Under Angela Merkel, German European policy was mainly made in the Chancellery and was determined by rather cautious maneuvering. According to the will of the Greens, a different wind will blow in Brussels from next week when the traffic light coalition comes into office. Conflicts with the Chancellor’s party SPD are inevitable. The German Greens in the EU Parliament can hardly hold back with their own enthusiasm. According to MEP Terry Reintke, the traffic light agreements on European policy are “the most wonderful chapter in this coalition agreement”. Her group colleague Sven Giegold also claimed: „So much good for Europe has rarely been in a coalition agreement of the largest member state of the EU.“ What is meant is: There has rarely been so much influence of the Greens on European politics. They are willing to take it seriously, including conflicts with Moscow, Beijing, Warsaw and Budapest. And with the Chancellery.
Even before the coalition negotiations were concluded, Reintke had predicted in an interview with „Deutsche Welle“ that „the tone of the Federal Government towards Poland and in the European Council will change“ under the traffic light coalition. Now she is stepping up: With green government participation in Berlin there will be a “completely different spirit” in European politics, Merkel’s policy of appeasement will be a thing of the past. This should not only apply to the dispute with Poland and Hungary about the rule of law, in which the traffic light coalition wants to push EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to get moving. The coalition agreement announces: „We call on the European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, to use and enforce the existing rule of law instruments more consistently and promptly.“ to agree to the proposals of the EU Commission on the plans of the reconstruction fund if conditions such as an independent judiciary are ensured. „
The dispute between the EU Commission and Poland is precisely about the status of the judiciary in the country. In Warsaw, therefore, another sentence from the coalition agreement should seem dazzling: “Germany and Poland are bound by a deep friendship.” Greens can hope for applause from the Polish government that they are open to the security needs of the Central and Eastern European countries. German commitment to a „European foreign policy“ that speaks a „clearer language towards Russia“ is announced by the foreign policy expert of the Greens in the European Parliament, Reinhard Bütikofer, and promises: „We are certainly not approaching the Putin regime.“ The green MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel is a pronounced representative of a tougher pace towards the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian paladin Alexander Lukashenko. The EU’s recent sanctions against Lukashenko are “not enough” for her; For a long time she has been campaigning for more support for Ukraine against threats from Russia. She advocates a “value-based foreign policy” – meaning values that she does not see in the Kremlin..
A touch of cold war with the Greens? Lines of conflict with the new chancellor party, the SPD, have been mapped out. Visions of a new „Ostpolitik“ are in circulation among the Social Democrats, one that seeks a compromise with Moscow in the future. In addition, the SPD is sticking to the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which has met with criticism from many EU partners as well as the USA. The Greens reject the project, the point of contention has been excluded from the coalition agreement. A re-submission in reality is certain, in Berlin as well as in Brussels. Bütikofer and von Cramon are among the signatories of a joint declaration by representatives of green and green-related parties in the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, in which they expressed their resolute rejection of the pipeline project in June. Reason: “It will further increase the European Union’s dependence on Russia’s natural gas supplies. We are also very concerned about the possible effects of Nord Stream 2 on Ukraine. ”The declaration culminated in the statement:“ Nord Stream 2 is not a European project; it never had a majority in the European Council, in the European Parliament or in the European Commission. „
There are also strong words from the Greens in the direction of Beijing. Bütikofer is committed to a “systemic rivalry” and advocates “clear text”. The future German chief diplomat Annalena Baerbock delivered this in an interview with the “Tageszeitung”: “As Europeans, we shouldn’t make ourselves smaller than we are. We are one of the largest domestic markets in the world. And China in particular has massive interests in the European market. If there is no longer any access for products that come from regions like Xinjiang, where forced labor is common practice, this is a big problem for an exporting country like China. ”The EU should“ use this lever much more ”. Such tones would have been inconceivable from the Merkel government. The outgoing Chancellor played a major role in a controversial investment agreement between the EU and China, which is now on hold. The Asia expert of the German Marshall Fund, Noah Barkin, suspects that Merkel’s successor Olaf Scholz is also more cautious about China and wants to rely on a knowledgeable advisor with experience as an ambassador in Beijing: Michael Clauss, currently permanent representative of the Federal Republic of Germany of the EU in Brussels.
