Monday, January 20, 2020

FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY

By Detlef Prinz

World conflicts continue to grow in both number and ferocity. Politics, economics and society are changing at a rapid pace. In this uncertain environment, there are two democratic principles to which we must remain steadfast: freedom and responsibility.

The gradual shift of power, influence and wealth from the Atlantic to the Pacific is having a growing impact on Europe. Economic dependence on China, the ASEAN states and the entire Indo-Pacific region is increasing. Global business leaders, such as Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser, are already warning of a division of the world into a US and a Chinese sphere of influence.

As a major exporting nation, Germany has a lot to lose. Hundreds of thousands of jobs depend on trade with the People’s Republic, particularly in the automobile and textile industries. Nevertheless, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently admonished the government in China to resolve the Hong Kong issue peacefully and without the use of violence. In this case, we carry a double responsibility: to maintain our prosperity while also ensuring freedom and the observance of the rule of law.

The two principles of freedom and responsibility are also affected by today’s pernicious tendency toward protectionism. This trend, too, holds the potential to have a particularly strong impact on an export nation like Germany.

If Europe wants to play a continued role – both politically and economically – it will have to establish a common voice and assume more responsibility in the realm of foreign affairs and security policy.

However, in order to prevent the EU from playing a second-tier role on the world’s political stage, Germany will have to strengthen the social, political, economic and technological forces that bind the European Union. In a Europe threatening to drift apart, Germany must insist that the EU be able to safeguard its interests by enabling majority decision-making rather than unanimous votes.

If we German Europeans – and we European-minded Germans – choose to see this transition to a new world order as an opportunity rather than a threat, then we will have little to worry about with regard to the future of Europe. Indeed, this approach would allow us to infuse the principles of freedom and responsibility with new vigor so that subsequent generations can meet the challenges of the new era and enjoy their own freedom, prosperity and open ways of life.

Detlef Prinz
is publisher of The German Times.