“Germany missed its chance”

Russia and Turkey set the tone in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. At most, Germany and the EU states remain onlookers – that must change, says Hamburg CDU leader Christoph Ploß.

Nagorno-Karabakh in autumn 2020: A conflict that has been smoldering for decades breaks out, Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers are at war, both sides mourn thousands of deaths. A war is taking place right on Europe’s doorstep, in which Russia is Armenia’s most important partner and in which Turkey openly takes the side of Azerbaijan. Turkey in particular is fueling the war with arms deliveries and nationalist tones.

Germany and other states of the European Union (EU) are watching all of this as onlookers. The ceasefire that both warring parties concluded in November ultimately brought Russia closer to Armenia and Turkey closer to Azerbaijan. A closer connection between the South Caucasus region and the EU? Nothing!

Christoph Ploß: The CDU politician from Hamburg has been in the Bundestag since October 2017.  (Source: Tobias Koch)Christoph Ploß: The CDU politician from Hamburg has been in the Bundestag since October 2017. (Source: Tobias Koch)
Dr. Christoph Ploß (35) has been a member of the German Bundestag since 2017 and a member of the European Committee there. He is also the regional chairman of the Hamburg CDU.

Germany as an onlooker of world politics

Unfortunately, this is no exception: in Hong Kong and in the South China Sea, the EU is also helplessly watching the increasingly aggressive goings-on in China; the civil war in Syria also shaped Russia, a major power outside of Europe. In short: while the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas invokes multilateralism and international dialogue, other players such as China, Russia and the USA are acting on the world stage.

As right as it is to uphold multilateralism and show readiness for international dialogue, foreign policy reforms are needed in Germany and the entire EU so that the EU – in the words of former Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker – is finally “capable of global politics.” ” becomes. What has to be done so that this is finally the case?

National and European strategies required

Germany should first clearly identify its foreign policy interests. Where do the raw materials for the energy transition or the expansion of renewable energies come from? Which conflicts are important for the security and migration policy of Europe? What can be done to strengthen democratic approaches worldwide? We in Germany would first have to answer these and other questions with a national strategy.

Together with other European countries, we could then cooperate according to our ideas. In Italy and France, for example, there is a similar need for raw materials for the domestic automotive industry as in Germany and an interest in working together to produce hydrogen from the African sun. In Africa and the Middle East in particular, it is of great value to Germany, Austria, and southern and eastern European countries alike to defuse conflicts and create perspectives in order to avoid migration flows to Europe.

However, those who consider this policy to be correct must consequently be prepared to share foreign policy sovereignty in order to be stronger together. Together with other European partners, Germany could not only appear much more self-confident vis-à-vis other great powers, but together with other European partners it could itself become a relevant force in world politics. But this requires political leadership and not just Sunday speeches.

European alliances – outside the EU

Foreign policy observers may critically object to such thoughts: “As long as the unanimity principle applies in EU foreign policy, there will only be decisions based on the lowest common denominator.” A move away from the unanimity principle of all 27 EU states is in fact virtually hopeless. It is just as unrealistic for the EU states to create their own European foreign minister in the foreseeable future.

Therefore, Germany should start with like-minded European partners first. Together with France, Italy and, despite Brexit, possibly also Great Britain, four of the eight largest economies in the world would potentially be there, which together bring more than 250 million people to the global political scales. Alliances with such states would be possible, especially within the EU, and could give new strength to European integration efforts, if those who are skeptical at the beginning are allowed to join in later.

After the Second World War, European unification began exactly like this: with pioneers who led the way, created European institutions and paved the way for a successful project that is still unique today. At that time it was a matter of securing peace and establishing an economic community. The task of the younger political generation in particular in all European countries today is to transform Europe into a foreign policy actor in the 2020s who can act with strength, especially in relation to China, Russia or Turkey.

Unique selling proposition value loyalty

We Europeans could have a unique selling point: that we do not want to assert our interests ruthlessly at the expense of other countries, but that we allow our European values ​​such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law to flow into our foreign policy. Our guiding principle should be: We Germans, together with our like-minded European partners, do not want to plunder other countries for their raw materials, but rather let them participate in value creation processes. That would make us a very sought-after partner in many regions of the world.

In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, from a European perspective, there would have been many opportunities at precisely this point: Europe could have acted as a mediator to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Europe could have sought more extensive economic cooperation, especially with Armenia, and thus loosened its close ties to Russia. Europe should have initiated stronger cooperation with democratic forces in the South Caucasus and counteracted Turkish nationalism with determination.

Germany can do all of this, and foreign policy pioneers in Europe can do all this better in the face of the next challenges and conflicts – if there is a will to real foreign policy reforms, if political leadership is shown and if there is a willingness to move away from foreign policy Move out of the comfort zone.

The views expressed in guest contributions reflect the opinion of the author and do not necessarily correspond to those of the t-online.de editors.

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