,,The Most Effective Instruments of German Foreign Policy"


BONN The supposedly independent German, party-aligned foundations conduct their politics abroad in close coordination with the Foreign Office; they ,,enable the implementation of long-term foreign policy priorities which, on principle, could not be achieved by the classical means of the foreign service". This is also evident from a study which has been published by the Federal Center for Political Education. Former German President Herzog has called the party-aligned foundations: Heinrich Böll Foundation (Greens), Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Social Democrats - SPD), Friedrich Naumann Foundation (Free Democrats - FDP), Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Christian Democratic Union - CDU), Hanns Seidel Foundation (Christian Social Union - CSU), ,,the most effective and well-established instruments of German foreign policy".

According to the study, the German party-aligned foundations profit particularly from their special status which enables them to appear ostensibly as independent, non-government organizations. Actually they are linked, by virtue of their closeness to the political parties, to parliamentary and, if need be, government policies. Furthermore, the foundations, which finance their activities from the budgets of a variety of Berlin's ministries, are overseen by the Foreign Office, which reviews ,,all projects (...) including embassies with regard to potential foreign policy considerations."

Interference in internal affairs

The ostensible independence of the party-aligned foundations has enabled them for decades to interfere in the internal affairs of the host countries, in which it appears not advisable for Berlin's official foreign policy to do so. According to the author of the study, the foundations are able particularly ,,to cooperate with political forces which have the political potential to be important for German foreign policy, but with whom official contacts are not advisable for diplomatic reasons."

Instruments of the Foreign Office

The study finds, as stated by the author, that the foundations cooperate closely with the German diplomatic representatives in their respective host countries, sometimes under the direct mandate of the German government. ,,For the implementation of measures of a political nature,"a memorandum of the Foreign Office stated as early as in February of 1963, the party-aligned foundations should be ,,called on so that the Federal Government does not appear as a direct source of funds."According to the study, ,,the foundations went wherever the German governments wanted them to be - as long as they were admitted, which they usually were because they were able to make lucrative and non-politically appearing offers."

,,Flow of information back"

The German foundations, which direct their activities especially at influential persons, as potential facilitators, also participate in sounding out their host countries for German authorities. According to the study, they have, ,,due to their long term presence in the 'gray zones' of politics in the project countries, information (...) which would not be available in official diplomatic relations."The ,,flow of information back"to Germany is said to be ,,little formalized"and occurs in exchanges with the embassies, the political parties and the foreign office. Occasionally these conferred on the foundations the function as ,,political early warning systems", which ,,opened our eyes to developments in the world so that we could prepare for them in time."

Subordination is ,,recommended"

The author of the study counts on an increasing significance of the ,,role of the foundations in German foreign policy"and recommends that the host countries subordinate themselves to German influence: It ,,would be recommendable, even for those states which sometimes consider themselves, for various reasons, not as subjects for cooperation, but as objects to be influenced, to recognize the long term foreign policy advantages which can be gained by cooperation with the foundations and other NGOs."

See also earlier article Threats

Swetlana W. Pogorelskaja: Die parteinahen Stiftungen als Akteure und Instrumente der deutschen Außenpolitik, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 6-7/2002, 29-38, www.das-parlament.de