German President opens ECFR Berlin: “The German debate needs a European perspective”


19th February, 2018

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Federal President

Chaired by:

Mark Leonard, founding director of ECFR

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Federal President, opened the new European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) office in Berlin on Monday evening (19.2.18). The pan-European think tank with seven offices spread across Europe is relocating its headquarters from London as Berlin becomes the new centre of gravity for European decision-making.

Speaking to guests from all over Europe, including Sweden's former Prime Minister Carl Bildt and Mabel van Oranje, President Steinmeier welcomed ECFR’s shift towards Berlin as “a sign that Germany’s weight and importance within the European Union has grown over the years.” But he also sounded a note of caution.

“For a country of the size and weight of Germany there is always a risk of losing sight of the way our actions are perceived by our partners. Especially in a period of economic success there is a temptation to think that we do everything right and others should simply follow our example. I am deeply convinced that keeping our eyes and our ears open to the perspectives of our partners, to their arguments and their counter-arguments, their grievances and experiences is absolutely necessary to ensure a sound German foreign and European policy”

The expanded presence of ECFR in Berlin, however, is not all about Germany. Brexit, and the UK’s reduced role in European foreign policy, also prompted the think tank to reconsider its location. The British referendum made clear that a strong and united Europe is not a given. “Only if we are willing to act and deliver together, will we preserve the cohesion of Europe and its capacity to act as one on the world stage,” Steinmeier said.

Mark Leonard, the founding director of the ECFR agreed and explained ECFR’s mission as a pan-European think tank with the largest office in Berlin. The aim is to Europeanize the German debate on foreign policy and at the same time bring the German perspective in the EU. “We have faith in the ‘new departure for Europe’ which was announced in the coalition agreement," Leonard said. ECFR wants to support the new German government with its expertise on China, Turkey and the Middle East, Russia, and cyber and security policy.

Other guests attending the opening were ECFR board members such as former Danish Environment Minister Lykke Friis, British historian Timothy Garton Ash, political scientist Ivan Krastev, former State Secretary Martina Krogmann, and member of the German Bundestag and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Norbert Röttgen; as well as other members of the Bundestag, ministerial officials and representatives from business, academia and think tanks.

Read the speech by Mark Leonard and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier here.

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Picture credit: ECFR / Darchinger

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