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Joint European action

With regard to foreign and security policy, Germany champions a united stance.
© Stephan Dinges/

Germany works closely with its European partners in all major policy areas. The 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, for example, institutionalised the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) still further. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy chairs the Council of Foreign Ministers and is also Vice-President of the European Commission. Spanish politician Josep Borrell has held this office since December 2019. He is also responsible for representing the EU externally on all CFSP issues. The European External Action Service (EEAS) assists the High Representative in discharging his duties.

Cooperation in security and defence

Through these institutional changes the EU has considerably strengthened its visibility and efficacy outside its own territory. Moreover, The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) gives the EU the necessary operational abilities to ensure effective crisis management. Civilian and military means are brought to bear. With a view to strengthening the CSDP, during its Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2020, Germany will open a European Centre of Excellence for Civil Crisis Management in Berlin. It will promote interaction about best practice models and develop approaches as regards the future of common civilian crisis management.

The long-term idea is to create a European Security and Defence Union (ESDU). Agreed in 2017, the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is a cornerstone of this. Germany is currently managing several PESCO projects, including the coordination of the education of soldiers for EU training missions.

Unresolved questions in how to deal with refugees and migration

The influx of refugees and migrants above all in 2015 and 2016 into Europe is a pan-European issue for which Germany with its partners is seeking an enduring answer. The EU Commission’s “European Migration Agenda” has already achieved strong results with measures such as the EU-Turkey Declaration of March 2016, migration partnerships with African home countries or transit countries, and the battle against human traffickers: In 2019, the number of irregular border crossings on key migration routes was the lowest since 2013. In early 2020, however, the situation on the border between Turkey and Greece escalated after Turkey had for a while opened its side of the border again. The question of how to treat refugees and the just distribution of asylum seekers within the EU still requires a sustainable, fair answer.

Germany is working intensely in the areas of crisis prevention and humanitarian assistance to combat the causes that force people to flee their countries. Information plays a key role and the Federal Foreign Office and the foreign missions in crisis regions outline the dangers of being a refugee and of irregular migration, in this way trying to counteract the deliberate false information provided by criminal human traffickers.

For competitive European industry

The EU’s economic success is based on free world trade. The EU has signed trade agreements with numerous countries and regions and aspires to more. In 2019, for example, the EU signed a comprehensive free trade agreement with the members of the South American trade bloc Mercosur. Germany is a sought-after partner when it comes to trade within the EU. In 2018, it was the most important target country for the exports of 17 EU member states.

Germany is working on making European industry more competitive. Together with its partner France it is championing the creation of “European champions” – major transnational industrial corporations that can survive amidst global competition. To this end, Germany also supports a review and adaptation of EU competition rules. This matter is part of the Federal government’s Industry Strategy 2030. In it the government also calls on the EU Commission to develop a comprehensive, long-term industrial strategy for the EU.

The high value of the rule of law

Germany is committed to protecting and strengthening rule of law standards in the EU. In 2000, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was adopted on the back of a German initiative. Germany has also long supported the EU joining the European Convention on Human Rights. Because in some EU Member States there were recently violations of rule of law principles, in 2019 the EU Commission adopted a series of measures. Amongst other things, developments with regard to the rule of law in all Member States will be reviewed in a annual report. The EU Commission already has a tool with which to respond to non-adherence to rule of law standards. It can, for example, lodge a formal complaint with the European Court of Justice if in its opinion national laws infringe EU legislation.