In Germany in recent years it has become a ritual to begin every speech on security policy with an indication of the changes in the world political situation since the end of the Cold War and the unification of Germany. This paradigm no longer applies.
The terrorist attacks of September 11th have changed fundamentally the foreign, security and defense policy constellations yet again. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon at the latest, it has been obvious that international terrorism is one of the major challenges of the future. Of course there are voices that say that the danger of terrorism also existed before September 11th. That is true. However, we must admit that we were not aware of the scale of the danger and that most of us had previously not even been able to imagine the implications of such terror as we saw in New York and Washington.
September 11th 2001 marks a historical turning point. Although we must beware of taking excessively hectic action, we must examine thoroughly our security policy arrangements. We find that we are inadequately prepared for the challenges of international terrorism. So what conclusions do we draw? Permit me to propose 5 theses:
1st thesis: The fight against international terrorism is a task that no one can avoid.
The attacks of September 11th were on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, but ultimately they targeted the values for which western societies stand: the dignity and freedom of each individual human being, democracy, the rule of law and tolerance. The states of the European Union cannot lean back and leave it up to the United States to combat terrorism. This is not an alternative for us – for reasons of solidarity with the United States, but also because it is in our own interest to ensure that terror does not have a chance in our countries either.
The fact that some terrorist sleepers were in Germany when they planned the attacks makes it all too clear that our society and other European states are threatened by international terrorism. Our open, liberal societies have proven useful retreats for terrorists. The assassins made use of the civil liberties they were offered without adopting in any way whatsoever the civil values associated with this social order. It is alarming that a German city such as Hamburg should become a centre in the AI Qaeda network. The possibility of sleepers in Germany and other countries simply waiting for an opportunity shows that the terrorist danger has not been averted since the military victory in Afghanistan. Therefore, it is important to strike a new balance between liberal, civil rights on the one hand and measures that ensure the protection and security of the citizens on the other.
This applies in particular to Europe where efficient measures in the fight against international terrorism are still being delayed or prevented by the nation states' reservations about giving up their sovereign rights in the Union's favour. Admittedly, since September 11th several European Councils have focused on the question of combating terrorism and have also made decisions, which mean more security for the EU. Ultimately, however, we find that we have had not more but less Europe since the terror attacks on New York and Washington. In a kind of beauty contest, the individual countries offered and demonstrated their respective national contributions to the fight against international terrorism. Prime ministers, chancellor and foreign ministers made every effort to demonstrate their close bilateral relations with the United States, but the EU as a whole was largely left out, particularly in its bilateral relationship with the United States.
In view of the scale of the crisis and the resultant military action, surely we may ask whether it is realistic to hope that, in this phase of history, the EU can overcome all national resistance and develop effective European structures for decision-making and action to deal with the question of war and peace under consideration. Is it not obvious that those bodies should become active who have the necessary resources in a given situation, namely the nation states with their respective armed forces? Therefore, we should take care not to pillory the EU because of its foreign-policy weakness at the time of the most severe crisis. On the contrary, we should direct all our efforts towards giving the EU the mechanisms and instruments that will enable it in future to react quickly and effectively in similar crises.
The question of how the European Union's ability to act and how the coherence of its policy in the fields of internal and external security can be strengthened is more relevant than ever. During a special meeting of the European Council in Brussels on September 21st last year, the EU was assigned a central role in the fight against international terrorism, but the extent to which these declarations will be included in the European treaties at the intergovernmental conference in 2004 is still unclear.
2nd thesis: Measures to strengthen internal security have already made progress in the EU, but must still be improved and extended.
Internal and external security is becoming increasingly difficult to keep apart. International terrorism cannot be fought successfully with the instruments of either internal or external security alone. That is why progress must be made not only in these two policy areas, but also in their close coordination.
The European project to create an "area of freedom, security and law" by 2004 must be put successfully into practice. At European level we require institutions and instruments that can protect efficiently our freedom and the security of our citizens.
The EU has already recorded some successes:
- First of all, a plan of action to fight terrorism has been drawn up. It provides, in particular, for closer cooperation between the police and courts of law.
- After the attacks of September 11th, agreement was reached on a European arrest warrant. The decision for such a European arrest warrant was long overdue as the cumbersome extradition procedures within the EU impeded criminal prosecution and thus the fight against terrorism.
The new directive on money laundering and the framework decision on the seizure of assets of terrorist organizations are also effective instruments for fighting terrorism.
- At the EU summit at Tampere in October 1999, the heads of state and government demanded a common definition of the term "terrorism". This demand is now being met.