Scholz needs a counterweight to Baerbock and Habeck Clauss is considered a loyal but self-confident top diplomat. A publication of the news magazine “Der Spiegel” recently attracted attention via an alarm dispatch from the Permanent Representative to Berlin. According to the magazine, it contained urgent warnings of an escalation of numerous disputes in the EU, from the risk of Poland leaving the Union to an impending trade war with Great Britain. Clauss would be a heavyweight in a previously rather narrow-chested European department around Scholz. It will have to deal with the unmistakable claims of the green coalition partner on the interpretation of sovereignty in European and foreign policy, which tug at the power triangle between the Federal Chancellery, the Foreign Office and the super-economic ministry.
While Baerbock’s suitability for the Foreign Office is being questioned by political opponents, her party is arming itself for future disputes in and around Europe with top-class personnel. In fact, however, the new head of the Foreign Office was once a doctoral candidate for international law (without a doctorate), was able to gain experience as a member of the Bundestag on the European Committee of Parliament, previously worked for the Bundestag faction of the Greens as a consultant for foreign and security policy and worked in the office of MEP Elisabeth Schroedter. In the Foreign Office, the Green Anna Lührmann will in futuresupport Baerbock as Minister of State for European policy. Lührmann was once the youngest member of the Bundestag, then withdrew from politics for longer stays abroad and was married to the German ambassador to Sudan where she live and studied for a whle.. The „Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“ confirmed that she seemed predestined for the new role due to her international experience.
Robert Habeck, the new minister for economics and climate, will be relying in his super department on one of the most eloquent mouthpieces of German green politics in the European Parliament: Sven Giegold, finance and economics expert. In addition to the Foreign Ministry, which is also occupied by Greens, Giegold assigns his new department the key role in determining the guidelines for German European policy. “The two European Houses are in the hands of the Green Party,” says the busy EU expert and explains: “We Greens are well positioned for the implementation of a strong German European policy, because all submissions on EU issues in the Council go through either the Federal Ministry of Economics or the Foreign Ministry . “ Another member of the Green party leadership is likely to show a great deal of interest in foreign policy if his career dreams come true: Omid Nouripur. The Iranian-German member of the Bundestag is the foreign policy spokesman for his parliamentary group and is running as the new federal chairman of the Greens, as Habeck and Baerbock are withdrawing from the party leadership because of their ministerial posts. Many in the Green Party feel they are called to be experts in diplomacy. How they coordinate with one another will be just as exciting to watch as the fate of the foreign policy consensus in the traffic light coalition.
For two months, around 300 politicians from the SPD, Greens and FDP negotiated in 22 working groups. On Wednesday, the new traffic light coalition finally presented its coalition agreement. The future governing parties have devoted a separate section to the subject of China *. And it has it all. „We want and must shape our relations with China in the dimensions of partnership, competition and system rivalry,“ says the contract negotiated by the three parties. One innovation is the explicit mention of Taiwan. Another new feature is the call for more China expertise in Germany. On the basis of human rights and international law, the new federal government will seek cooperation with China and negotiate fair rules in the face of increasing competition with China, according to the contract. But this also contains a direct message to Beijing: “Our expectations of Chinese foreign policy are that they play a responsible role for peace and stability in their neighborhood.” The treaty does not leave it at general words. The coalitionists make iclear what they mean. „We are clearly addressing China’s human rights violations, especially in Xinjiang.“ The principle of „one country, two systems in Hong Kong“ must be reasserted. The aggressive action taken by China in the South China Sea is also mentioned. The Taiwan question is also mentioned for the first time in a German coalition agreement. The new federal government promises support for the island without deviating from the previous language regulation: „A change in the status quo in the Strait of Taiwan can only take place peacefully and by mutual agreement.“ Taiwan’s integration in international organizations will be endorsed.
