Europe in the Quicksand of Internal and External Turbulences - Horst Teltschik speaks at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin

Berlin, 10 February 2017. “Nationalism means war. Not only in the past but possibly in future too”, warned the close advisor to German chancellor Helmut Kohl and former head of the Munich Security Conference, Horst Teltschik, at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute’s New Year reception in Berlin.

He continued: “In the present political situation, communication, dialogue, and solidarity among European nations are amiss.” The world, in his words, is confronted with a mounting number of crises and is marked by developments that seem positive in the beginning but result in distinctly negative momentum, such as the so-called Arab Spring, or the German military engagement in Afghanistan that was followed by the eventual return of the Taliban.

In particular, the Middle East and Syria – a focal point of global interests – are the subject of geopolitical shifts. The European influence, with EU member states concentrating on national interests instead of their common strength, is already on the wane.

Elections in the US and Consequences for Europe

Horst Teltschik did not mince his words: “The presidency of Donald Trump has produced a distinctly negative impact even prior to any tangible action by the new administation. Simply the fact that a US president speaks out in favour of Brexit, declares NATO obsolete, and takes a position against free trade and migration, negatively affects European unity. It strenghtens nationalistic feelings and proves a boon for rightwing, populist parties“. Teltschik also referred to the fact that European governments, e.g., in Poland, are suddenly speaking about the need for independent European nuclear armament – unthinkable only a few weeks ago. “All this shows that Europe, without NATO support, could well develop into a nuclear power”, Teltschik said. “Countries like Luxemburg, Holland, the Czech Republic, and Poland need NATO membership, otherwise they might feel threatened, either by Germany or Russia.”

The former head of NATO’s Military Committee, the retired German general Harald Kujat, favoured common responsibility: “Germany and the US must develop, within NATO, a ‘partnership in leadership’ strategy – but until Germany determines her international strategy that will not work.”

Teltschik complained that Angela Merkel’s political style, which he defined as abstaining from clear and concrete objectives, waypoints, and bearings, has resulted in an effective blockade on constructive internal and external policies. In addition, it leads to a situation where people start to determine their own orientations.

He therefore supports Russian initiatives strengthen dialogue and cooperation between Russia and Western Europe. The EU, as Teltschik sees it, needs to take much more initiative and show much more determination, both in dialogue with Russia, and in executing its own political role worldwide.

With a view to EU-US relations, he advised the Europeans to develop a clear and common position prior to the G20‘s Hamburg summit in July. “Before reunification, the Germans – in both states – were given no guidance, and nor were they asked, “What do you want”, Teltschik said referring back to 1990. “There was an inner determination, and we need to recover that sort of drive”.

Walter Schwimmer, former secretary general of the Council of Europe, used the quicksand metapher to describe the state of Europe today: “The continent has become stuck in quicksand, and we need to get out of it by ourselves, alone, because nobody will help us. We need to know that and muster our strengths accordingly.”

The Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC), founded in 2016, is a Berlin-based international think tank. It focuses on solutions to the challenges facing the international community. The DOC team is convinced that open, respectful, and equitable dialogue is the basic prerequisite for the co-operation and coexistence of cultures and civilisations.