H.E. Frank Walter Steinmier encourages transatlantic partnerships at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs
H.E. Frank Walter Steinmier encourages the Trans-Atlantic Partnership at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs

In a visit hosted by the Elliott School of International Affairs on Tuesday, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank Walter Steinmeier struck an optimistic tone as he delivered remarks on why the Trans-Atlantic Partnership is crucial for solving global problems. Steinmeier, who has served since 2013, outlined the major global challenges Germany is currently facing. These include the ongoing civil war in Syria, the European refugee crisis, and Britain’s potential withdrawal from the European Union. His address comes as Germany takes over as the rotating chair of the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is responsible for, among other things, overseeing the Minsk agreement in Ukraine and monitoring peacekeeping in the Balkans. “We need to cooperate, and we have cooperated for seven decades. Steinmeier said, “In doing so, we have built the strongest alliance that either of us has ever had.” His remarks highlighted major successes that have come through US-Germany cooperation such as the Iran nuclear deal and the recent partial ceasefire in Syria.

The foreign minister also cautioned against fear-based politics, a trend that has been gaining momentum in both the United States and Germany. Citizens’ unease over the nearly one million migrants Germany took in last year have sparked a resurgence in far-right political groups, among them PEGIDA, an organization opposing the “Islamization of the West,” and the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party.

In the United States, many on the right have exploited anxiety over immigration with sharp rhetoric and outlandish policy proposals. “Building a wall is a bad thing,” the minister added, “no matter who pays for them.” Besides serving as an obvious denouncement of a certain presidential candidate’s immigration plan, these remarks also highlight the great costs the European Union will face if its member states abandon their commitment to open internal borders. Last year, several member states introduced temporary border controls, in defiance of the Schengen Agreement, to stem the flow of migrants entering the EU.

Instead of giving in to fear, Steinmeier argued that perseverance, confidence, and cooperation should be the foundation of good foreign policymaking. These are the values on which the trans-Atlantic partnership is built and which are needed to sustain it.