Munich Security Conference
|Motto||Peace through Dialog|
|Predecessor||Internationale Wehrkundebegegnung / Münchner Wehrkundetagung|
|Formation||1963 / 2011|
|Founder||Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin|
|Legal status||Non-profit foundation|
The Munich Security Conference (MSC, German: Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz) is an annual conference on international security policy and has been taking place since 1963. Former names are Wehrkundetagung and Münchner Konferenz für Sicherheitspolitik. It is the world's largest gathering of its kind.
Over the past four decades the Munich Security Conference has become the most important independent forum for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers. Each year it brings together about 350 senior figures from more than 70 countries around the world to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.
The list of attendees includes Heads of States, Governments and International Organizations, Ministers, Members of Parliament, high-ranking representatives of Armed Forces, Science, Civil society as well as Business and Media.
The conference evolved from the Internationale Wehrkundebegegnung / Münchner Wehrkundetagung, which was founded in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin. The resistance fighter from the Stauffenberg circle advocated to prevent military conflicts such as the Second World War in the future and brought together leaders and experts in security policy for this reason. The first meeting was limited to about 60 participants; among them were Helmut Schmidt and Henry Kissinger. Von Kleist led the meetings until 1997; his successor who led them from 1999 until 2008 was politician and business manager Horst Teltschik (CDU). Since 2009, the conference is headed by the former diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger. Ischinger established the Munich Security Conference gGmbH non-profit foundation in 2011, which he has led since then.
The Munich Security Conference was canceled twice, in 1991 due to the Second Gulf War and 1997 as a result of the demise of Kleist-Schmenzin.  Under the leadership of Teltschik the Security Conference opened in 1999 for political, military and business leaders from Central and Eastern Europe as well as India, Japan and the People's Republic of China.
At this conference, under the theme of peace through dialogue, senior politicians, diplomats, military and security experts from the member countries of NATO and the European Union, but also from other countries such as Russia, the People's Republic of China, Japan and India are invited to discuss the current issues in security and defense policies.
The intention of the conference is to address the topical main security issues and to debate and analyze the main security challenges in the presence and the future in line with the concept of networked security. A focal point of the conference is the discussion and the exchange of views on the development of the transatlantic relations as well as European and global security in the 21st century.
The conference is organized privately and therefore not an official government event. It is used exclusively for discussion; an authorization for binding intergovernmental decisions does not exist. Furthermore, there is - contrary to usual conventions - no common final communiqué. The high-level meeting is also used to discrete background discussions between the participants. An exception is the presentation of global political decisions, such as the exchange of instruments of ratification for the New START disarmament agreement between the United States and Russia, which was held at the conclusion of the security conference in 2011.
From February 6–8, 2009, the 45th Munich Security Conference was attended by over 50 ministers and more than a dozen heads of state and government from all over the world, including US-Vice-President Joe Biden, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
In 2009 the MSC inaugurated the Ewald von Kleist Award. The new award highlights the political life and work of Ewald von Kleist, who founded the Munich Security Conference. The award will be given to prominent individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to peace and conflict resolution. The winners of the Ewald von Kleist Award were in 2009 Dr Henry Kissinger and in 2010 Javier Solana de Madariaga. Also in 2009, the MSC initiated a new event format, called MSC Core Group Meeting. This new and smaller-scale event was introduced in addition to the annual main, Munich-based meeting of the Munich Security Conference. The idea is to invite a number of distinguished and high-ranking participants to changing capitals and give them the opportunity to confidentially discuss current international security policy issues and develop sustainable solutions. Meetings took place 2009 in Washington D.C., 2010 in Moscow and 2011 in Beijing.
The 47th Munich Security Conference was held from February 4–6, 2011 and has again assembled top-level decision makers from all over the world, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov whilst Belarus has been excluded from the circle of MSC attendees because of the country’s human rights situation.
