The corona crisis has firmly gripped many countries, but conflicts are growing worldwide. The world community it is becoming more and more difficult to solve these problems. Minister Maas of Foreign Affairs gives the reasons for this.
The corona pandemic is currently the biggest global crisis, but more and more wars and conflicts keep the world in suspense. In addition, the great powers of the US, China and Russia are competing for power and influence. Due to increasing protectionism, the United Nations and especially the UN Security Council are currently often unable to solve these problems through international cooperation.
In this political world of crises and unrest, Germany is seeking its place in the political order after the pandemic. The Federal Republic often acts as a mediator in international crises. But is Germany taking sufficient responsibility internationally?
T-online talks about this with Heiko Maas. The Federal Secretary of State is also currently in quarantine after a corona infection was found in his circle of friends. Since then, the chief diplomat has been managing German foreign policy from home; we can reach him in his living room.
Chillreport: Mr. Maas, you have been quarantined because of a corona disease in your area. As a Minister of Foreign Affairs, how do you get politics out of your living room?
Mesh: It doesn’t work too bad. I do video conferencing all the time and call more than usual.
Do you have no personal contacts at all?
No. But don’t worry, someone comes by every two days and puts food at my door.
German foreign policy can only act to a limited extent at the moment.
No, I can also trade from the living room. In short, the Corona crisis has not made our work any easier. During crisis negotiations about arms embargoes or peace treaties, it makes sense to be able to look the other in the eye. We are all happy when we can.
Then from your living room you watched the TV duel between US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden. It also shocked many people in this country and left them perplexed. The main US politicians insult each other instead of discussing political solutions: are you still taking this seriously?
Unfortunately, I have to take this seriously. In fact, I am used to something other than the democratic culture. The chaotic debate with the constant interruptions and insults – especially by the incumbent president – was a reflection of the politics currently being conducted in the US. That is not really reliable.
Again, is the US still serious about this constitution?partner be raised?
Yes. Because: We shouldn’t limit the US to this game or to the Oval Office. We cooperate with the United States in many ways.
But Donald Trump is completely unpredictable and he is setting the course for foreign policy.
It is true that in recent years the White House has turned all too often into a policy of confrontation and polarization. But our relationship with the United States has such strong roots that even a president alone cannot simply throw them off course. We are still connected through more than what divides us.
Trump vs. Biden: The TV duel was overshadowed by personal attacks from the two opponents. (Source: MediaPunch / Image Images)
The escalation goes much further than the TV duel. President Trump has broken international agreements and plowed foreign policy treaties. How great is the damage to the transatlantic partnership?
There is a lot of uncertainty. The US is increasingly withdrawing from its international role. It has become more difficult to find solutions to crises and wars since Trump entered the White House.
What does that mean for Germany?
In dialogue with the United States, we must soften Trump’s erratic path. Where others put their country first, we rely on international cooperation. Climate change, digitization, corona – we can only solve the big questions of our time together. We want to work together. But we also don’t allow others to behave above our heads to our disadvantage.
So you’re hoping for Joe Biden’s election victory?
Much, but not everything, will change in the United States when a new president takes office. Our interests and priorities are no longer as congruent as they were during the Cold War. These changes began long before Trump was elected – and will survive his presidency. For us, this means very clearly: the EU must increasingly take responsibility in the global struggle of the great powers.
Isn’t it time for German foreign policy to become more active?
Germany has an active foreign policy.
Many observers at home and abroad see it differently. Representatives of European states are also calling on Germany to become more involved in international issues.
Germany assumes responsibility in many areas. To name just a few very concrete examples: in Africa, especially in the Sahel, also in Afghanistan, where we now play a decisive role in the peace process. In Ukraine, Germany and France have taken on the role of mediator. With the Berlin Conference on Libya, we have taken responsibility in a civil war that is destabilizing the entire region.
Captain Jan Fitschen, commander of the frigate Hamburg: She patrols the Libyan coast to avoid violation of an arms embargo. (Source: dpa)
But there is still no peace in Libya.
But there is now a negotiated ceasefire. We do not have to create a military balance of terror to arrive at political solutions. That is a mistake. We have to cut off arms supply routes, that’s a security responsibility.
Russia and Turkey continue to support their respective Allied conflict parties in Libya, including with weapons and soldiers.
That’s a problem and we have to stop it. That is why we as the EU have decided to launch the Irini naval mission to monitor the arms embargo. Germany is involved with up to 300 soldiers. Not only is this an essential contribution to stability in our immediate environment, but it is also an important signal of European unity and capacity to act, especially in times like these.
Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, has called on the EU to finally learn “the language of power”. Does this also include more military operations?
The EU is ready to intervene militarily, as we have just shown for Libya. But you can only stop conflicts with the military for a short time. In the long term, there must always be a political solution. Marital involvement is always part of the “language of power”.
