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Ischinger: 'The EU may not have a choice but to engage militarily'

The European Union may need to engage militarily in Libya if the "Islamic State" continue its advance there, Wolfgang Ischinger, the head of the Munich Security Conference, told DW before the upcoming meeting.

DW: This year's Munich Security Conference is taking place in turbulent times. What do you see as the key issue that participants will be dealing with when they gather in the Bavarian capital?

Wolfgang Ischinger: The boundlessness of current conflicts makes conflict management so challenging. The war in Syria, which has turned into a regional conflict, the refugee crisis, cyberthreats, jihadist terrorism - all these issues transcend borders, and we struggle with how to work together to deal with them effectively. Some try to look for national solutions, but there really aren't any.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently advocated reinstating the NATO-Russia council, a move you supported. The ball is now in Russia's court. Do you think Moscow will agree given the fact that Germany announced a steep increase in military spending and the US also upped its investments into European defense?

Deutschland Wolfgang Ischinger PK vor der Münchener Sicherheitskonferenz 2016

Wolfgang Ischinger

Why wouldn't Russia agree? It cannot surprise anyone in Moscow that NATO members are now beginning to invest more in their militaries. This is long overdue.

Europe's refugee crisis is not only still unresolved, but EU members are still deeply divided on the issue. What could a solution look like?

There are three different levels we need to tackle. On the distribution of refugees, everyone will need to compromise. We also need to agree on a strategy to stop the war in Syria. This will only be possible with a common understanding with all key parties, including Moscow, Tehran and Riyadh. The EU has been inactive far too long and should play a more central role. Finally, we also need much more refugee assistance on the ground.

While the grip of the "Islamic State" on Syria and Iraq has apparently been reduced, the group has gained traction in Libya and elsewhere. How big of a threat is IS today for the region and beyond?

IS has successfully filled power vacuums throughout big parts of the Middle East and is stronger than al Qaeda has ever been, especially with its network in Europe and its digital prowess when it comes to propaganda and recruitment. The group will be a huge challenge for Europe for a long time. In Libya, for example, the EU may not have a choice but to engage militarily if the IS continues its advance there. This, by the way, is just one reason why the EU needs the necessary capacities to be able to present a credible common security and defense policy.

Wolfgang Ischinger is the head of the Munich Security Conference and a former German diplomat.

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