Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be able to offer all of you a warm welcome to Schloss Meseberg.
When we met here last year, I talked about the fact that we are living through turbulent times. Little has changed in this respect to this day – we need only to think of the many conflicts right now, of the abandonment of agreements in the field of arms control and non-proliferation or of the conflicts in foreign trade. These examples also show how quickly trust, which has often been painstakingly built up over many years, can be lost again.
That is why I would like to address you personally, Excellencies, because you play a key role here. You are ambassadors, mediators, advocates and representatives all at once. You promote dialogue in a wide range of ways and you give the countries you hail from a face here in Germany, while at the same time painting a picture of Germany at home. You therefore have a decisive impact on the political as well as the societal relations between our countries.
The willingness and ability to engage in constructive dialogue is an invaluable asset in itself. I think the history of the 20th century has made this fact abundantly clear to us.
After the end of the Second World War and the betrayal of all civilised values that was the Shoa, with which Germany, my country, had brought infinite suffering to Europe and the world, far-sighted women and men set about creating a peaceful order. Germany was able to find a new, firm place in the international community. Wartime adversaries became allies, partners and friends. All of this would have been unthinkable without trust and without the foundations of democracy, freedom and the rule of law. The fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, which paved the way for German unity, would likewise never have been conceivable without the trust that was extended towards Germany, trust built up through constant dialogue.
The same is true for today’s challenges. But with dialogue and trust, everything is possible.
We need only think of the solution to the name dispute between North Macedonia and Greece, which is a recent example of how solutions can suddenly be found even in conflicts that have been deadlocked for decades. This required persistent mediation from the UN, support from the EU and, in particular, the trust that Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was in office until yesterday, were willing to place in each other.
Building mutual trust therefore enables progress in the respective national interest and in the European or indeed global interest.
This mindset also guides Franco-German cooperation. In the Treaty of Aachen, which we signed in January of this year, we gave expression to our shared ideas for the further development of Europe. In the Normandy format, Germany and France are continuing their mediation efforts to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. It is worth every effort to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population on the ground and to enforce international law based on the principle of the sovereign equality of states. Moreover, for the first time in the history of the UN Security Council, there was a joint presidency held by Germany and France. During the two months of this joint presidency, a resolution on preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict was adopted. The cooperation in a spirit of trust between a number of countries has also made it possible to prosecute criminals internationally more effectively from now on.
Trust and a broad willingness to cooperate are also required when it comes to, at long last, creating lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Thanks to the efforts of the US and the Afghan Government, the work towards achieving a political settlement in Afghanistan is gradually beginning to take shape. I hope that the intra-Afghan meeting on Sunday, initiated by Germany and Qatar, will inject further movement into the peace process.
There are, unfortunately, far too many examples of how long and difficult it is to build trust and peace
The international community has witnessed the terrible war in Syria for eight years now. We still firmly believe that only a political process based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and under the auspices of the UN can end the bloodshed in Syria, build confidence, initiate national reconciliation and allow the Syrian people – both in the region and including Syrians who have fled to other countries – to decide the political future of their country for themselves in free elections. Together with the UN and our international partners, the Federal Government will continue to work to advance the political process. But I regret to say that we’re moving at a glacial pace.
We also need urgent progress in Yemen in view of the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the region. It is important to support the work of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen in particular
The situation in the Sudan also fills us with concern and the country stands at a crossroads. The formation of a transitional government will hopefully open the door to a peaceful path of democracy and economic development. This is mainly thanks to the mediation efforts of the African Union and Ethiopia. Thank you so very much for this.
We are also following the situation in Libya with great concern. The terrible developments that go hand in hand with the ongoing conflict were recently demonstrated by the terrible attack on a camp of African refugees and migrants, which claimed many lives and injured a great number of people. As a member of the UN Security Council, Germany chairs the Sanctions Committee on Libya. Germany supports the UN’s efforts to achieve an unconditional ceasefire and to return to a political process. I can only say that this is urgently needed in light of the current situation. Far too many weapons reach Libya with the help of external actors. The arms embargo must therefore be implemented in order to prevent further escalation. We must make every effort to ensure that there is no development of the kind that we have seen in Syria for years.
The fragile situation in Libya also has knock-on effects with respect to the security situation in the Sahel region. In May, I visited Mali, where the Bundeswehr is participating in the UN stabilisation mission MINUSMA, as well as the Niger and Burkina Faso. In the discussions held there, the Presidents were unanimous in their view that international terrorism can only be pushed back by joining forces. Unfortunately, the security situation in this region is deteriorating dramatically in certain quarters at the moment.
