(c) Dahrendorf Forum/ Steffen Weigelt

Dahrendorf Symposium: “Europe must unite, or become irrelevant”

Under the theme “Europe and the World – Global Insecurity & Power Shifts,” high-ranking politicians, diplomats, scientists and foreign policy experts are discussing challenges for European foreign policy at the Dahrendorf Symposium 2016 in Berlin.

The opening discussion of the Symposium at the Akademie der Künste in the centre of Berlin revolved around “Europe in an Era of Global Power Shifts.” Norbert Röttgen (CDU, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Parliament), Fuat Keyman (Director of the Istanbul Policy Center), former Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and political scientist Constanze Stelzenmüller (Brookings Institute) participated in the opening panel moderated by journalist Juliette Foster.

Over the course of the discussion, the EU’s handling of the refugee crisis crystallized to be one of the most important challenges for Europe’s future on the world stage.

Dahrendorf Symposium 2016Asked about the implications of global power shifts for Europe, Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Chairman Norbert Röttgen, member of Chancellor Merkels conservative Party, described the global order of international politics to be in its third phase after the Second World War. Characteristic for this phase is the fact that no single power is able to impose its ideas of order on a global scale, resulting in “turmoil, chaos, the privatization of force and spill-over effects of international conflicts.” In this environment, Röttgen points to the growing complexity and inter-connectivity of conflicts as a primary challenge for effective foreign policy. Regarding Europe’s role in the world, the German politician described two alternatives: “Either we unite as European, or Europe will be irrelevant on the world stage.” Germany’s responsibility in this process, following Röttgen, is to “forge unity among Europeans by organizing compromise” to enforce effective common European foreign policy solutions.

A prime example of the complexity of new types of international challenges for Europe is the refugee crisis, which, according to Röttgen, “has shaken Europe to its foundations.” The German foreign policy maker believes common European interests are at the foundation of the EU’s Agreement with Turkey to control migration into Europe.

Concerning the EU-Turkey-Agreement, Fuat Keyman stated: “Europe needs Turkey. And Turkey needsEurope.” However, Europeans should reject the paradigm of seeing Turkey as “buffer state” to contain the refugees crisis. Instead, the EU should engage in an open discourse with Ankara, eye-to-eye, said Keyman. Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy warned the EU of an isolationist approach in the refugee crisis: “You cannot hide from problems behind physical barriers.” He advocated for closer foreign policy cooperation and stronger efforts in foreign aid between the EU and the countries of the Arab world in order to stabilize the region and preemptively prevent disintegrating societies in Europe’s neighborhood.

Dahrendorf Symposium 2016Putting the refugee crisis aside, Constanze Stelzenmüller focused on the implications of the upcoming US presidential election for Europe. Stelzenmüller described the probable race between Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a “contest between isolationism and leading from the front.” The outcome of this contest has to be considered in the future of transatlantic relations.

The Dahrendorf Symposium 2016 continues on Thursday and Friday with several panel discussion, working groups and round tables revolving around international challenges for Europe.

Read the German version on www.treffpunkteuropa.de

About the author: Marcel Wollscheid is the Editor-in-Chief of www.treffpunkteeuropa.de

The opinions expressed in this blog contribution are entirely those of the author and do not represent the positions of the Dahrendorf Forum or its hosts Hertie School and London School of Economics or its funder Stiftung Mercator.