EAt the end of the day, a young woman from the audience asked a question that sounded very worried: Does Europe have no future in international competition? Previously, the protagonists of the debate organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the FAZ on Monday evening in Erfurt had come to rather pessimistic assessments. In the great race of world powers, Europe threatens to become a plaything instead of being a playmaker, especially since the balance of power in the world is currently changing massively.
Thomas de Maizière, the former defense and interior minister, reported, among other things, how he discovered a map on the wall during a visit from his Turkish colleague, in which Ankara was the center of the world and Europe, if at all, depicted on the outskirts. “The euro-centered view is waning,” said de Maizière. Terms like the Middle East and Far East would be interpreted very differently in other regions of the world today. Seen from California, for example, Europe is the Far East – and China is much closer.
Especially in Asia, where almost half of the world’s population lives today, Europe is “definitely not perceived as a security player,” said Beatrice Gorawantschy, who until recently was head of the KAS regional program for Australia and the Pacific. “Asia expects Europe to appear united and speak with one voice.” But that is exactly what the European Union is missing, said Stormy-Annika Mildner, Director of the Aspen Institute in Germany.
Not only in security policy, but also in other areas, the 27 EU members appear rather cacophonically. There is neither a perfect internal market nor joint action in economic and trade policy. In addition, it is impossible to determine whether Germany or France are leading “the EU team”. In addition, it has long been clear that the EU cannot face global challenges alone, but needs partners. But trade agreements with India, Australia or Canada, for example, are still either not negotiated or ratified.
Rejection of joint European army
In view of the rapidly changing balance of power in the world, it must now be a matter of “holding the political West together,” said de Maizière. This includes not complaining, on the one hand, about the increasing unpredictability of the United States, but on the other hand ignoring one’s own lack of unity. In European security policy in particular, there is “a sharp gap between word and deed”. He strongly advocates strengthening European responsibility within NATO, but unfortunately things that are obvious, such as a regular meeting of European defense ministers, do not work.
Nonetheless, de Maizière rejected calls for a common European army. On the one hand, in its ruling on the Lisbon Treaty, the Federal Constitutional Court had already declared this request to be incompatible with the Basic Law; on the other hand, it believed more in integrating European armed forces into NATO.
On the subject of the failed submarine deal between France and Australia, everyone involved pleaded not to overestimate the matter. The Australian decision is not directed against France or the EU, but a purely pragmatic approach to protect effectively against China, said Gorowantschy. She criticized, however, that Europe had “again” missed being a member of one of the numerous democratic Asian defense organizations.
De Maizière, however, advised here, too, to keep the ball flat and not overturn yourself. The EU should better stay out of joint military maneuvers with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, for example. And an escalating conflict between China and Taiwan, for example, certainly does not trigger the alliance of NATO. With a view to the likely new federal government, the former minister declared that he was “not too pessimistic” about the basic lines of German foreign policy outlined by the possible coalition partners. Last but not least, it was he who ultimately spread something like optimism: “Up until now, European foreign and security policy has actually only consisted of crises,” said de Maizière. “But in the end it worked well.”