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Europe at sea

13th Maritime Convention
Berlin was marked on 12 November by the numerous events in memory of the opening of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. Policemen had cordoned off the meadow in front of the Reichstag building for the first swearing in of recruits at this historic site since 2013. The Landesvertretung of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, which is located far from here, decorated their fences with souvenir photos on 9 November. Since the Maritime Convention entitled “Europe to the Sea” something out of the ordinary. Nevertheless, with around 200 visitors, it was a magnet for the maritime community.

Vice Admiral (ret.) Hans-Joachim Stricker welcomed the numerous guests from politics, economy, military and authorities and thanked all participants and sponsors that this format could be realized for the 13th time. The Maritime Convention is more than just a tradition and by no means the only meeting point of the maritime networks in Berlin. However, as the “flagship” of the German Maritime Institute (DMI), it is the most important platform for professional exchange. The core of this event is the keynote and lectures with the subsequent discussion panels. Also this year the DMI managed to captivate the visitors with important topics. The fact that most of the guests as well-versed networkers particularly look forward to the generously planned break and the even more generous evening event each year is part of the character of the convention.

The first panel, titled “Europe’s Maritime Dimension”, was opened by the former Ambassador of the European Union for the Arctic, Marie-Anne Coninsx. For many of those present, the view of the far north may have been glacial and romantic. Coninsx disenchanted this idea, however, right at the beginning. The huge area is far more than just “polar bears on ice “: this is where geopolitical, economic and security interests meet a whole series of countries. Together with the drama of climate change, which is particularly visible here, the Arctic is becoming current most dynamic region of the earth.
The speed with which the glaciers in Greenland melt, the permafrost soaked and the environmental destruction revealed is breathtaking. Military installations are endangered, microplastics are just as stressful here as in other oceans and the dangers of rising sea levels endanger us here in Central Europe. However, she also mentioned the opportunities and opportunities that this offered and mentioned several projects: the construction of wind farms, the laying of submarine cables and the establishment of access to the raw materials of this region. These are especially important for Russia. The mineral resources available here are of paramount importance, and development would give Europe the opportunity to become more independent of imports.
That she specifically meant China’s dependency was obvious. Also, the possibility of using the North-East passage on a distant day would significantly change global shipping traffic. Furthermore, Coninsx spoke about the installation of military facilities on the north coast of Russia, but did not go further on their military dimension. Rather, she stressed how good the EU-Russia cooperation is in Arctic issues. With this little surprise, she pointed out that the icy relationship with Russia just does not apply to political cooperation in the far north. Then she turned to the relationship with China. The Middle Kingdom has established an Arctic policy and raises without hesitation despite the great distance to the Arctic Circle claims. Nevertheless, Marie-Anne Coninsx clearly rejected China’s exclusion because the problems of global warming can not be overcome without the country.

The role of the US was more than just a humorous comment on the President’s intention to buy Greenland: she concluded that the US is slowly becoming aware of the importance of the Arctic that it is a “waking up.” According to Coninsx, the Arctic is one of the safest regions in the world. With regard to maritime security, there is an EU action plan: Firstly, the polar zone needs legal foundations and must not be a law-free area. Secondly, it would be important to introduce maritime – not military – capabilities, such as icebreakers. Thirdly, there needs to be a technological infrastructure from satellites to security and rescue systems; overall, investments of more than 16 billion euro are required. Finland and Germany. In doing so, it did not fail to mention the “Guidelines for German Arctic Policy” adopted by the Federal Government in August. The Arctic is just “a key for the world”.

In his introduction, Heinz Schulte, publisher of the “griephan” letter, referred to Europes trade flows and the geographical center of the continent.

Then he gave the floor to Ministerialrätin Anne Jacobs-Schleithoff, office manager of the federal government’s coordinator for the maritime industry, Norbert Brackmann. She explained to the audience the importance of the maritime industry from the point of view of the government. And so their findings on maritime dependence and the German maritime economy were not exactly new. However, she conveyed to those present the reassuring knowledge that the maritime idea may have arrived in the middle of German government policy. With her reference to the value chains, which extend in the special shipbuilding industry or in the cruise industry to the south of the republic, she emphasized the whole German meaning of the industry. In this context, she also did not miss the opportunity to point out the successful National Maritime Conference in Friedrichshafen, which was a “showcase of the efficiency” of German industry (see MarineForum 7 / 8-2019).
No lecture without the mention of the role of China: Jacobs-Schleithoff also expressed itself clearly to the Chinese expansion, the threatening, government-subsidized politics, the pressure of the “Made in China” and the bitter realization that except in special shipbuilding the shipyard industry lost the “rest have”. The question asked, which answers the Federal Government has, was followed by the hopeful declaration of intent to solve this challenge on a European level. A European maritime strategy? The aim is to create a European maritime space and thus the completion of the internal market. This answer from the government should not have satisfied the attending business representatives, as was to be seen in the discussion round. She completed her presentation with current topics such as shore power, use of LNG, comparison of CO² emissions and IMO regulations. (more)

Heinz Schulte then invited to the panel discussion, which almost opened its own conference topic with the discussion topics “Harbor Concept” and “Infrastructure Security”, but then turned to the arctic challenge to the delight of the public. The question of Professor Jan Asmussen of Kiel University, whether the EU with their ideas in the “High North” could prevail against the “Arctic Five”, answered Coninxs with a clear yes. More complicated to answer was the post by brigadier general (retd.) Rainer Meyer zum Felde, Senior Fellow at Kiel Institute for Security Policy. He questioned critically how “cooperation rather than confrontation in the Arctic” fits in with global political reality and at the same time questioned Europe’s technological leadership. It was not surprising that no one in the panel had an answer to that. Only European solutions in the context of digitization and the creation of economically sound framework conditions were invoked. Ingo Egloff, board member of the Port of Hamburg, underlined in his remarkable contribution the importance of economic reciprocity and called for more courage and self-confidence on the part of politicians to oppose the Chinese. “What the Chinese are doing here, we have to do in China,” was his credo. Overall, a strong panel with revitalizing European aspects and well-known national content.

