"Germany is fully aware of its responsibility"
In her opening speech at the 53rd Munich Security Conference, Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen also looked at the fight against terrorism. She warned, "We should be very careful to avoid turning this fight into a front against Islam and against Muslims." Rather, the right way forward is to seek partnerships with like-minded Muslim and Arab states.
This year’s Munich Security Conference took place from 17 to 19 February. It focused on crisis-affected areas including Syria and Ukraine, and on relations with Russia, as well as looking at transatlantic relations. The security situation in East Asia was another topic on the agenda.
Stronger EU engagement needed on security issues
Looking at transatlantic relations, Ursula von der Leyen called on the EU to step up its engagement in the field of security policy. "We are fully aware that we need to shoulder a larger, a fairer part of the burden of ensuring our shared transatlantic security," she said. She is sure, she added, that this is recognised in Washington DC and that it is being heard with interest. "No nation can be secure if it has no friends." A stable EU is just as much in the interests of the USA as a unified NATO, continued the Federal Defence Minister.
Fairer burden-sharing among NATO member states will include respecting common values and principles. "These oblige us to avoid civilian victims at all costs," said Ursula von der Leyen. "Sharing burdens means always being ready to help a partner in need." We must "realise that investment in internal and external security will have to rise more quickly in the years to come".
Formidable German contribution to international security
Ursula von der Leyen also drew attention to Germany’s contribution to international security policy. "Over the last few years, we Germans have shown that you can rely on us. We have significantly stepped up our engagement, also but by no means only in terms of military engagement – in the fight against the IS terrorists, in stabilising Mali, in our continued support for Afghanistan, in our persistent efforts to bring peace and stability to the Balkans, in preventing human trafficking in the Mediterranean and the Aegean, and in our significant presence in the Baltic states. "We will continue along this path," said Ursula von der Leyen.
Angela Merkel trusts in a strong United Nations
On Friday evening, on the sidelines of the Security Conference, Chancellor Angela Merkel met first with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and later with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
"We believe in a United Nations that is strong and that can push ahead with multilateral efforts to resolve the many conflicts in the world," said Angela Merkel in a statement issued prior to her meeting. She agreed completely with António Guterres that crisis prevention is an important issue. "Every crisis that does not come to a head, obviously helps us, because we know how difficult it is to resolve crises," underlined Angela Merkel.
Numerous talks for the Chancellor
During the Munich Security Conference, the Chancellor held bilateral talks with top-level politicians from around the world. On Friday, she met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. On Saturday, talks with Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, American Vice President Mike Pence, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj were on the agenda.
Her meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence focused on the close and cordial relations between the two countries and on common foreign-policy challenges. They discussed the conflict in Syria, the situation in Libya, the mission in Afghanistan and efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
"Germany is fully aware of its responsibility "
On Saturday morning, the Chancellor gave an address on Germany’s foreign and security policy. With a view to the target agreement of NATO member states to spend a minimum of 2 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) on defence by 2024 at the latest, the Chancellor reaffirmed, "We will make every effort – we remain committed to this goal. Germany is fully aware of its responsibility in this context." But, she added, spending on development cooperation and crisis prevention must be included in the calculation.
On the sidelines of the conference the Chancellor held a whole series of bilateral meetings. As well as meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım she met with American Vice President Mike Pence among others.
"Normandy format" meeting of foreign ministers: cessation of hostilities the goal
The Munich Security Conference was also used for a meeting of the Normandy format ministers of foreign affairs. The number of ceasefire violations in Ukraine has risen dramatically again recently. Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel consulted with his opposite numbers from Russia, France and Ukraine, in an effort to identify ways of moving forward with the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
"As of the 20th February we aim to see a cessation of hostilities and to see done what has long been agreed but never undertaken: heavy weapons are to be withdrawn, secured and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission given the opportunity to monitor their whereabouts," explained Sigmar Gabriel after the meeting.
As well as Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen and Sigmar Gabriel, the German government was represented at the Munich Security Conference by Federal Finance Minster Wolfgang Schäuble, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller.
A total of more than 30 heads of state and government attended the conference in Munich, in addition to over 80 ministers of foreign affairs and ministers of defence from around the world, and a large delegation from the US Congress.
Internationally, the Munich Security Conference is held to be one of the most important foreign- and security-policy meetings. At the conference, heads of state and government, security policy experts and representatives of the military, industry and the science and research community meet to discuss the current crises in the world. They can speak their mind here, without being bound by diplomatic niceties – that is the goal and the motto of the Munich Security Conference.
Federal President Joachim Gauck receives the Ewald von Kleist Award
This year the Ewald von Kleist Award went to Federal President Joachim Gauck. The award, which has been presented annually since 2009, honours eminent personalities with an outstanding record in contributing to international peace and conflict resolutions. Previous recipients include Henry Kissinger, Javier Solana, Helmut Schmidt, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, and the OSCE (Organization for Co-operation and Security in Europe).
2017 saw the Munich Security Conference take place for the 53rd time. It is traditionally held in the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in the historic old town of Munich. The German publisher Ewald von Kleist founded the event in 1962. Since 2008 former ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger has chaired the conference.