Beitrag von Militärbischof Dr. Bernhard Felmberg zur Vorstellung des Friedensgutachtens 2021 am 29.06.2021

Europe can do better! The authors of the 2021 peace report hold this conviction. Therefore, they recommend that the strategic autonomy of Europe should be aligned with the principles of peace policies. Global challenges, such as the Covid19-pandemic or climate change call for non-military solutions. It is crucial for the strategic autonomy of Europe to emphasize the civil components of foreign and defense policies.

From the perspective of my church I can only agree with this reasoning. The Protestant Church in Germany has continuously emphasized the significance of Europe as a source of peace. Europe holds great responsibility for a political strategy of prevention and de-escalation. We as the church attentively observe the ongoing evolution of European foreign and security strategies and the accompanying further development of the European Union’s self-understanding.

The global strategy of the European Union of 2016 stresses the importance of resilience as a basic principle for European foreign and defense policies. The security of Europe is increasingly depicted as a chance. I am convinced that ongoing efforts towards an independent defensibility do not inevitably lead to militarization. They can rather lead to inner confidence building, which enables us to perform better in many different fields of politics.

From the perspective of peace-ethics the question is raised about how much room will be given to the mission of peace within the European strategy. A minimal consensus of all member-states won’t be enough to keep Europe as a project of peace alive. Europe needs to fund her civil instruments adequately. Central points of criticism have continued to be relevant for many years now: Strategic assigning of the foreign and defense policies to a coherent peace-political framework orientated to the overall strategy of the European Union is lacking. And: there is a lack of transparency and democratic legitimization of the separate processes.

1. Expectations of the churches
The council presidencies of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia had as a goal to bring the strategic cultures of the European member-states closer together. Germany introduces a strategic compass for the joint security and defense politics. Both efforts are to be welcomed.It is crucial that the strategic compass exceeds the mere listing of instruments for the security and defense of the union.Clarification of the goals for the culture of defense and security are also needed. The four dimensions of the compass can contribute to a successful clarification. The dimensions are crisis management, resilience, skills, and partnerships.

Deeply linked to the process is the project of a joint analysis of threats. This project contributes to an objectification of the debate. In a time in which Europe is facing tangible threats it becomes more challenging to broaden the view of the people of Europe so that they take a look at remote conflicts and reflect the European ability or duty to act within these remote conflicts. Therefore, it is very likely that resilience will be a more pertinent issue than conflict resolution. Within the Eastern member states of the European Union the topic of European defense is more prevalent than the topic of crisis management in favor of third parties.
It is important that the goals and means of coping with conflicts are dealt with. The compass can help in doing so. It is crucial that within the European Union the entanglement of military measures and civil instruments of crisis management will be strengthened systematically. The member states of the European Union spend more for humanitarian aid, civil stabilization, and measures of development than the United States of America. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that integrated approaches in which civil and military aspects come together within a broader strategy are only seldom put in use.This weakens the effectivity of our efforts on a national level as well as on a multi-national level such as NATO, United Nations, or the European Union.
I support the demand of the 2021 peace report to find a clear allocation of tasks within the different organizations of institutional protection of peace within the European Union. The European Union needs to strengthen and to develop her role of being a peace power internationally. At the same time, the European Union is sometimes involved in conflicts herself: as in the Ukraine. Therefore, the European Union needs strong partners such as OSCE and NATO.

As churches we stress the point that a policy of joint security presupposes trust. But it is also true: trust presupposes security. Both are crucial on a level of cooperation between the member states but also at the level of engagement of individual European citizens with one another.It is of great importance to deal with the issues of cyber-security or artificial intelligence and to improve the security of networks and systems within Europe. But it is also crucial to keep in mind, that disinformation and radicalization develop according to social conditions. The central question is how we live European values. The credibility of the European Union is linked to the handling of illiberal tendencies in countries such as Hungary or Poland. The credibility furthermore depends on finding a good way to take into consideration that we take historic experiences serious for our contemporary thinking about and acting on principles such as freedom of speech or freedom of opinion. The idea of a European lifestyle must not become a means of exclusion as the 2021 peace report puts it.Resilience and cohesion emerge, where different opinions have endured and common convictions are fought for. The European Union itself is Europe’s greatest project. Europe’s power to act derives in great part from the cohesion of her civil societies and the functionality of her democratic institutions. The churches played a major role in reconciliation and recreating resilience after 1945. They should do so today and work for a greater understanding amongst different groups and individuals within society. That is more fruitful than mourning their increasing marginalization.

2. First impulses
The European Union received the Noble Peace Price in 2012 advisably. The European Union is a great peace project. In the light of a changing environment of security politics it is necessary to construct military capability cooperatively. The expenditure on defense of all European member states is with approximately 200 billion Euros the second highest in the world. The number 1.5 million soldiers is the most extensive in the world. Nevertheless, Europe becoming a global military power would only bring another military ally to the field. If Europe implements her full potential of security and defense skills – including military skills – and if Europe uses these skills for prevention of conflicts as well as aversion of that which jeopardizes peace, Europe would become a significant protagonist stating that multilateralism is a successful way for the future of our world.
To become such a protagonist, the European Union needs to focus on the priority of preventive strategies without neglecting compliant means of military intervention. Europe needs to expand and develop civil and military instruments for conflict management. Europe needs to cooperate with nongovernmental organization and with international security organizations, especially with the United nations.

All of this is possible within the framework of the strategic compass. It is necessary that some states proceed resolutely even though this may become challenging for others within the European Union. ”It is important that these states are able to be flexible in their actions and link these actions while at the same time legitimizing the greater framework of the Union. Fantasy, a sense for European solidarity, and a sure instinct are necessary, along with transparency for all member states and open doors for those who need more time.” (Brose 2020)

Europe can do better – and at the same time Europe remains a great vivid symbol for peaceful solutions and integration of divergent interests. I see it as the great responsibility of our churches to call for an ongoing European commitment for peace. The churches need to demand a broadening of the view beyond the immediate threats and beyond the mere security of Europe herself.

I am thankful for the 2021 peace report which is a stimulating and qualified input on that matter.