Spotlight: In Munich, policymakers to discuss a changing world

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-15 14:06:31|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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MUNICH, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Munich Security Conference to be held from Friday to Sunday has attracted an unprecedented number of key policymakers from around the world seeking solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing the global.

Around 500 participants, some of them heads of state and government, or political and security heavyweights, are expected to meet to discuss a wide range of issues from competition and cooperation between major countries, the European Union (EU)'s future, to transatlantic relations.

As multilateralism is being threatened, the conference foresees a world that returns to competition between powers.

Its annual security report released ahead of the conference, "The Great Puzzle, Who Will Pick Up the Pieces," notices the changing roles of the United States, China and Russia in world politics and security -- topics of the conference.

To be discussed are also the roles of other major countries such as Britain, Germany, France, Japan and Canada.

Global systems have been troubled with turbulence in recent years, notably with trade disputes increasing, Britain stumbling toward Brexit, and the United States increasingly estranging itself from its Western and NATO allies.

In early February, Washington, followed by Moscow, suspended their obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), a move towards a possible withdrawal from the document, to which Europe will fall victim. Tensions between Russia and the West have remained high.

Under the threats posed by unilateralism, protectionism and isolationism, multilateralism is widely believed to be a focus for many speakers from countries or international organizations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that she will promote multilateralism at the conference, adding the foremost issue for her is how countries should work together.

For the EU, being more self-assertive has appeared to be an option, but that has been hotly argued within the bloc, especially by Germany and France in recent years. Chairman of Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger had tried to make Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron jointly appear at the conference, but Macron called off the trip to Munich due to domestic issues.

The past year witnessed a better coordination between Germany and France. Merkel and Macron met frequently. Macron received the pro-European unification Charlemagne Prize of Aachen in May 2018. And in late January, the two countries signed the Treaty of Aachen on their cooperation and integration, an updated version of the 1963 Elysee Treaty.

The Munich Security Report said that, however, despite favorable public opinions on both sides, a Franco-German consensus is often hard to reach, and the bilateral agreement is no longer sufficient in an enlarged 27-member EU.

Moreover, the Franco-German initiative is facing a rise of both right- and left-wing politics that advocate Euroscepticism and undermine cohesion.

For the EU, an increasingly unilateral United States is another source of concern. Washington decided to quit the INF Treaty without consulting its European allies, and it downgraded the EU's diplomatic status, not to mention its attacks against European allies concerning defense budget, trade deficit, and the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

Transatlantic relations will surely be a hot topic for the security conference expected to be attended by a large U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence.

And don't forget Russia. The Helsinki summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in July has resulted in little detente between Russia and the West. Instead, the relations between the two sides deteriorated due to the INF Treaty withdrawal. Meanwhile, the deadlock over the eastern Ukraine issue remains, even worsening after the Kerch Strait incident.

Uncertainties in the Middle East have mounted following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Washington's decision to withdraw troops from Syria, in particular.

In the Sahel region of Africa, local population is exposed to anti-government violence and terrorism, drugs and human trafficking, which prompt an migrant exodus to Europe and beyond.

At the security conference mainly deals with European and transatlantic issues, China's presence, which is becoming increasingly important, is expected, as ever, to inspire and encourage further international efforts to safeguard multilateralism and enhance cooperation between countries.