Article by the British Ambassador to Germany on the Munich Security Conference

By Simon McDonald

The Munich Security Conference has established itself as the premier fixture on the security policy calendar. This year’s conference – the 47th – is my third, but my first as British Ambassador to Germany. I know from personal experience that the Conference regularly attracts world leaders. It is a tribute to the organisers that this year 16 Heads of State or Government and more than 40 Foreign and Defence Ministers will take part. I am proud that, for the first time ever, the British Prime Minister will lead the UK delegation, which will include Foreign Secretary William Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and Security Minister Pauline Neville-Jones.  

Traditionally the focus of the Security Conference has been on security and defence policy. Big issues on this year’s agenda include the Euro-Atlantic security policy relations, the question of non-proliferation and disarmament, and global security challenges such as Afghanistan.  

But in recent years the scope of the discussion has widened to reflect the concept of networked security. And so the security implications of the financial crisis will be a major topic. The British Foreign Secretary will speak on the challenge of cyber security – a priority identified in the UK’s National Security Strategy.

Of course, any conference needs to set its agenda some time before delegates assemble. But Munich has always prided itself on the flexibility of its proceedings. I am confident that this year we shall also see substantial discussion of the security consequences of developments in Egypt and Tunisia, even though these kicked off after the formal agenda was circulated.

Discussions do not just confine themselves to the podium and conference hall. With so many ministers, experts and government officials in one place, Munich offers unmatched opportunities for bilateral meetings and networking.

Lastly, the Security Conference is important from a bilateral point of view. Germany is one of the UK’s most important partners across the security policy agenda. We work closely together bilaterally and as members of NATO, the UN or the EU – to tackle non-proliferation, to counter terrorism and violent extremism, to address new challenges such as cyber security, or to resolve conflict and instability in places such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia or Yemen. No doubt this closeness will be highlighted when Prime Minister Cameron shares the podium on Saturday morning with Chancellor Merkel. The Security Conference will thus provide a practical demonstration of the closeness of Britain’s partnership with Germany.
Munich Security Conference