German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy kicked off the second day of the 50th Munich Security Conference. Steinmeier picked up the notion of the first day and urged Germany to make more specific security policy commitments.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, were the first to speak on Saturday morning, Day Two of the 50th Munich Security Conference.
In his opening remarks, Steinmeier said that World War I was a strong warning of how fast living peacefully side by side can turn into deep and relentless hatred. Crises have come closer to Europe in recent times, he added with reference to the current situation in Ukraine. Relations between China, Japan, and their neighboring countries are more strained now while state order in the Middle East is starting to erode.
No “wait-and-see strategy”
Steinmeier endorsed the statements made by German Federal President Joachim Gauck and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen the day before: Germany's commitment to crisis prevention needs to come sooner and in more concrete terms. He also said that a wait-and-see strategy was not an option even if military means would always and only have to be the last resort.
The German Foreign Minister also voiced the hope that a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine could be found during the MSC. He concluded with a clear commitment to NATO: “The North Atlantic Alliance will always be our vital fallback position.”
Go to the website of the Federal Foreign Office for Mr. Steinmeier’s speech in full length (German only).
Ban argues for organic UN military assets
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, also brought the numerous present crises, conflicts and wars into focus. One of the crucial lessons learned from the overall picture is that the world is focused far too much on those conflicts that dominate the headlines all over the world. “Silent conflicts” are left standing in the press and ultimately also in politics as soon as international efforts for conflict management are required.
Of course, Ban could not fail to have a look at the civil war in Syria. In agreement with the statements of the panelists given during yesterday’s evening event, the UN Secretary General referred to the important circumstance that the overwhelming majority of the victims of the war has been killed by conventional weapons. The termination of hostilities must be given top priority. Moreover, Ban also called for unrestricted access of relief organizations to the crisis region.
In bringing the numerous present crises to an end, not only the states alone are called upon to commit themselves directly. The United Nations’ ability to act should also be strengthened. In this context, Ban referred to the, from his point of view, chronic shortage of organic military assets that should be made available to the UN for the purpose of international crisis management.
More cooperation in Europe
Herman Van Rompuy advertised the attractive force of Europe: “Our strongest incentive is our lifestyle.” At the same time, he renewed the offer to Ukraine to follow Europe more closely. The most recent incidents have made all Europeans aware of the fact that such incidents have an impact also on Europe.
Van Rompuy admitted that still more has to be done in the area of joint defense policy. However, he expressed his optimism that the year 2014 will produce important progress. He made clear that diplomatic solutions are, in principle, to be preferred. Yet, Europe is prepared to employ military forces, if necessary. Finally, he argued for the intended free trade agreement between EU and the U.S.A.: It will waft a significant political signal for strong cooperation beyond the economic spheres.