In 2011 two special features marked the growing role of the Munich Security Conference as center of attention of international security policy: European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton called for the Quartet on the Middle East, consisting of the EU, Russia, the USA and the UN, to meet within the setting of the 2011 Munich Security Conference and during a ceremony on the sidelines of the conference Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exchanged the instruments for ratifying the New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) that entered into force in Munich New START.
The 48th Munich Security Conference was held from February 2–5, 2012.
The 51st Munich Security Conference was held from 6 to 8 February 2015. Among the more than 400 international participants from nearly 80 countries were also 20 heads of state, 70 foreign and defense ministers and 30 CEOs of large companies. The German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen held the opening speech.
In her speech, she explained Germany's willingness to assume international leadership responsibilities. Compromised of a "leadership from the center", the minister explained, and not one "with Pickelhaube". Which could also imply "fighting together". Based on the German history, von der Leyen derived the commitment of her country to defend human rights and added however that the German population was "cautious" on this issue. In regards to the conflict in Ukraine, the minister accused Russia of leading an "undeclared war". However, she spoke out against a supply of weapons to the Ukraine. Also on the opening day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to relent in the conflict. "The Cold War is history, and so it should remain," Stoltenberg said. He reaffirmed NATO’s dedication to repel every attack, but also warned of the long-term consequences of cutbacks in defense budget upon security. A meeting between Stoltenberg and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the conference was described as "frosty".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Munich immediately after a joint mediation mission with French President François Hollande in Moscow, negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In her speech, Merkel rejected the idea of supplying weapons to the Ukraine and spoke in favor of a diplomatic solution, and the revitalization of the Minsk Protocol, since the conflict could not be resolved militarily. She pointed out that the Russian policy had been "disillusioning" in the conclusion of the agreement, and also drew on her personal experiences in East Germany during the construction and the fall of the Berlin Wall as an example of a successful non-military solution to a conflict. Responding to repeated calls for supplying weapons to Ukraine, the Chancellor stated: "I am very doubtful." According to Merkel, Putin could not be moved to make more concessions by more weapons and soldiers. After her speech, Merkel held a trilateral meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.
At the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accused the West of deliberately intensifying the conflict in Ukraine. Russia itself bears no responsibility for the conflict, Lavrov stated. In his speech he specifically blamed the United States for the massive tensions in the relationship between the West and Russia. Lavrov accused Washington of trying to reach global dominance and of infringing on international agreements in connection with the U.S. missile defense plans in Europe. Russian Foreign Minister called the current situation a "turning point" in which the West must decide whether they want to "build a secure architecture with, without or against Russia". Lavrov spoke positively about the Franco-German peace efforts.
Lavrov’s speech was sharply criticized by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He asked Moscow to show more willingness to compromise and told Lavrov that his speech had not contributed to resolving the conflict. Steinmeier ruled out a quick end to the hostilities. Like Chancellor Merkel before, Steinmeier rejected weapon supplies to the Ukraine and described them as "highly risky" and "counterproductive". The German Foreign Minister also stated that the most important task ahead would be containing the conflict in order to gain scope for political solutions. He also emphasized that there could only be lasting security for Europe in cooperation with Russia; at the same time, Steinmeier declared that a positive future for Russia was only possible with Europe, not against Europe. US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the close cooperation between the United States and Europe and declared that there were no divisions or differences over the Ukraine issue. Kerry also called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and accused Russian President Putin of "brazen efforts" to destabilize eastern Ukraine.
Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe, who was previously skeptical about Western weapon supplies to the Ukraine, stated at the conference that in case of a failure of negotiations and sanctions "the possibility of military options should not be excluded”. At the same time, General Breedlove ruled out the deployment of ground troops.
The 50th Munich Security Conference was held from 31 January to 2 February 2014. At the event, more than 400 international guests attended, including 20 Heads of State and Government, 50 foreign and defense ministers and 90 government delegations. Joachim Gauck was the first German Federal President to ever hold the opening speech.
