A Berlin perspective

I’ll be spending most of this week in Berlin at a conference on the Balkans and in advance of the trip, I spoke to Ruprecht Polenz, chair of the Bundestag‘s foreign affairs committee. Polenz may be best known in Germany for being a strong advocate of Turkish accession to the European Union. He acknowledges that ...

By , a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

I'll be spending most of this week in Berlin at a conference on the Balkans and in advance of the trip, I spoke to Ruprecht Polenz, chair of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee. Polenz may be best known in Germany for being a strong advocate of Turkish accession to the European Union. He acknowledges that public support in Germany and most other parts of the EU for accession is weak but he insists that "the whole idea of the European union was not to found a club of countries that would become richer and richer." The more fundamental purpose of union was to secure peace, and Polenz argues that drawing in Turkey would be a major step in that direction, particularly in a world increasingly fraught by civilizational tensions. "If the European model could include Turkey, it will be a model of peaceful order for the rest of the world." This view of the EU as a project in constructing peace is a very tough sell in a Europe still reeling from the financial crisis, but Polenz doesn't despair. He notes that polling on Franco-German cooperation was often weak in the 1950s.

I’ll be spending most of this week in Berlin at a conference on the Balkans and in advance of the trip, I spoke to Ruprecht Polenz, chair of the Bundestag‘s foreign affairs committee. Polenz may be best known in Germany for being a strong advocate of Turkish accession to the European Union. He acknowledges that public support in Germany and most other parts of the EU for accession is weak but he insists that "the whole idea of the European union was not to found a club of countries that would become richer and richer." The more fundamental purpose of union was to secure peace, and Polenz argues that drawing in Turkey would be a major step in that direction, particularly in a world increasingly fraught by civilizational tensions. "If the European model could include Turkey, it will be a model of peaceful order for the rest of the world." This view of the EU as a project in constructing peace is a very tough sell in a Europe still reeling from the financial crisis, but Polenz doesn’t despair. He notes that polling on Franco-German cooperation was often weak in the 1950s.

Polenz offered up some interesting perspectives on other issues:

On the Obama administration and concerns that it has neglected Europe:  " I personally think the Obama administration is the best we can get from the American side," he says. "I don’t sing with this chorus of neglect." He sees the Obama administration’s insistence on multilateralism as very European and detects in the complaints from Europeans resentful of their recent treatment a whiff of nostalgia for the Cold War, during which Europe was often the center of attention.

On NATO’s future role:  "The desire to have another Afghanistan is very limited," he argues. And he pooh-poohs the idea that the alliance needs to have a major mission or nation-building project to keep the alliance healthy and intact. "Why do we need projects like fighting to assure ourselves that NATO is necessary? This is not the right way to think."

On reforming the UN Security Council: Polenz notes that Germany is in the midst of a fight for a non-permanent seat. If it wins, the next Council will feature Brazil, Germany, and India (see here also). He argues that having three of the four leading candidates for new permanent seats on the Council will be an important opportunity to make the case for reform. Perhaps, but I think Polenz is optimistic here. Small states are likely to point out that large, influential countries like Germany already have a major advantage when it comes to winning the rotating Council seats. They’ll be on the Council plenty in any case. So why do they need permanent seats?  

David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist

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