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Nils Schmid – SPD foreign policy expert with an eye on the Indo-Pacific

SPD politician and foreign policy spokesman Nils Schmid

Nils Schmid describes the past weeks as exhausting and sad. “It is frustrating that diplomacy has failed as a means of conflict resolution,” explains the SPD politician, member of the Bundestag and foreign policy spokesman for his parliamentary group. For a long time, the Ph.D. lawyer had hoped for a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis, but to no avail.

China’s reluctance to engage in the crisis is disappointing – but does not surprise him, he says. “It was to be expected,” says the 48-year-old. The country has no experience in mediating between warring parties, he says. But the fact that the Chinese government is not even finding clear words is a missed opportunity to distinguish itself in its international role.

Schmid actually wanted to become a diplomat. He has always been interested in politics, and at the age of 17, he became a member of the SPD and joined the Young Socialists. But: “Becoming a professional politician was not Plan A,” he admits. In 1997, while still studying law, he was unexpectedly elected to the state parliament of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

During his career in state politics, he became deputy prime minister, minister of finance, and minister of economics. In 2016, he ran as the top candidate in the state elections but achieved the SPD’s worst result to date. “That was very bitter because we had done good government work.” He had no chance against the popular incumbent Kretschmann and the AfD, which had been strengthened by the refugee crisis. He used the opportunity to reflect, first with his state association, then personally.

Focus on the Indo-Pacific strategy

And so he accepted the offer to run for the Bundestag. This was related to the decision to devote more time to his passion for international politics. In the Bundestag, Schmid has represented the constituency of Nuertingen near Stuttgart since 2017 and the foreign policy positions of his parliamentary group since 2018. In addition to the staff in his office, he is supported in his work by three advisors from the foreign policy working group of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

The Trier native is convinced: “You can make a difference.” In the current legislative period, the task now is to breathe life into the Indo-Pacific strategy. “Can we manage to bind partners like Japan more closely? Can we Western countries coordinate better against the Chinese offensive on international standards?” says Schmid, naming a few items on his to-do list.

The concept of change through trade with China has failed; instead, he speaks of a “new holy trinity” of systematic rivalry, competition and cooperation. However, there is still room for cooperation, for example in climate policy: “The world is simply far too fragile.” Paul Meerkamp


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