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Merkel's Foreign Policy Man is a Brussels Fan

DW staff (dre)November 19, 2005

When it comes to foreign policy, the man who will be whispering strategic suggestions in future chancellor Angela Merkel's ear is an EU player with a good reputation.

Heusgen was one of Brussels' most respected diplomatsImage: Financial Times Deutschland, CIIS

Brussels is, for once, in complete agreement. When it comes to foreign policy advisers, there's no one better on the market at the moment then Christoph Heusgen.

A trusted advisor of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the 50-year-old is director of the Policy Planning Unit, a group of 50 diplomats responsible for helping shape the EU's strategic planning. News that Heusgen will now be Merkel's chief advisor has been roundly applauded by observers, some of whom say it could indicate an EU-friendly direction in the future German government's policy planning.

"Heusgen's appointment was greeted with a mix of joy and regret in Brussels," wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Regret because he was leaving. Joy, because (his appointment) indicates Merkel is behind Europe's political union."

Wants stronger EU military cooperation

A lifelong diplomat, Heusgen has spent nearly his entire career in the European Union. For the past five years, he's been Solana's chief of staff; a position that, together with his responsibilities as director of the Policy Unit, have lent him a key role in helping shape EU's ambitious -- if unrealized -- goal of a common foreign policy.

EU übernimmt Oberkommando in Mazedonien
The EU is still far from fulfilling Heusgen's common foreign policy dream.Image: AP

"We've only had the political will (to do this) since 1999," he said, in explaining the long road still to go.

Heusgen is a fervent advocate for a strong Europe. As head of the unit charged with analyzing crisis situations and possible responses, he's become a strong proponent of EU-wide military cooperation as well.

"We need to be able to, when it is necessary, involve ourselves militarily," he said.

Sticking up for Europe's little guys

The wish is one commonly batted down by national governments in Europe, most of which have slashed military budgets in order to control rising debt. The reality -- including the budget problems of his own country -- hasn't deterred Heusgen from waxing optimistic.

"I am optimistic that we Europeans, even in light of limited budgets, will be able to fulfil the obligations that await us especially through a better division of responsibility throughout Europe," he said.

Experts have continually said that the foreign policy under a Merkel government will differ little from that practiced under Gerhard Schröder. If there are differences, it will be in the priorities and style in which foreign policy is made and communicated. Rather than the emphasis on the French-German motor in the European Union, as practiced by Schröder, Heusgen is in favor of including Poland and the Baltic States in major decisions like the controversial Russian-German agreement to build a pipeline through the Baltic Sea.

Wladimir Putin besucht Gerhard Schröder
Schröder and Putin's agreement to build a gas pipeline angered the Baltic States and Poland.Image: AP

"German can accomplish a lot when it includes the others," Heusgen told Die Zeit newspaper.

Whether Heusgen, a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, can convince future foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Schröder's former chief of staff, of the need is another question.