With these points, the future federal government, in contrast to the previous government, deliberately accepts the conflict with the communist leadership. Germans going it alone in dealing with China should no longer exist under red-green-yellow. The traffic light coalition wants to focus much more on a common strategy with the EU. „In order to be able to realize our values and interests in the systemic rivalry with China, we need a comprehensive China strategy in Germany within the framework of the joint China-EU policy,“ says the coalition agreement. This passage will be welcomed in Brussels. There had been repeated criticism that Germany placed its own economic interests too much in the foreground. The EU has been following the triad of „partner, competitor and systemic rival“ since its China strategy was published in 2019. Now it is included in the traffic light coalition paper. That is not surprising either. Both on the paper almost two years ago and now on the passage in the coalition agreement, the Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer played a key role. The long-time China expert and former Maoist has been looking with concern for years at the increasingly authoritarian features of the People’s Republic under state and party leader Xi Jinping . Bütikofer warns that some large German companies are too dependent on China. And the FDP, too, is much more critical of the People’s Republic than the previous Chancellor did. In the great geopolitical dispute between the two superpowers China and the USA *, the traffic light government is taking a very clear position: for the USA. „We are striving for a transatlantic coordination in China policy and are looking for cooperation with like-minded countries in order to reduce strategic dependencies,“ says the new coalition. The previous federal government under Angela Merkel was not clear on this issue either. During the presentation of the coalition agreement, the future Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) emphasized the „central importance“ of cooperation with the USA.
In the coalition agreement, the EU-China investment agreement CAI is also questioned, but not clearly rejected. The traffic light leaves a back door open for it: if China and the EU readjust it, it will still have a chance. This is a project that was mainly driven by the old federal government. It is currently on hold. „A ratification of the EU-China investment agreement in the EU Council cannot take place at the moment for various reasons. We will advocate reciprocity, ”says the paper. The Greens make no secret of the fact that they reject the agreement. And the FDP had also spoken out in favor of renegotiating the CAI during the election campaign. The future federal government also wants to strengthen the network of chambers of commerce and foreign trade. For Chinese investors in Germany, however, headwinds could soon blow. This is because the takeover of critical infrastructure such as the power or broadband network by foreign investors should be checked for security threats and, if necessary, responded to more quickly. A first in a coalition paper is also the aim of „significantly“ expanding the expertise in Asia and China. The EU’s “Global Gateway” infrastructure initiative, which is intended to compete directly with the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative”, has a place in the coalition agreement. “Global Gateway” is an important instrument for “actively promoting infrastructure development according to high quality international standards”. The government paper of the grand coalition only spoke of concluding “comprehensive, modern bilateral free trade agreements with third countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific region”.
Jörg Wuttke, President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, sees the coalition agreement as a reflection of public opinion on China issues: “German politics will relate much more to values, which also corresponds to the much more critical opinion of the German public towards China. „At the same time, German business interests remain important,“ Wuttke emphasized. He hopes that a good balance will be found and that China will also be “a little more sensitive to public opinion in Europe”. For European companies in China this means: „Companies have to adjust to more complex times.“ For the CDU European politician David McAllister, it is important that Germany’s new approaches are now also heard in Brussels: “No other European country has such close bilateral relations with China as Germany. It is therefore crucial that the German position is embedded in a new China strategy of the European Union. „To what extent the future federal government will really work for the strategic sovereignty of Europe will have to be shown, says the chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Policy. Germany’s G7 presidency in the coming year will be “a real reality test,” said McAllister.
