Green Foreign Policy

The party Bündnis 90 / die Grünen have published a first draft programme for the Bundestag elections in September 2021. It will take a good month before the final version is ready, but many points should already be apparent here. So what does the German eco-party think about the country’s foreign policy?

Since 2014, the conflict over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist militia in the Middle East, there has been a different wind in the formulation of German foreign policy. At the Munich Security Conference in 2014, then German President Joachim Gauck demanded that Germany “do more for that security which others have granted it for decades.” This insight was sharpened again in 2016 when Donald Trump won the US elections. “The times when we could completely rely on others, they are a bit over,” as Merkel publicly proclaimed the following year. The Greens also argue along these lines. “It is time to pursue an active foreign policy again and to lead the way as a shaping force”, and this should be done multilaterally, European and transatlantic. Apart from the basically sad fact that this is apparently still not the case after seven years, the question naturally arises here as to how the party, which was never part of the government during this period and is thus not primarily responsible for this development, seeks to live up to this claim. So what are its concrete starting points?

First of all, the party uses the concept of a foreign climate policy and the emphasis on multilateralism as the central slogans of its foreign policy programme. Especially under US President Biden, there is likely to be close cooperation in this area, should the Greens be able to push through their ideas. The reference to multilateralism is something they share with almost all other parties in the German Bundestag and reflects the realities of the country’s foreign policy, which depends on cooperation with various partners to make progress.

Its geostrategic ideas are dealt with in individual chapters on different regions. Within Europe, the party sees the EU enlargement policy as “a success story” which it intends to continue. Specifically, the Western Balkans and the accession talks with Albania and Northern Macedonia are mentioned. Here a conflict is brewing between Germany, where the most important parties want the EU to expand, and France, which is becoming increasingly sceptical about this kind of policy. A continuation of this policy is becoming increasingly unlikely.

In addition, the party advocates a new policy in the Mediterranean region, which “jointly realises development potentials for the region and at the same time faces the enormous challenges: Terrorism, authoritarian regimes, state collapse.” Unfortunately, there is not a word about how these goals are to be achieved. Not even potential partner countries for this extensive project are mentioned. Ultimately, there is no orderly strategy here.

The programme describes relations with the USA as a “pillar of German foreign policy”, which, however, need to be renewed. This was probably a reference to Trump and will probably lose some of its relevance under Biden.

The party describes China as “Europe’s competitor, partner, systemic rival.” It calls for clear changes in Beijing’s behaviour towards Taiwan and Hong Kong and in Tibet and Xinjiang, but also sees a need for cooperation, especially in the field of climate policy. The lack of mention of the military conflicts in the Pacific is pleasant here, as some are already calling for greater German involvement in the region, which would, however, far exceed the country’s capabilities. The fact that the Indian Ocean and the land corridors of the Belt and Road project, including Iran, are not mentioned either, although they are of vital importance for Europe’s trade links, again shows a lack of foresight in this area, but the party is not alone in this in Germany.

With regard to Russia, the Greens are in line with Washington, want to strengthen the exchange with the country’s “courageous” civil society and unconditionally cancel the construction of the Nord-Stream 2 pipeline. In this way, they continue to follow the tradition of the first Green government participation from 1998 to 2005. The programme sounds similarly critical towards Turkey and its government.

With regard to Israel, one should look at a longer section in the original. It states:

“Peace and security require a two-state settlement with two sovereign, viable and democratic states for Israelis and Palestinians. The announced elections in the Palestinian territories are a positive sign. We want to use the opportunity of Israel’s political and economic agreements with Arab states to revive a multilateral peace process and create long-term peace in the region. Europe should coordinate closely with the new US administration to this end.”

The fighting over the last few days has shown how little this strategy has to do with the realities on the ground. The two-state solution is further away than ever and was not a realistic option anyway, the elections were cancelled at the last minute, deepening divisions within the Palestinians, and a peace process has not been seriously addressed for years. In addition, the US government is currently showing itself to be completely haphazard and has generally lost a great deal of its former influence in the region.

With regard to Africa, the party calls for a rethink, away from the supposedly post-colonial approaches towards a common strategy in which future issues belong at the centre. In doing so, however, it remains just as vague as traditional German foreign policy in the region. The Sahel, with its manifold problems that increasingly threaten Europe, is not even mentioned, and there is no mention of competition between the world powers for this continent. So it remains to be feared that Germany will continue to look blindly to the South, which is becoming increasingly important for Europe.

What is really annoying about this election programme is the fact that the strategies towards issues such as the Middle East conflict, China’s behaviour at home and in its surroundings or Russia’s domestic policy have been formulated relatively precisely, although a German government can exert almost no influence in this areas and it also does not affect our vital interests. On the other hand, the Mediterranean and “security policy responsibility” are mentioned in the text, but remain so vague that no strategy can be read from them. This gives rise to the suspicion that the focus is wrongly set (or communicated) and thus misses reality to some extent.

In summary, it can be said that in most respects the Greens intend to continue along the traditional lines of German foreign policy. This concerns both the USA and Russia, but also relations within Europe and its immediate neighbourhood. Of course, they too use the credo that the EU must “assume more foreign and security policy responsibility itself.” But how this is to be done without an increase in military capacities remains a mystery. Perhaps we will be smarter in seven years.

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