In his speech Gauck called for a new German foreign policy, together with a stronger foreign policy commitment from Germany, which would show a greater self-confidence and take on more responsibility. The President referred to the Federal Republic as "the best Germany we have ever had". The country should not hide behind its historic debt. To address the federal government, he pled "not to flee from threats". Instead, Germany should "decisively and substantially stand up” in the defense of their own values. Finally, the President urged to correct the German self-image. The previous six decades of the Federal Republic as a free and stable nation should justify the Germans having "trust and confidence" in themselves. Gauck called it a requirement to be "reliable for their partners" in the world.
A dominant theme of the conference was the violent clashes between government and opposition in Ukraine. At the Munich Security Conference US Secretary of State John Kerry promised the Ukrainian opposition support from the West. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the Western countries of assisting in the violent uprising in Ukraine which was getting out of control. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the other hand, accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s rights to a free choice of alliances. The Ukrainian politician Vitali Klitschko accused the Ukrainian government during a panel discussion of responding with acts of terror and violence to the demands of the opposition. Klitschko called for economic sanctions against those responsible for the violence. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara dismissed the allegations that his country's political policies were directed against Europe. Since Ukraine is geographically part of Europe and also carries a very close relationship with Russia, Koschara warned, it should not be faced with the decision "Europe or Russia". The Foreign Minister also declared that Ukraine had already met key demands of the opposition. His claims that the violence in Ukraine started from terrorists, was countered by Klitschko by distributing a collection of images of the protests in Ukraine to panel participants and spectators. During the conference Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, started a mediation initiative, inviting members of the Ukrainian parties in conflict and the Foreign Ministers of important EU countries to participate. During the conference, Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter, in his capacity as OSCE Chairman, pointed out again an existing offer of mediation of the OSCE to the conflicting parties in the Ukraine. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Leonid Kozhara, Vitali Klychko, Leonid Slutsky, Irakli Garibashvili, Traian Basescu and Štefan Füle participated in a discussion panel regarding the situation in Ukraine.
The panel discussion on the history of the Security Conference to mark the 50th anniversary had attendances from former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who both had participated in the first Internationale Wehrkundebegegnung in 1963. Attendances in the discussions also included the former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former German Federal Minister for Special Tasks Egon Bahr, former British Foreign Minister David Miliband and the acting Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. During the discussions, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing pointed out that the number of major wars has decreased while the level of violence, the risk of new threats such as terrorism or cyber-attacks and the number of refugees have increased worldwide. In combination with this, the former French President justified the military interventions of his country in Africa.
Henry Kissinger also shared the assessment of an increasingly complex global security situation, which hampered the development of "coherent strategies". The former US Secretary of State cited Sino-Japanese territorial conflicts that could lead to military conflict. Kissinger pushed that Europe in turn was very "reluctant to military conflicts" and was sometimes too "hesitant" in the fight against violence, a criticism that Giscard d'Estaing already accused Europe of and linked it to "discouragement". Recalling the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, Kissinger warned however to be cautious that the decisions of military intervention should not be influenced by a "moment of rage", if willingness is not given to such wars to "endure to the end".
Egon Bahr emphasized the risks of new, hard-to-find threats such as cyber-attacks on power grids and other infrastructure facilities. These threats had even made the US vulnerable and revealed an existing inability to defend themselves against them. Bahr further demanded a policy of deterrence analogous to that of the days of the nuclear threat. Asked about the future of NATO, Bahr, Kissinger and Giscard d’Estaing all expressed their conviction that NATO would still exist in ten years’ time.
Former German Chancellor Schmidt said Europe was decreasing in importance. Schmidt stated that the consequences of global population growth were crucial for the continent's future. Europe will make up only seven percent of the world population in 2050, while in 1950 more than one in five people had lived in Europe. According to Schmidt, the Europeans overestimated their global significance. The former Chancellor critically regarded global urbanization, which leads to the "big urban masses", who were "easily led astray" by the temptations of modern media. Schmidt called the "power of the financial manager" another threat which despite the recent financial crisis was unabated. The current European Union policy, Schmidt described as a future hazard: "If the EU continues the way that it is, in ten years’ time NATO will still be there, but maybe not the EU." David Miliband described a decline of classical foreign policy and attributed this to the fact that the electorate increasingly placed regional and national issues at the center of importance.