Nevertheless, there are still many tasks to be performed:
- The European police agency Europol must be better equipped to deal with terrorism.
- The close and, in part, excellent cooperation of the individual national security authorities no longer suffices for today's threat scenarios. That is why we need our own European intelligence service.
In order to ensure both the EU's ability to act rapidly and effective democratic control by the European Parliament in the EU's internal and legal policy, more competences in this field must also be assigned to the EU.
- Finally, we should strive towards an agreement between Europol and the FBI, which provides for the exchange of data and cooperation in the fight against international crime, money laundering and international terrorism.
3rd thesis: A convincing, common external policy presupposes an effective European security and defense policy.
While September 11th certainly gave internal and legal policy an integration thrust, the same can hardly be said of the common external and security policy. And yet we must make decisive progress both in common external and security policy and in European security and defense policy by 2004 at the latest. The state of European security policy has been rather sad so far. The member states of the European Union, which do not always sing in harmony, spend about half the amount that the United States of America spends on defense. However, it is really disgraceful that with this amount the EU states achieve only around 10% of the military strength of the United States. The particularism in security and defense issues costs the EU states not only a great deal of money, but also military and, in particular, political influence.
However, we should not measure our security policy efforts by our defense spending alone. The European contribution to the economic and political stabilization of the young democratic states of Central and Eastern Europe, the efforts to secure peace and redevelop Southeast Europe, as well as the absorption of war refugees from this region, financial transfers to Russia, e.g., in connection with the withdrawal of Russian troops from Germany, the EU's efforts in the southern Mediterranean and now in the redevelopment of Afghanistan, which has been devastated by decades of civil war and chaos - all this must be considered in an overall assessment of security policy.
Nevertheless, the thesis is still correct: Europe does not do enough in transatlantic burden sharing, and this is due not only to low budget levels, but also to structural deficits.
The EU must at long last have more effective representation of its external policy so that Europe can exercise credibly its political will to guarantee peace, security and the protection of human rights. This has not succeeded with the instruments available hitherto. At the moment, the Chairman of the Council, who changes every six months, the Commissioner responsible and the High Representative for the Common External and Security Policy represent the European Union jointly vis-à-vis others. In addition, the foreign ministers of the various nation states try, to the best of their ability, to make a name for themselves in all important matters. The only reason why there are not constantly conflicts of competence between the Commissioner responsible and the High Representative is because these offices are currently held by two outstanding personalities. Ultimately, however, the current design of the common external and security policy involves dramatic losses in efficiency. The old demand that the American foreign minister ought to know the name of his counterpart in the EU has still not been met. That is why the two offices of the High Representative for the Common External and Security Policy and of the EU Commissioner responsible are to be merged into one or held by a single person in future. Such an external representative of the EU, in a strengthened position, should chair the Council of Foreign Ministers.
As long as the EU's external and security policy is subject to such strong changes, as is currently the case, the use and development of the instruments of "increased cooperation", constructive abstention and non-participation - opting out - are necessary so that the common institutions, mechanisms and instruments can be expanded. In the medium to long term, the common external and security policy should become a union policy, even if many find it difficult to give up national sovereignty in this field in particular.
OCCAR (Organization Conjointe de Coopération en Matière d'Armement) should also be expanded as the Union's arms agency in order to develop a common procurement policy for the EU states. This could result in major synergy effects and thus in lower prices for the systems concerned. The EU states can no longer afford to develop and procure, at the same time, largely identical weapon systems. A common arms policy is also an important part of European security cooperation.
In the interest of more balanced sharing of burdens and responsibilities between Europe and North America, we must also develop the European security and defense policy. The decision to create a European rapid-reaction force is absolutely right. However, this rapid-reaction force must not become a paper tiger. At the summit in Laeken, the EU heads of state and government stated that the EU was now in a position to carry out several crisis management tasks. The force should be fully operational by 2003. In fact, however, the EU is still a long way away from providing more than 60,000 soldiers who are ready for their tasks. Thus, the capacity, demanded in the EU Treaty, to carry out "humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking", is not yet sufficiently available.
A scratch test for the common external and security policy will be whether, in the next 10 years, the Balkans can be permanently stabilized and thus the conditions created for a gradual reduction in the numbers of troops stationed there. The claim to an important role on the world stage will lose its credibility if the Europeans do not succeed in creating security, peace and order just outside their own front door.
4th thesis: The Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) must be capable of entering alliances and be fully operational again.
The soldiers of the European rapid-reaction force will be provided by the member states for the time being, so there will be no European armed forces as such in the near future. This also means that the European rapid-reaction force can only be as good and effective as the components provided by the nation states.
