Germany's President Joachim Gauck.
Germany's President Joachim Gauck. Photo by Reuters
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Germany should play a more active military role abroad, its President Joachim Gauck said in an interview published on Saturday, urging it to drop its post-war reluctance.

Seven decades after the end of World War II, Germany's Nazi past means it remains hesitant to send troops abroad even on peace keeping missions.

Europe's largest and the world's fourth biggest economy has faced criticism from allies for not taking a more active role. Gauck said he had repeatedly heard such pleas during his travels.

"That's what I want from Germany, too" Gauck said in an interview with Deutschlandradio Kultur after a trip to Norway.

"I have the feeling our country should maybe drop the reluctance that was in order in past decades in favour of a stronger sense of responsibility."

The president's position is largely ceremonial but serves as a moral authority in Germany.

A former pastor from East Germany, Gauck caused a stir earlier this year by saying Germany must stop standing on the sidelines and act more quickly, decisively and substantially in foreign crises.

"Sometimes it is necessary to take up arms in order to fight for human rights or for the survival of innocent people," Gauck said.

In 2010, remarks by a previous president, Horst Koehler, justifying military action to back Germany's commercial interests sparked criticism that prompted him to step down.

Gauck, who took office in 2012, said taking a stronger international role did not imply being dominant.

"I don't mean the behaviour that Germany put on in past centuries or in the decade of the war: a demeanour of German dominance. The opposite is what I mean," Gauck said.

"A 'yes' to an active participation in conflict resolution in a bigger framework, together with those who work with us in the European Union and in NATO."