Focus on European Security

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy call for international cooperation in the 21st Century

Sarkozy and Merkel call for international cooperation. Photo: Sebastian Zwez

On Saturday morning, the Conference focused on security in Europe. The discussions addressed the topics of NATO, energy supply, Russia and the Middle East. With their joint appearance, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk initiated a new edition of the “Weimar Triangle”. Ahead of the much-anticipated speech by US Vice President Joe Biden, they formulated European views and objectives in the context of future international cooperation and the future of NATO. There was also another debate concerning the relationship with Russia.

Merkel: “2009 Litmus Test in International Cooperation”

Federal Chancellor Merkel called for increased international cooperation in matters of foreign and security policy, involving the U.S. in the future. The year 2009 was a “litmus test” for further international commitment. Today, the current global conflicts could “no longer be solved by any one country alone, but we need each other,” the Chancellor pointed out. In this context, the concept of networked security was the appropriate response to the crises and wars, and to their prevention in the 21st century, the Chancellor said. The concept of “networked security” should also be reflected in the new NATO strategy, she said with regard to the future of NATO. “At the same time, NATO must be the place for political debate,” said Merkel. NATO was the “central anchor of the transatlantic alliance”. In order to achieve “progress in terms of the quality” of global cooperation, it was necessary to enter into appropriate agreements, the Federal Chancellor emphasized. She also called for “bolder and specific steps for disarmament” with the goal of working towards a world where “nuclear weapons are irrelevant”.

Sarkozy: New Security Architecture with Russia

French President  Nicolas Sarkozy underlined Merkel’s call for an increase in international cooperation. Security and prosperity in the 21st century could only be guaranteed by the cooperation between nations. This cooperation should not be limited to Europe and North America, but should include the emerging nations in Asia and South America. The problems and challenges caused by climate change and terrorism were so big that one country could not solve them alone anymore, Sarkozy said.

With regard to European security, he spoke in favor of a rapprochement between the European Union and Russia. “After the gas crisis and the crisis in Georgia, new confidence must be established,” the French President said. He referred to an old vision formulated by former French President Charles de Gaulle, who associated a “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals” with a common European peace order. Sarkozy renewed this vision, directed at Russia, with the goal of creating a “common space for people and the economy”, as it was created between Germany and France after World War II. He stressed that he did not believe that Russia posed a military threat to the EU or NATO. He wanted to reinforce the international security architecture “from Vancouver to Vladivostok” by explicitly engaging Russia. He said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) would be a suitable framework.

Sarkozy called the announced stationing of a Bundeswehr unit in France a “national honor”. It manifested the state of the friendship between Germany and France. Previously, Sarkozy and Merkel had underscored the close unity between Germany and France by revealing a plan to establish a new binational force in Strasbourg, comprising German and French elements.

Russia: A Matter of Trust

Previously, the debate revolved around the European relationship with Russia. In this context, Poland’s head of government, Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Czech Vice Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra renewed their call to site the U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. This would be an important element of European defense and a preventive step, Tusk said. Both criticized Russia’s position in the gas dispute with Ukraine. It had put a strain on relations, Vondra said. It became clear that mistrust of Russia prevails in the Czech Republic and Poland. Tusk said: “Without full confidence, more openness towards Russia is impossible.” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and EU High Representative Javier Solana also deplored the “general atmosphere of mistrust” prevailing against Moscow, and voiced their concern over the cooled relationship of the EU and NATO with Russia. Paradoxically, although the EU was working for common security as strongly as never before, confidence had not grown, Solana said on Saturday morning.

NATO: Call for Fairer Burden-Sharing

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer again called for a stronger European commitment in Afghanistan. He stressed that the new U.S. Administration was not just waiting for good advice but expected Europe to take on new assignments. His comment mainly referred to the mission in Afghanistan, which had the highest priority for the Alliance. De Hoop Scheffer complained about the fact that the United States had planned a stronger commitment in Afghanistan, “but some nations already ruled out the possibility to do more.” This was not favorable for the Alliance’s balance and made Europe’s voice in Washington weaker than it should be. He urged the NATO members to understand that NATO’s transatlantic partnership was based on reciprocity and resembled a “two-way street”. The NATO Secretary General did not approve of more NATO commitment to appease the Middle East. It was not advisable to work on too many problems and be involved in front-line conflicts in the Middle East. Solana, however, called upon the E.U. to show more commitment in finding a solution for the conflict in the Middle East.


07 February 2009, by Oliver Rolofs