International conflicts, corona pandemic, new trouble spots: 2020 was marked by foreign policy challenges. Germany has played a leading role in several international organizations. With the turn of the year there are now changes.
On January 1st, Germany has the EU Council Presidency delivered to Portugal. In July the Federal Republic of Germany assumed the presidency of the 27 states of the European Union for six months. The EU budget package, the Corona aid and the Brexit deal were particular challenges during this time.
After months of struggling for an agreement with Great Britain and disputes with Hungary and Poland over the record EU budget, solutions were found for both major projects last year. One of the most important tasks for Portugal in the next six months will now be the coordination of the immense EU Corona aid package worth 750 billion euros. Germany did the preparatory work for this by mediating in the negotiations. “The next stage is no less demanding,” said the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
The Portuguese Presidency has also put European social policy at the top of the agenda. At a social summit in Porto in May, the member states are to draw conclusions from the corona pandemic and further expand the social rights of Europeans.
At the turn of the year, Germany also left the UN Security Council. For two years the Federal Republic was represented as a non-permanent member of the committee. The location in UN Security Council is lost. The veto powers China, Russia, France, Great Britain and the USA have been blocking each other on important decisions for years – the administration of US President Donald Trump has exacerbated the situation.
The German UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen had decided to rouse the encrusted UN Security Council with a lot of self-confidence. This included relatively undiplomatic attacks on his counterparts from Russia and China, but sometimes also clear words to the US representatives. Unlike usual, Heusgen kept his speeches free.
Heusgen tried again and again to intensify the interaction in the committee. Germany’s self-confident appearance in the Security Council was not well received everywhere. In parting, the Chinese diplomat Yao Shaojun said to Germany: “It’s good that we are rid of you!”
The UN Security Council consists of the five veto powers and ten non-permanent members. The latter are elected for a period of two years. With the turn of the year, Estonia, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Tunisia, Vietnam and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines sit on the committee.
Sweden takes over the OSCE chairmanship
Also the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has a new leadership with the new year. Sweden is now taking the chair there.
The Scandinavian EU country holds the mandate for one year. During this time, the Swedes want to work primarily to strengthen security and democracy in Europe and the immediate vicinity. The focus should be on three things: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
“We hope that 2021 will be the year in which everyone will have the opportunity to be vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Thursday in a Twitter video. “So that it becomes possible to return to the struggle for democracy, equality, freedom and human rights at full throttle.” They want to continue working for democracy around the world and support activists in Belarus, Hong Kong and elsewhere. According to Linde, the climate and the environment will also play a role. Beyond that, nothing will change in Sweden’s feminist foreign policy.
Sweden replaces Albania as OSCE chairman. In 2022 it will be Poland’s turn. Germany last held the chair in 2016.
The OSCE has its seat in Vienna and comprises a total of 57 countries from Europe, North America and Asia. The main goal of the organization is to secure peace and stability in Europe. The tasks are diverse: They range from observing elections to promoting freedom of the press and protecting minorities to fighting people smuggling and terrorism.