Brookings Now

Germany’s Foreign Minister at Brookings on Snowden, TTIP and Ukraine

Fred Dews

On February 28, the Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) at Brookings hosted Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s federal minister for foreign affairs, for a Statesman’s Forum address on the value of transatlantic relations for future generations.

His remarks covered a wide range of issues in the transatlantic relationship.Get full audio and video for the discussion and Q&A session that followed. Below are excerpts of his remarks on three key issues:  TTIP; Edward Snowden and NSA surveillance; and Ukraine.

“Our single biggest lever of opportunity is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

Our single biggest lever of opportunity is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. What TTIP will do is more than cutting tariffs. It will cut the red tape and the special interests that stands in the way of innovation. Most of all this will benefit the small and medium sized companies.


Speaking on TTIP brings me to the second value that we need to put to work. TTIP isn’t just about trade and investment and perhaps jobs. It’s about setting standards. The planet that our children are growing up on is becoming, as I, said more interconnected and more crowded than ever before. So more than ever we need a fair set of rules by which we treat each other and the planet we live on.


TTIP is a huge opportunity to shape the rules of the next phase of globalization together. And let me be clear, neither side will lower its standards when it comes to the protection and safety of its citizens. Quite the contrary. The goal is to agree on high-level standards that can serve as a benchmark for other countries. TTIP is a landmark for free trade worldwide, not a retreat into bilateralism. In our view, TTIP will inspire our diversity, not reduce to uniformity.


“I’m not here to pass judgment on Edward Snowden but one thing is clear: the practices he revealed have tested the trust of America’s friends to an extent where it threatens to get in the way of all the other tasks and all the other opportunities that we have.”

In no other area is this need for rules as apparent as in the Internet. And in case you were wondering, from our perspective it’s not been going very well so far. Because the Internet has brought us closer than ever before, the loss of trust runs all the deeper, especially among young people, who lead much of their lives online.


I’m not here to pass judgment on Edward Snowden but one thing is clear: the practices he revealed have tested the trust of America’s friends to an extent where it threatens to get in the way of all the other tasks and all the other opportunities that we have. And just to clarify, the problem is not the political trouble that the news of these practices have caused us. The problem are the practices themselves. And here not only the wiretapping of members of our government. We shouldn’t allow the logic of mistrust to contaminate all the areas where cooperation holds the greater, mutual benefit.


So instead of more confrontation, let me … offer a change of perspective. Finding the right rules to govern the digital world is a huge challenge. We both face the challenge and we both haven’t figured it out. So I suggest we work together on the solutions we need. How to govern the Internet. How to protect European and American data. How to tap the huge economic potential of the fourth industrial revolution. And how to keep us safe at the same time.


That is why I am suggesting a broader, transatlantic cyber-dialogue that involves government agencies, but also companies and civil society. I hope that the young generation from Silicon Valley and from Berlin and Munich will take part in this dialogue. Finding a common understanding of the proper rules for the age of Big Data is a defining challenge not only for our relationship but for the world of the 21st century.


“Europe, the United States and Russia should work to provide Ukraine with stability, political as well as economic, rather than pulling it further apart.”

I talked about values first for a reason. These values—opportunities, fairness, freedom, democracy—we owe them not only just to our own children. They are values that young people dream of far beyond our borders.

Author


They are for instance the dream of many young people on the Maidan in Kyiv. When the struggle for their dream was escalating into bloodshed last week, my Polish and French colleagues and I myself, we traveled to Kyiv to try to break the spiral and bring the parties back to the table. The odds were indeed small, but the agreement we achieved allowed the country to step back from the brink of a civil war.


The latest signs still leave me worried. So we are keeping working to ensure a peaceful transition and this transition will have to be achieved first of all by the Ukrainians themselves. But Europe, the United States and Russia should work to provide Ukraine with stability, political as well as economic, rather than pulling it further apart.


Ukraine, ladies and gentlemen, is one example in a larger picture. Neither the United States nor Europe can take on its global responsibility alone. But as one president who inspired both of our nations once said, “United, there is little we cannot do.”


German foreign policy firmly embedded in its European and transatlantic partnership is willing to carry its share. I’m committed to a foreign policy that will expand and leverage the tool box of diplomacy in order to act earlier, more substantively, more decisively, to prevent and to solve conflicts. In some cases Europe will take the diplomatic lead as we are doing it in Ukraine for instance. In other cases the U.S. will take the diplomatic lead as Secretary Kerry is currently doing with great energy in the Middle East peace process. 


Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided introductory remarks. Fiona Hill, director of CUSE, moderated the discussion.


Join the conversation on Twitter using #TransAtl.

More