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It’s time for Germany and the EU to embed green partnerships in geostrategy

Alexandra Goritz and Anton Jaekel / Jun 2024

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The EU and its Member States urgently need to set course for rebuilding their international partnerships. Germany's evaluation of bilateral partnerships could shed light on how new EU leadership and Parliament can embark on a similar journey.

An isolated Europe is a weak Europe. To remain politically and economically competitive in a world full of geopolitical tensions, the EU and its Member States urgently need to set course for rebuilding their international partnerships after the elections.

The European Green Deal remains Europe’s best basis to strengthen their strategic vision and coherence: to bolster the EU’s competitiveness in future-proof industries like clean technologies, take decisive action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, deepen ties with key partners in the Global South, and build stronger coalitions for reforming the multilateral system.

Germany has pioneered a whole-of-government approach via its Climate Foreign Policy Strategy with partnerships and cooperation at its core.  By the end of this year Germany seeks to evaluate the results of its bilateral partnerships to further develop its partnership approach. If done right, this could shed light on how the new EU leadership and Parliament can embark on a similar journey. And given the significance of the EU for Germany, it is also in its own interest to support a better European approach towards partnerships.

Many partnerships, little integration

Dealing with the growing intersection between climate action and geopolitics, Germany and the EU have extended their partnership network: Germany has over 50 bilateral partnerships and dialogues on climate, development, energy, and resources. The EU engages in 95 similar initiatives and partnerships with 82 countries.

Partnerships can be effective tools to advance Germany’s and the EU’s security, prosperity, and resilience - but only if done right. Too often, Germany’s and the EU’s approaches focus on project-based technical and financial support, lacking coordination and a clear, strategic vision. Despite efforts to pool resources and to coordinate effectively via a Team Europe approach, the EU’s and Member States’ partnerships remain only loosely integrated. This fragmentation decreases the overall impact of their efforts, falling short of Team Europe’s  goal to make “joint external action more than the sum of its parts”.

Coordination, Implementation and Participation

Only a proper evaluation of the results of bilateral partnerships with a comprehensive and transparent methodology allows for the desired strategic re-adjustment of the overall partnership approach. In the case of Germany, this would increase their credibility as a trustworthy partner and climate leader. And an integer evaluation makes Germany’s support for enhancing the EU’s partnership approach more credible. What does this mean for Germany’s evaluation and support for a better EU approach towards partnerships?

First, strong coordination on overarching goals is crucial for effective results. Germany’s fragmented responsibilities for partnerships across ministries challenge an overarching strategic framework through non-aligned goals. The evaluation should assess the impact of such conflicts on partnership results. Shared goals for different types of partnerships are key. 

Building on its evaluation, Germany should support the new EU leadership in setting up an inter-institutional partnerships taskforce led by EU institutions, supported by Member States. It could assist in developing a formal process to identify key priority countries, and pool analyses and resources to design partnership offers while increasing coordination of existing EU and Member States’ partnerships, Team Europe Initiatives and Global Gateway projects. 

Second, results depend on implementation. Germany’s nearly 60 “Core Climate Embassies” collaborate with European partners, and foster dialogue and cooperation in partner countries. This can improve the development and implementation of partnerships. To realise their potential, the review should assess how ministries involve “Core Climate Embassies” in identifying partners for implementation.

Germany should use these insights to support the new EU leadership to build on the role of embassies in engaging partners. Currently, outreach to and cooperation with key partners by the EU and its Member States is on an ad-hoc basis. Informal Green Diplomacy Hubs, mentioned in the EU’s plans for Green Diplomacy, can help to systemically pool and share information, thereby improving the joint outreach to core partners. Formalised as permanent collaboration structures, they should increase cohesion between EU Member States’ Embassies, the European External Action Service, and the European Commission.

Third, participation is a central dimension for a consistent approach to partnerships and climate foreign policy. In line with its own strategy, the German government should go beyond its in-house expertise and integrate the broad knowledge of non-state actors – civil society, academia, and the private sector. Including external stakeholders in the evaluation process ensures an outside perspective on existing partnerships and increases their legitimacy. 

An EU geostrategic framework for strong green partnerships

The EU should bring collaboration between Member States, the Commission, and Parliament to a whole new level. Germany can support this debate with a credible partnership evaluation. Only when partnerships are embedded in an overall geostrategic framework, with a clear vision and underlying resources, they can fulfil their true potential.

In major geopolitical shifts, strong partners are more than a “nice to have”. And investments in partnerships will pay off. By fostering strong, coordinated partnerships, the EU creates the basis for its future resilience, security, and competitiveness.  

 

Alexandra Goritz

Alexandra Goritz

June 2024

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Anton  Jaekel

Anton Jaekel

June 2024

About this author ︎►

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