No approaches were made towards the transatlantic conflict over NSA surveillance in Europe. The US Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel avoided any mention of this controversial subject. Instead Kerry advocated a "transatlantic renaissance" based on common values. Hagel emphasized the role of Europe as an "indispensable partner" of the United States. Both ministers campaigned for the transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP. US Senator John McCain added in relation to the NSA spying on allies as a 'credibility problem', which the American government had to deal with in order to regain lost trust. Significant criticism of the NSA spying was voiced by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. Throughout the discussion he called the carried out spying on German citizens "exorbitantly" and demanded a "signal from the Americans to their closest partner in Europe". De Maizière declared that the political damage caused by these surveillance measures was higher than their security benefits. The Federal Minister of the Interior called the information provided by the American side completely inadequate. A possible no-spy agreement with the United States provided the Minister with no great expectations. Along Kerry and Hagel, de Maizière agreed with a continuation of negotiations on TTIP. The German MEP Elmar Brok predicted a defeat in the vote on the TTIP agreement in the European Parliament in the event that an examination and reappraisal of the NSA's activities would fail. Company representatives from Deutsche Telekom, Huawei and Microsoft demanded a binding international standard of Internet security. Thus, Deutsche Telekom CEO Timothy Höttges called for an international agreement of digital basic rights. Microsoft Vice President Matt Thomlinson announced the opening of the company's own transparency centers, including one in Brussels, where governments could check the source code of Microsoft products to insure that they contain no backdoors for US intelligence agencies.
During the conference, the two Prime Ministers from Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaçi, came forward and discussed the rapprochement between the two countries, which in 2013 had led to the signing of the normalization Agreement, under the moderation of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Both leaders reaffirmed their intention to seek solutions, "that advance the two nations". Dacic called the convergence process as a "tightrope walk" and Thaci referred to resistors in the population that had to be overcome before the agreement.
The conference also housed a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in which the EU Representative Ashton put economic aid for Israelis and Palestinians in view that both parties consented to a peace agreement. US Secretary of State Kerry had previously referred to a failure of the Middle East negotiations as "unacceptable".
After the previously unsuccessful negotiations in Geneva of the Syrian civil war parties, discussions at the security conference took no further approach towards the Syrian conflict. Despite his announcement of follow-up negotiations designated UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi stated the international peace efforts in Syria had failed. Brahimi warned of a further escalation of the situation in Syria. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the parties in conflict to lead future negotiations "serious and sincere". The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif echoed the call of his country for a ceasefire in Syria, referring to the difficulties of monitoring such actions.
During a debate on Iran's nuclear program Zarif insisted on his country's right to use nuclear energy. In connection with the forthcoming international negotiations were "many steps" to go, the Iranian foreign minister stated. The previously reached agreements Zarif called as a significant beginning and assured the readiness of Iran to constructive negotiations. The IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano spoke of positive feedback from Iran, but said that a lot of work still had to be done. Amano also pointed out that the IAEA still did not have access to all nuclear facilities and could therefore "not exclude the character of some non-peaceful Iranian activities". The Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon warned following the debate against too much optimism and stated that Iran will continue to develop its nuclear program throughout the course of the current negotiations. The fact that Ya’alon and the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, had previously been among the audience that had followed the appearance of the Iranian foreign minister was interpreted as a public gesture of rapprochement to Iran. The Iranian nuclear program was also the subject of a meeting between Sharif and US Secretary of State Kerry.