Her ideas of a new Green fforeign policy explains Annalena Baerbock in an interview with the German newspaper Tageszeitung (taz):
Taz: We come to foreign policy. In the coalition agreement you announce a „foreign climate policy“. What exactly do you mean by that?
Baerbock: I understand foreign policy as global domestic policy: crises work across borders. They can only be mastered globally and cooperatively. And the biggest global crisis is the climate crisis. In order to be able to get on the 1.5-degree path as a global community at all, we not only need massive technological leaps, but also a technology transfer. So it is no longer enough to see that each country is tackling its own climate goals; we must finally join forces. Yes, we need the major climate conferences as a framework, but we also need more countries that show that a climate-neutral economy ensures prosperity and that other countries shake hands. I see the industrialized countries as responsible for this. After all, we brought this climate crisis to the world in the last 100 years.
Taz: What exactly will be your role as Foreign Minister in this?
Baerbock: Germany will take over the G7 presidency next year. I want it to become the launch pad for climate partnerships and a climate club that is open to all countries. Just as we exported the energy transition to the world with the EEG 20 years ago, we can now move forward again and become a pioneer and, above all, a partner for climate-neutral business.
Taz: The climate partnerships should also be about financing. The Greens did not get the development and finance ministries. Do you have the FDP and SPD on board for this project?
Baerbock: Yes. The Paris climate goals are the basis of our joint coalition agreement and therefore also for all departments. To achieve them, we need massive investments in climate infrastructure. National and international. Climate investments are also an opportunity to strengthen European competitiveness.
Taz: How will you, as Foreign Minister, deal with countries that tend to block the climate negotiations?
Baerbock: The idea of the climate club and climate partnerships is precisely to deal less with the blockers and instead to team up with the pioneers. A global CO2 price, for example, is a nice idea, but also a good excuse. Because by the time all 190 countries are ready, it will be too late. Instead of waiting, I would therefore like to campaign for countries to join forces that are converting their industries to be climate-neutral. At the same time, common standards and guard rules prevent possible competitive disadvantages for industrial locations. Our more than 220 German missions abroad can be important climate messages for this and also contribute to the intensification of technology transfer. Climate policy is not only a modern economic policy, but also a security policy. In recent years we have seen how the consequences of climate change have exacerbated conflicts over resources such as land and water. We are also experiencing that fossil fuel dependency and energy imports can be used as a means of exerting pressure on foreign policy and thus also for destabilization. We should not forget that. It is not without reason that there is this massive dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Taz: Nord Stream 2 does not appear in the coalition agreement.
Baerbock; In the coalition agreement, we made it clear that European energy law must also apply to this pipeline. In parallel to our negotiations, the Federal Network Agency suspended the certification process for the time being because European energy law was not being complied with. The security policy issues, which is why our partners in Central and Eastern Europe are so opposed to this pipeline, will have to be discussed together at European level over the next few months.
Taz: China is the biggest polluter. Climate change can only be stopped if Beijing plays along. When it comes to climate protection, the US under Joe Biden is trying to cooperate with China. On most other issues, Washington relies on confrontation. Is that how you will treat China too?
Baerbock: In order to solve global problems, we have to cooperate with one another. In combating the climate crisis, for example, or in combating the corona pandemic, you can only be successful together. We are partners there. We are competitors in other areas, especially when it comes to future technological leadership. As European democracies and part of a transatlantic democratic alliance, we are also in a systemic competition with an authoritarian regime like China. In this regard, it is important to seek strategic solidarity with democratic partners, to defend our values and interests together and to advertise these values with patience in our foreign policy.
Taz: There is a passage on China in the coalition agreement. Several issues that are sensitive from Beijing’s point of view are listed for the first time: Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Will Germany be more confrontational under a Green Foreign Minister?
Baerbock: Dialogue is the central component of international politics. But that doesn’t mean that you have to gloss over things or keep quiet. A foreign policy that puts the differences in the foreground leads to an impasse just as much as one that is based on ignoring conflicts. That is why, for me, a value-based foreign policy is always an interplay of dialogue and rigor. In the long run, eloquent silence is not a form of diplomacy, even if it has been seen that way by some in recent years.
