UN Secretary-General António Guterres is scheduled to open the 60th Munich Security Conference on February 16, to which around 50 heads of state and government from all over the world are expected. Conference leader Christoph Heusgen hopes that the most important meeting of politicians and experts on security policy worldwide will look beyond the current conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. “With all the crises, we ask: Where is the silver lining on the horizon,” he told the German Press Agency.
As was the case last year, the governments of Russia and Iran are not invited to the conference from February 16th to 18th. Politicians from the AfD, Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) and Values Union also have to stay outside. The AfD was already excluded last year. “I said back then that I didn’t want to roll out the red carpet for a right-wing extremist party,” said Heusgen. After the recent revelations about the Potsdam right-wing extremist meeting involving AfD politicians, he feels vindicated.
Around 50 heads of state and government are expected
Around 100 ministers as well as numerous other politicians and experts are expected to attend the conference at the Munich Hotel Bayerischer Hof from February 16th to 18th. The focus is likely to be on the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. “But we also have the right to take care of the global order as a whole,” Heusgen told the dpa. "That's why the conference should be opened by UN Secretary General Guterres."
Above all, 68-year-old Heusgen would like to see a discussion about the question: "How do we ensure that the world does not fall apart further due to all these crises, but that we adhere to multilateralism on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of the United Nations? Continue to give human rights a chance?"
Guterres gave the opening speech in 2022
Heusgen was a foreign policy advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) for many years and was Germany's permanent representative to the United Nations between 2017 and 2021 - at a time when Guterres was already Secretary General.
The Portuguese Guterres had already opened the security conference in 2022. In recent months, he had sharply criticized the Israeli military operation against the terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip because of what he saw as the unacceptably high number of civilian deaths and the dramatic humanitarian consequences and had vehemently advocated for a ceasefire.
But criticism from Israel of his administration is no less harsh. In December, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called Guterres' term in office a "threat to world peace." Guterres has come under pressure to clarify the allegations against employees of the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees that they were involved in the Hamas terrorist acts on October 7 in Israel.
“High-level commitments” from Israel
Heusgen has not yet revealed who is coming to Munich from Israel. “Israel was very broadly invited, and we are pleased to have received a number of high-level commitments,” he told the dpa.
"It is also noteworthy that almost all other countries in the region are prominently represented." Heusgen said he was expecting the heads of government from Lebanon, Qatar, Iraq and Kuwait as well as the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The government of Yemen will also be prominently represented.
Are Zelenskyj and Scholz coming? And what about Biden?
Last year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opened the conference via video. Since he was already at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, there is speculation that he could attend in person this time. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is also expected to take part again. However, there is still no confirmation for either.
It is also unclear who will lead the US delegation. Last year it was US Vice President Kamala Harris. A US president has never been in Munich before. However, Joe Biden was a regular in various capacities for several decades before his presidency. That's why there is persistent speculation that he might still make his way to Munich for the 60th anniversary conference in the year of the presidential election.
Russia: exiled politicians instead of government
It is clear who is not welcome at the conference. As was the case last year, the Russian government remains excluded because of the war of aggression against Ukraine. "A few days ago, the Russian President said that he would be happy to negotiate, but not with this Ukrainian government. That means there is no serious willingness to talk," said Heusgen, referring to Vladimir Putin. "And that's why we said on our own initiative that we're not inviting the Russian government, but rather we're inviting Russians from non-governmental organizations, exiled politicians."
Heusgen also maintains that he will not invite the Iranian government. "When it comes to Iran, we hear from the federal government and also from the Americans that there is no interest in talks. As things stand, we are only inviting Iranians from non-governmental organizations."
Heusgen wants to observe BSW and the Union of Values first
When it comes to German politicians, the conference leader is expanding the circle of those who are not allowed into the Bayerischer Hof. For a long time it was customary for representatives of all parties represented in the Bundestag to be invited to the conference. Last year, Heusgen deviated from this practice at his premiere as conference leader and did not invite AfD politicians.
The Sahra Wagenknecht alliance, which is also represented by some members of the Bundestag, is now also undesirable. “The BSW representatives in the Bundestag were not elected as BSW politicians, but as left-wing politicians,” said Heusgen in explanation. According to Heusgen, the right-wing association Values Union, whose chairman Hans-Georg Maaßen is planning to found a party, also has no place at the security conference. "We're not inviting either of them, so we'll just have to see how it goes."