Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Future of Germany’s Foreign Policy after Merkel
The Future of Germany’s Foreign Policy after Merkel

The Future of Germany’s Foreign Policy after Merkel

In the Winter 2022 issue of Orbis, we are pleased to feature a conversation with Dr. Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and member of the Bundestag, representing the constituency of Nürtingen in Baden-Württemberg. With the announcement of the new coalition German coalition government between the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats, we would like to offer a few excerpts of that larger conversation.

Asked about the question of continuity in Germany’s foreign relations, Dr. Schmid noted: “Broadly speaking, you should expect continuity rather than deep changes. I think that Angela Merkel embodied the broad European, trans-Atlantic orientation of German foreign policy that is more or less shared across the political spectrum. Probably the most important change will take place in our relationship with China. . . . I would expect the most visible change, that has already begun to some extent on the EU level, but also in German foreign policy circles, with regard and our relationship with the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.”

This shift in the German perspective on China is driven by the assessment that “China’s rise poses a broad and unparalleled challenge to Europe, to democratic systems of government throughout the world, because, contrary to the Soviet bloc, it is not only challenging the world order in terms of military and diplomacy, but it is also has been successful in building a strong economy, modernizing its economy and in developing new technologies. . . . [W]e have to take into account the different dimensions of the China challenge—and this is why I still prefer the term challenge. It is also pertinent because it is also not only about China but about us—the capacity of democracies and socially oriented market economies to generate growth and equality, equal opportunities and social cohesion.”

On the climate question, Schmid observed: “The challenge for high-developed industrial societies is to transform a model of production and manufacturing that has worked for more than 200 years now into a sustainable form of production and manufacturing within, let’s say, 25 years. I think we can manage it, under one condition, to conceive of it as a second industrial revolution…”

Does this agenda serve as a basis for re-envisioning the trans-Atlantic relationship? He noted, “[T]he digital age, question of regulating internet firms, of providing data privacy, the question of new technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and overall sustainability in our economies—these are new venues for cooperation. We should also not ignore how fighting pandemics and developing new medicines can also help redefine the Atlantic alliance. And that is why I really welcome the creation of the US-EU Trade and Technology Council, which held its first inaugural meeting this past September in Pittsburgh—in Pennsylvania! I think we should take advantage of these developments to give a new dimension to the trans-Atlantic relationship.”

The full conversation will appear in the forthcoming issue of Orbis.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.