And this is where we find huge deficits – as, unfortunately, the example of Germany shows. It is questionable whether Germany is still in a position to meet its international obligations. Since 1998 the Bundeswehr has been assigned new tasks on a scale that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. At the same time, within four years the Federal Government has reduced the defense budget by around 10 billion euros compared with the last medium-term budget of the CDU-led Federal Government. These dramatic budget cuts since 1998 have left their mark on the armed forces. Germany now brings up the rear in NATO when it comes to defense efforts. Since the attacks of September 11th at the latest, it should be clear to everyone that the downward trend in the defense budget must not only be stopped but also reversed. This applies to other European countries too, but to Germany in particular. A trend reversal in the financing of the Bundeswehr would also be the right signal to our partners.
Large investments are also needed to maintain and modernize existing equipment and to carry out new projects. The current Federal Government has made no financial provisions for this. This fact became particularly evident during the recent debate on the purchase of 73 military transport planes of the type Airbus A-400M. It is undisputed that the Bundeswehr's outmoded Transall machines are no longer suitable for the increasing tasks and that new air transport capacities are required. The Bundeswehr's assignment in Afghanistan, which has just begun, has underlined this necessity yet again. At the same time, the procurement of the A-400M – a joint project by several EU states – is of immense significance for Europe, for the joint procurement can be seen as a scratch test for the European security and defense policy. Thus, it is all the more important that the funds required in the coming years are promised now, with binding legal force, by the governments concerned, so that the partners and industry involved can rely on a calculable basis.
With its signature under the "Defense Capabilities Initiative" and the "European Headline Goals" Germany explicitly undertook to eliminate further equipment deficits: there are urgent needs in the fields of leadership capability and communications, reconnaissance, mine protection and the personal ABC protection of soldiers. Unfortunately, the list could be extended at will.
Ultimately, we cannot avoid providing the Bundeswehr with the equipment, personnel and funds it needs. After all, if some member states of the EU neglect their defense efforts, then the European rapid-reaction force cannot be a success.
Germany faces a special problem that is connected with its history. For good reason, the German Bundestag has a so-called "power of parliamentary reservation" for decisions on German forces' assignments abroad. However, the far-reaching restrictions to which the Federal Government is subjected in the planning and implementation of assignments abroad could impede efficient and quick reactions to security challenges, particularly in multilateral missions. This also applies to the European rapid-reaction force for which the Bundeswehr is to provide 18,000 soldiers. That is why the German Bundestag should examine whether the procedure for sending German troops on foreign assignments should be revised in the next legislative period. A "Law on Parliamentary Participation" in decisions on the Bundeswehr's assignments abroad should give the government greater flexibility and enable it to react more quickly without parliament's rights being limited decisively.
5th thesis: European integration does not replace transatlantic cooperation. On the contrary, this should be extended and strengthened.
The events of September 11th have made it clear that neither the nation states nor the EU as a whole are in a position to protect our freedom and security. We can counter the threat of international terrorism only with functioning international cooperation, with our transatlantic partnership continuing to play an extremely important role.
For the CDU, European unification is one side of the coin. The other side is the transatlantic partnership. Since September 11th 2001 at the latest, we know that the transatlantic partnership is not a one-way street. We saw that the United States of America, the only remaining superpower, is not invulnerable. Both partners – the European Union and the United States – rely on one another.
That is why the European security and defense policy may not and will not weaken the transatlantic partnership, but must lead to fairer burden sharing and thus also to a more important role for the EU in the world. The EU should take action with its rapid-reaction force only when NATO as a whole does not want to take action, as provided by NATO's "Strategic Concept" of April 1999. Nor should the development of European defense structures result in unnecessary duplication. That is why the EU must be able to fall back on NATO planning capacities and commando structures. When developing the European security and defense policy, the principle must always be to create a united, democratic Europe, which is capable of action and is a strong partner, not a competitor of the United States.
It is, after all, the common aims that link Europe and the United States: human rights, tolerance, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, held a remarkable speech in the German Bundestag on September 25th last year. In it he said, with regard to the attacks on New York and Washington and the subsequent cooperation between Russia and the West, "Today, we must declare with certainty and finality: the Cold War is over". President Putin was undoubtedly right. But permit me to add: the Cold War is over because, in the ideological dispute, values such as freedom, tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law have proven superior to subjugation, arbitrariness and state paternalism. We, together with our partner Russia, shall continue to represent these values in future – not arrogantly but self-confidently. We shall do this in dialogue, in discussion – but, if necessary, Germany, the EU and NATO must also be prepared to defend security and these values militarily.