the Union’s partners. It also calls for increasing Europe’s military capability. This raises the question of the defense budget, even if its size is not the sole criteria. Even greater headway should be sparked by working in synergy through a European armaments and military capabilities agency.

T.D.L.:  In addition to their friendship and cooperation treaty, Germany and France are also bound by close economic interdependence. Germany is France’s leading trade partner and foreign investor, and vice versa. In what areas would you like to see bilateral relations stepped up even further? Could you say a few words about Franco-German cross-border cooperation, sister city and sister region projects, and cultural exchanges, especially between our young people? What are the underlying goals and signification of the conference that will bring together France’s “departments” and Germany’s “Lander” in Poitiers on 27-28 October 2003?
H.E.F.V.N.: At the last Franco-German Summit, held in Berlin this past September 18th, France and Germany put forward proposals concerning the European Action Plan for Growth. These proposals are an extension of the joint proposals put forward by the Italian Presidency, the European Commission, and the European Investment Bank. It is essential for both our countries, working in the spirit of the “Lisbon strategy” (creating a dynamic European “knowledge society”), to do their utmost to make the European economy more competitive and more dynamic. They  must foster investments that heighten our human capital, create modern production facilities, and focus on research and development.
Both our governments realize that the successful implementation of these objectives requires the involvement of sound companies with investments in Europe and a strong focus on the international market. To achieve this, we will need to create more stable microeconomic conditions that specifically target growth. European governments must pursue economic and financial policies designed to help create these conditions. In many cases, a company’s competitiveness also depends on the financial advantages available to most long production runs. Past mergers between European firms have already helped keep alive many of Europe’s key industries. The success of Airbus and EADS are both excellent examples of this. The French and German governments are looking to step up cooperation in other sectors as well, for instance in the aerospace and arms industries.
The 40th anniversary of the signing of the Elysee Treaty gave bilateral cooperation between our two governments a  fresh boost. We are continuing to create new instruments of cooperation. Our twice-yearly summits are organized as a joint session of our two cabinets (Council of Ministers). The appointment of our ministers of European affairs to serve as the secretaries-general for Franco-German cooperation will ensure that bilateral cooperation is coordinated more effectively than ever. There has been cross border cooperation between the Lorraine and Alsace regions and their neighboring regions in Germany for several years now. This has led to much closer ties between  public administrations and services on both sides of the Rhine. They have been cooperating with other partners as well, namely Luxembourg and Switzerland. The idea to create a Euro-district around Strasbourg and Kehl, under the aegis of our two European affairs ministers, has enabled us to further enhance our cooperation and propel it into a brand-new phase.
The wide network of sister cities and sister regions, along with the many exchange programs between students and young people, are bringing our people closer. We need to maintain these networks, and make them even more attractive for generations to come. This means, most notably, that we must work to ensure that the French and German languages continue to be spoken in our partner country.  This fall, we will launch a campaign to promote the German language in France, while France does the same for the French language in Germany. For knowledge of the partner country’s language is the real key to truly and deeply understanding our neighbor’s culture and way of thinking.  
On 27-28 October, the Poitiers conference will bring the presidents of the French regions and the minister-presidents of the Lander together with our heads of government, Prime Minister Raffarin and Chancellor Schroder. This gathering will initiate a new level of cooperation, helping advance France’s decentralization campaign and bolster Germany’s federal tradition. I am convinced that this will expand and deepen the existing network of regional partnerships. Regional areas will be all the more important in the Europe of the future, which is why these initiatives are such a positive step forward.

T.D.L.:  Though rivals for much of their history, when not enemies, Germany and France have built a relationship that is widely praised as a unique example of successful reconciliation between two peoples. Could this model be applied to other countries, and on other continents? How can we ensure that future generations enjoy this same peaceful and hope-filled relationship?

H.E.F.V.N.: The reconciliation between France and Germany, and the ensuing friendly cooperation between our two countries, is recognized the world over as one of the greatest political achievements of the second half of the 20th century.
We of course would like to see Franco-German reconciliation serve as an example to other regions of the world where peoples have been living in conflict for several generations. France and Germany have proved that hostility bred by nationalism and hegemonic rivalry can indeed be overcome, even if this happens only after both sides have exhausted all their strength in the conflict that pitted them against each other. We can only hope that other peoples who still consider each other enemies will realize that things must never be allowed to go that far.
Retour en haut de page

La lettre diplomatique Bas
  Présentation - Derniers Numéros - Archives - Nos Liens - Contacts - Mentions Légales