“Foreign policy has never been this present before” – with this remark, Thomas Paulsen from the Körber Foundation’s Executive Board welcomed the guests of the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum at the Humboldt Carré. He continued, “Crises are occurring more strongly, more frequently, more intensely and faster than in the past.” This, he stated, meant that the German population was directly “experiencing” the importance of foreign policy. Paulsen stressed that the majority of Germans still supported restraint on the part of their country when it came to international relations. However, it was also clear that the number of Germans advocating stronger German foreign policy involvement was increasing. Paulsen used data from the recent survey “Involvement or Restraint?” commissioned by the Körber Foundation, and comparable data from the previous year.
The Federal Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, thanked the Körber Foundation for having initiated a process of reflection about foreign policy issues through the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum because this process had been absent until the establishment of the Forum five years ago. He maintained that current crises and conflicts meant that reflection was extremely important and emphasized that “This year, we have seen the speed with which times can change”.
Steinmeier argued that Greece no longer constituted the biggest crisis of the year, as it had been overtaken in importance by the issue of refugees. The refugee crisis, he continued, had the potential to cause permanent divisions in Europe. Moreover, this issue was about humanity, on the one hand, and a proper understanding of solidarity on the other. Steinmeier maintained that Europe could either return to tollgates and national egoism, or demonstrate its strength as a continent and “hold together, and act together”. He also reasoned that the current situation confirmed the need for more and not less Europe. Steinmeier closed by reminding that “the right to asylum is not only a German basic right; it is a fundamental European value.”
The subsequent panel discussion dealt with the issue of how these principles could be used to implement a more equitable distribution of refugees across the European Union. The panel consisted of Luxemburg’s Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, Jan Hamáček, speaker of the Czech parliament, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The Berlin Foreign Policy Forum also focused on topics such as the strained relations between Russia and the EU, the current situation in Syria and the Middle East, and the impact of China’s rearmament on Asia.
All of these debates are available in the video
Update of the survey “Involvement or Restraint?”