Talk in the Park

Foreign Policy under the Microscope – Germany’s Role in the World

Both during the Bundestag election campaign one year ago and in the subsequent coalition negotiations, foreign policy issues were not of much interest to the general public. That has changed dramatically since then. As a result of the war in eastern Ukraine, the old East–West conflict, thought to be long overcome, has once again taken center stage. At the same time, the "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria has created a regime of terror that tramples on humanistic values and challenges the West. And after the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, the world is now facing a deadly epidemic that requires significant effort to contain.

"Germany is facing the greatest foreign policy challenges of the past 25 years," is how German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier phrased it during his speech at the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s Talk in the Park. In front of 70 guests, Steinmeier spoke on the current challenges and the various conflict regions around the world as well as about the demands on Germany that are associated with these trouble zones.

According to Steinmeier, Germany must fundamentally redefine its role in the world. Up until 1990, few demands were made of the divided country on the front line between East and West. Today the world has other expectations of our reunited and economically stable country. Russia’s annexation of Crimea is a clear violation of international law and is unacceptable, said Steinmeier. This needs to be clearly stated to Vladimir Putin. At the same time, we cannot allow the line of communication with Russia to be severed. Sanctions only make sense when their purpose is to bring the other side back to the negotiating table. And its location at the center of Europe is reason alone for Germany to have a particular interest in ensuring that this occurs.

In addition, Steinmeier believes Germany must take on more responsibility in the battle against IS. Providing Kurdish peshmerga with weapons is justified, even if supplying arms to conflict areas goes against German principles. In light of the atrocities committed by IS, we should not be allowed to hide behind principles.

With regard to fighting the Ebola epidemic, Steinmeier called for improved international collaboration. This not only means sending doctors, caregivers, and medical supplies. The government structures in the affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea – are on the verge of collapse. Supplying food to the population is no longer functioning and the aid workers can no longer be paid. In this context, the international community of nations must provide rapid assistance.

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Picture Gallery

Photos: Robert Thiele 
Dr. Ingrid Hamm, Chief Executive Officer of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, greets German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier together with Dr. Kurt W. Liedtke, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation, and Franz Fehrenbach, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Robert Bosch GmbH.