Video speech by Heiko Maas for the United Nations: the Minister of Foreign Affairs recorded the speech in the living room because of his quarantine. (Source: dpa)
However, Germany is dependent on its export economy. Does this mean that German foreign policy must be more cautious so as not to endanger economic interests?
It would be absurd to deny that an export country like Germany does not have many economic and political interests either. But an effective foreign policy cannot be made with an economic foreign policy alone. That’s why we always tackle human rights issues very clearly with countries like China.
The resources of the international community to resolve conflicts are weak. Libya, Syria, Ukraine, now the Caucasus, plus Corona: Will the world ever get out of crisis mode again?
We are currently dealing with a great many crises. I am convinced that the United Nations Security Council is the body in which wars and conflicts must be resolved.
But the UN Security Council is unable to act.
The regular members block each other too often. As a result, few conflicts have been resolved in recent years, but more are being added. We should stop walking in circles and finally start real negotiations on reforms – as the vast majority of Member States want.
The European Union could act as an influential actor in foreign and security policy. But their Member States already disagree on fundamental issues. How can that change?
In the Corona crisis, the European Union has found answers to the economic and social challenges of the pandemic. When it comes down to it, the EU can act.
But the EU cannot find a common solution in migration policy, the reaction to the fire in the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos is shameful.
In addition to children, Germany will also take in other refugees from Moria – other countries will not. We have to accept that in many Member States of the European Union – whether we like it or not – there is a different migration policy than ours. That is the result of democratic processes in the countries. On this basis we must bring that together as an EU.
Refugee crisis on Lesvos: After the fire in the Moria camp, the need on the Greek island is particularly great. (Source: Reuters)
Yet the federal government has been talking for years that it wanted to find a “European solution” for the distribution of refugees. This approach has failed. Did you build a castle in the sky there?
If we want to relieve the Mediterranean countries in terms of migration policy, EU countries other than Germany must also take their responsibility. If not, migration policy remains the divide of the EU. So there must be a European solution that everyone supports. A coalition of the willing alone cannot solve the problem in the long term. If countries do not want to accept refugees, they should be held responsible in other areas, for example by becoming more involved in protecting the EU’s external borders.
The EU is also hesitant to act after the Kremlin-K poisoningritikers Alexej Navalny. Why is there no clear answer to Russia?
Germany has referred the matter to the responsible international organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW) for investigation. If the result of the German, Swedish and French laboratories is confirmed, there will be a clear answer from the EU. I’m sure about that.
What will it look like?
We decide that together as EU Member States. I am convinced that sanctions will not be avoided.
Sanctions against individuals or industries or against all of Russia?
Sanctions must always be targeted and proportional. But such a serious violation of the International Chemical Weapons Convention cannot go unanswered. We agree on that in Europe.
Germany could provide a clear answer by ending the construction of the North Sea pipeline “Nord Stream 2”. Instead, the federal government is sticking to the construction. On the one hand preaching values, on the other hand giving priority to economic interests: isn’t that a double standard?
Careful consideration must be given to the conclusions to be drawn from the Navalny case. More than 100 European companies are involved in the pipeline, half of which are German. Many European workers would then face a construction freeze.
Boris Johnson: The UK Prime Minister got his controversial Single Market Act through the UK Parliament – much to the annoyance of the EU. (Source: AP / dpa)
Brexit also threatens economic damage for many Europeans. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed his internal market law through parliament, breaking the deal with Brussels. Should the EU tolerate this insult?
We will not accept that. The European Commission has already responded to this with infringement proceedings. We must consider our interests. A trade deal with Great Britain is important for the EU, otherwise it would have many disadvantages for workers in Germany. Conversely, the UK economy is even more dependent on an agreement.
But can a solution succeed even by the end of the year?
Thats not sure. We are prepared for anything. But there are remarkable interests in an agreement on both sides. That is why I think we will be going through a very hot phase in the negotiations in the coming weeks.
Brexit coincides with the corona pandemic, currently the largest global crisis. It started from Chinese soil. Why don’t you and your European counterparts put more pressure on China to clarify the origin of the coronavirus?
There is pressure from the international community. It is important that China gives the WHO full access. This is also important for vaccine development.
Combating the pandemic therefore requires more international solidarity and cooperation. What testimony do you bear to the world community during the crisis?
It was difficult at first because the scale of the pandemic was beyond our imagination. Each country has taken care of itself and little has been voted on. But that has mainly improved thanks to cooperation in the European Union. Meanwhile, the EU and the United Nations have developed closer cooperation than I have ever seen.
Empty streets in Lyon: The second wave of the corona pandemic hit France particularly hard. (Source: dpa)
Is that a role model for dealing with future crises?
In fact, the coronavirus pandemic could become the blueprint to solve many other problems we face around the world.
All states have one important common goal: to return to normalcy. You can leave the quarantine yourself tomorrow, Sunday. What do you do first when you can go outside again?
I meet my children.
Mr Maas, thank you for the interview.