The 49th Security Conference was held from the 1 to 3 February 2013 More than 400 senior politicians and business executives, as well as high-ranking military officials and security experts from 90 countries attended the event. This included over 90 delegations, a dozen heads of state, 70 foreign and defense ministers, ten US senators, five EU Commissioners, five German federal ministers and 60 members of the German Bundestag and an equal number of CEOs. Some 700 journalists were accredited for the event.
The conference focused on the European debt crisis, transatlantic relations, the crisis regions of Mali and the Middle East, as well as energy security and cyber terrorism. Federal Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière in his opening speech emphasized the role of the United States as a guarantor of European security. De Maizière stated that Europe "might not be the best conceivable partner of the US but the best possible". He also called for better cooperation in the defense realm both within the EU as well as between EU and NATO.
The Euro crisis and the future of the European Union were the themes of the opening debate. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Deutsche Bank CEO Anshu Jain expressed their conviction that the height of the crisis was over. Schäuble, however, warned against reducing the rescue efforts, and criticized the continuing insufficient regulation of the banking sector. Jain described the consequences of demographic change in Europe as a serious impediment to growth and called for a liberalization of the labour market and a reform of the pension system. In the debate, Spain's Foreign Minister José García-Margallo y Marfil considered growth and employment as key challenges for the future of Europe. An improvement to the competitiveness of EU States was suggested by Lithuainan President Dalia Grybauskaite.
The second day of the conference focused on the transatlantic relations. US Vice President Joe Biden provided for the first time an outlook on the future foreign policy of the recently re-elected US President Barack Obama. Speaking about the importance of Europe, Biden stated that "Europe is the cornerstone of our commitment to the world and a catalyst for global cooperation" and called the Europeans "oldest friends and closest allies" of the US. In this context he strongly pushed for the creation of a transatlantic free trade zone. Biden also announced improvements in the US relations with Russia. In his speech he emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries, but also noted existing differences on human rights, the Syrian conflict and the European Missile Defense System. Biden urged Syrian President Bashaar al-Assad to step down and called on the international community to intervene in the country. However, he refused a military intervention on the part of his country. The US Vice President offered direct negotiations to Iran over its nuclear program.
Unlike Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took an opposing position in regards to Syria.  He stated that his government continues to stand by the Syrian ruler Assad, and said that there would be future Russian support. Despite the differences between the US and Russia on Syrian, a first meeting between Lavrov and the head of the Syrian opposition, Moaz al-Khatib, came as a surprise during the conference. Lavrov also invited al-Khatib to visit Moscow. Moaz al-Khatib offered Bashar al-Assad and his aides safe passage out of the country in exchange for their resignations.
In the debates on the final day of the conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed the willingness of his country to accept the US’s negotiated bid on the Iranian nuclear program, but imposed certain conditions. Salehi’s announcement was taken with skepticism, due to previous statements that had remained without concrete consequences. Unexpectedly fierce criticism of the Iranian policy was displayed throughout the conference debate by the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, Ruprecht Polenz, including calling Iran a "nuclear policy wrong way driver". At the security conference, outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned about "nuclear terrorism" and an end to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the event that Iran gained possession of the nuclear bomb. Barak reiterated his countries determination to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.
A panel discussion on cyber security was accompanied by reports of hacker attacks against Twitter and leading American newspapers. In the course of the debate, Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich presented a bill on IT security stipulating operators of critical infrastructure to report hacker attacks. Friedrich stated that cyber security had become a key issue of the 21st century. European Commissioner Neelie Kroes also advocated the reporting of cyber attacks and referred to a future EU directive. The Commissioner stressed the responsibility of each user to contribute to the security in the internet. Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann called upon affected companies to report cyber attacks, since the disclosure of security issues contributes significantly to their resolution. Obermann stated that there were an average of 300,000 to 400,000 attacks daily on his company’s networks.
Further topics of the conference included the future of the responsibility to protect, digital diplomacy in the age of social media,  European defense policy as well as security and stability in Southeast Europe and the Caucasus.
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