After the break, Rear Admiral (retd.) Ulrich Otto moderated the largely English-language conference and introduced the subject of “Europe’s security at sea”.
He reflected developments since the Cold War, the years of peaceful detente with “10 years of strategic warning time” and the events since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine.

He welcomed Vice Admiral Hervé Bléjean, Deputy Commander Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) and designated Director General of the European Union Military Staff (EUMS) as the next speaker. Admiral Bléjean, after a brief presentation of his vita and a commitment to a strong Europe, was proud to become the first “seaman” in the post of EUMS next year. His will to introduce aspects of maritime security there, he suggests with the mocking interpretation of the acronym NATO as “Non-applicable to Atlantic”. This was certainly in the spirit of DMI President Hans-Joachim Stricker, who spoke at last year’s Maritime Convention of the declining “taste of the maritime” in NATO. A French admiral is also not bad at all when he humorously criticizes the fact that a refugee can cross Europe more easily than a military transport. There was a very serious background to this: for him, the revival of the 360-degree concept of security, the emphasis on the maritime dimension and the strengthening of MARCOM are serious concerns.
At the same time he stated: “We are good in doing and bad in selling”. By that he means the NATO task forces, which in his view have received too little attention, with the 20 to 30 units permanently in the sea. In this context, he praised the German Navy for the continuous strong commitment. He also commented on the cooperation between NATO and the EU by clearly rejecting the previous separation of the two organizations. The offer to talk to each other was absurd and would not have been kept by the military anyway – now one is reasonable and cooperate. Otherwise, the fight against smuggling and terrorism is not feasible. With regard to the Baltic Sea, which he regards as “la-boratory of interactions”, he emphasized the importance of strong partnerships, even with non-NATO countries. In Sweden or Finland one should make no distinction to NATO, the goal of all nations is the free use of sea routes. Together they are the reinsurance for the Baltic States – a clear commitment.

The next speaker was Rear Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, Deputy Head of Strategy and Deployment at the Federal Ministry of Defense. He did not stick with long prefaces, but immediately went into concrete threats. It started with a worrying look at Russian weapon ranges and explanations of Russian-Chinese relations. The mistrust between the two great nations was good for Germany, but now the two powers are cooperating – with the Russians as the smaller partner. China is still dependent on Russia, but that will change in the foreseeable future. Germany finally has to recognize this and to accept it. German and Chinese trade routes are largely parallel and China has already built a large military infrastructure along these routes. It is naïve to believe that China intends only a good economic cooperation with Germany and Europe. It would be necessary to strengthen structures and armaments so that the old capacity could be regained. China takes a central position when considering maritime security. He concluded by saying that he should not forget the merit of the Americans, who for decades have ensured European security.(more)

His proposal to expand the membership of the Maritime Convention to those who are unfamiliar with maritime and security terminology will hopefully be discussed in the DMI. So clear words from an admiral who made no secret of being a military security officer.

Julian Pawlak, ISPK researcher, now had the difficult task of rounding off the topic of the panel with a rather academic style. He managed to crystallize the major strategic mistakes of recent years: For defense and in particular naval forces too little money was spent. He also focused on cooperation needs in the Baltic region. He made a plea for the revival of “security plans” and maritime transport capacities. Pawlak also referred to the dangers at the so-called “choke points” in international maritime transport by state and especially non-state actors. For the freedom of maritime transport, the “global com-mons” and maritime safety, unilateralism is not an answer. (more)

The final round of discussion came to life again when Admiral Bléjean promised to give the military in Brussels a better voice. It would be necessary to give people a clearer picture of what is happening in our “frontyard”, which is what Russia and China are doing in the Baltic Sea. The future four-star admiral modestly promised to do everything necessary. He also counts on support from the partner nations.
It was eagerly awaited in what way this year the “annual report on the major dependence of the Federal Republic of Germany” would be handed over. Heinz Schulte and Rear Admiral Karsten Schneider, Chief of Staff at Marinekommando, had come up with a play in the form of an interview before Admiral Schneider officially presented the report – as in every year – to the German Maritime Institute. Minutes later, the report was also available for download on the Internet. (more)

At the same time, the words of welcome from Secretary of State Ingbert Liebing were final words: the host decided to round off the lectures and called for the buffet. Since the events in Berlin and the defense of the recruits had prevented the presence of some high-ranking military and parliamentarians at the convention, it was all the more beautiful to see how the evening followed the prominence and thus emphasized the ties to the DMI and the convention
Until the 3rd of November 2020.

Text: Holger Schlüter/Marcus Bredick
Pictures: Hartmut Renzel