Taz: This also harbors risks, especially for Germany. After all, China is Germany’s most important trading partner.
Baerbock: As Europeans, we shouldn’t make ourselves smaller than we are. We are one of the largest domestic markets in the world. And China in particular has massive interests in the European market. If there is no longer any access to products that come from regions like Xinjiang, where forced labor is common practice, this is a big problem for an exporting country like China. We Europeans should make much greater use of this lever of the common internal market. However, this only works if all 27 member states pull together and not, as in the past, Germany as the largest member state formulate its own China policy. We need a common European policy on China.
Taz: What do you think of a boycott of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Beijing?
Baerbock; When I see how China’s leadership deals with the tennis player Peng Shuai or the arrested citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, we should of course also take a closer look at the Olympic Games. There are different ways of dealing with this for governments, which will certainly be discussed in the coming weeks.
Taz; In addition, there was a Twitter action by journalists and associations on Monday explicitly calling on you to stand up for Zhang Zhan’s freedom.
Baerbock: Journalistic reporting is not a crime. Zhang Zhan should therefore be released.
Taz; There are few points in the coalition agreement where NATO and EU partners are restless. But there is one thing: the Federal Republic of Germany will participate as an observer in the conference on the UN Treaty on Nuclear Weapons in 2022. Dozens of states have agreed in this treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons. As Foreign Minister, will you travel in person?
Baerbock: As with the questions above, the following applies: First of all, I have to be sworn in in office. But it is precisely this question of nuclear weapons that makes it clear that in the future we will again pursue an active German foreign policy that faces the dilemmas of global politics. We stand by our responsibility within the framework of NATO and the EU and also to nuclear participation. In perspective, however, we will only make the world a safer place if we come to a reduction in nuclear weapons. That is why we, as the future government, want to support the disarmament negotiations between the USA and Russia and constructively monitor the contents of the nuclear weapons ban treaty.
Taz; In the past, it was announced in coalition agreements that one would campaign for the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Germany. Not this time. Why not?
Baerbock; Internationally, disarmament talks have finally been announced again for the next few years and we want to use this opportunity – not just passively, but with a German contribution, as just described. However, this must always be done in coordination with our alliance partners, especially our partners in Central and Eastern Europe.
Taz: Because Russia has become more threatening, the Greens are no longer pushing for the end of nuclear participation.
Baerbock; The legitimate security interests of the states in Central and Eastern Europe in particular must be taken seriously. We are not contributing to their security with unilateral steps. That is why we will take part in the international disarmament policy debates in close cooperation with our partners.
Taz: As the successor to the Bundeswehr’s tornado jets, will the traffic light once again purchase aircraft that can drop nuclear weapons? This is not clearly formulated in the coalition agreement.
Baerbock; We have to procure the successor system for the tornado because the conventional capabilities have to be replaced. So it’s not just about so-called atomic bombs. We will then have to continue talking about the issue of nuclear certification.
Taz; You will become the first German female foreign minister. Does it make a difference that you are a woman or not?
Baerbock; Not for me.
After foreign minister-designate Annalena Baerbock was critical of China, the Chinese embassy in Berlin warned against a confrontation course between the two countries. “What we need are bridge builders instead of wall builders,” wrote an embassy spokeswoman on Friday in a statement on an interview by the taz with Baerbock.The embassy spokeswoman wrote that “some people”, with a view to Sino-European and Sino-German relations, increasingly brought differences to the fore and spoke of “systemic competition”. „I hope that individual German politicians will look at China and the Sino-German relations objectively and holistically, actively respect China’s core interests and main concerns and devote more of their energy to promoting practical cooperation between the two sides in various areas.“ China is ready to expand common interests with the new federal government „on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit“.