It goes without saying that progress with respect to the security and stability of the region also depends on the G5 countries’ own efforts. Nevertheless, international partners can and should lend their support in this regard. By joining forces, it is possible to achieve greater stability and therefore improved development prospects in the Sahel region. The preamble to the 2030 Agenda of the UN rightly points out that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” Indeed, security is a fundamental prerequisite for economic prosperity, which, in turn, helps to prevent radicalisation. Security policy and civilian engagement are therefore two sides of the same coin.
From a European perspective, it is particularly important to support our neighbouring continent Africa’s ownership of its security and development. The Federal Government is working on this issue in a variety of ways.
Africa as a whole is not only rich in natural resources, but is, first and foremost, an innovative continent because it is home to so many young people – a continent with great economic potential; and we must make better use of this potential. The envisaged African Continental Free Trade Area, which was agreed at the Conference of the African Union in the Niger, may be the key to this. However, we have also seen that economic growth is not keeping pace with population growth in a number of regions of Africa and that there continues to be too much povert
At the same time, some African countries are becoming increasingly attractive economic partners for Germany and Europe. This applies in particular to the countries of the Compact with Africa initiative, which we launched in 2017 during Germany’s G20 Presidency. The fact that foreign direct investment has risen significantly in these countries in recent years goes to show how important the Compact with Africa is.
I will therefore meet the heads of state and government of the CwA countries in Berlin once again this year. I would like to encourage them to continue down the growth-friendly reform path that they have embarked on. Above all, however, we want to promote economic development with very concrete investment offers. We also want to hold earnest discussions about how we can better support each other. German businesses should invest even more in Africa – and this is something that we are working on. An investors’ conference will therefore be held at the same time as this conference.
This commitment is part of the overall picture of a partnership based on mutual trust – and on the fact that Africans themselves know best what is necessary and right for the development of their continent. It was with this in mind that the Federal Government updated its Africa Policy Guidelines in order to strengthen our partnerships. To this end, we are focusing on topics such as the digital transformation and innovation, education and training – which are absolutely fundamental – as well as on employment, trade and investment.
The G20 Summits likewise focus on the major issues of the future. Their results are not always entirely convincing, however. At the last G20 Summit in Osaka, for example, we again achieved only a 19:1 result on climate protection and only a minimum consensus on trade and migration issues. Nevertheless, I would like to thank the Japanese Presidency most sincerely for its tireless efforts.
On the issue of artificial intelligence, common principles for the responsible development and use of this technology were adopted at any rate. In Osaka, the G20 also reaffirmed its commitment to reforming the WTO. The main issues here are comparable conditions of competition, greater transparency and effective dispute settlement mechanisms.
The common rules of the WTO trading system are of paramount importance for our economies, which are linked by international value chains. After all, the decisions and economic developments of some always have an impact on the economies of others. We feel this most keenly. This is why a multilateral approach to trade policy is and remains the best of all pathways for the global economy as a whole.
In the spirit of rules-based, fair and free trade, Germany also supports the EU in its efforts to conclude bilateral and regional trade agreements. An agreement was recently reached with the Mercosur states to create the world’s largest free trade area with 780 million inhabitants. I firmly believe that companies, employees and consumers in Europe and South America will benefit from this in equal measure. The fact that the agreement between the EU and Mercosur also contains a commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement shows that we have much more in common than just economic relations.
Ultimately, we can only master the great challenges of humanity together. In view of all the global challenges – climate change, poverty, hunger, disease, access to education, the digital revolution – we cannot emphasise often enough the fact that the national good in our highly interconnected world always depends on the global common good. More than ever, our way of thinking and our actions have to be multilateral rather than unilateral, outward-looking rather than isolationist, global rather than national, and together rather than alone.
There are so many good examples that show what trust between states can achieve and how important and necessary international cooperation is.
A noteworthy example of this is the Treaty on Open Skies. Within the framework of this Treaty, 34 States Parties from Vancouver to Vladivostok share an observation aircraft that each State Party may use each year to conduct a certain number of agreed observation flights in the airspace of other States Parties. These flights use sensors for photo, radar and infrared recording as well as digital sensors. Germany made a new aircraft available for this purpose in June of this year. Individuals from both the observing and observed parties are involved in the conduct of all observation flights. The country being overflown has its own military personnel on board. The Treaty thus not only ensures trust and cooperative security, but also makes a tangible contribution to conflict prevention and crisis management.
Ladies and gentlemen, the famous German natural scientist Alexander von Humboldt, whose 250th birthday we are marking this year, firmly believed that everything was interaction. He was also of the opinion that “the most dangerous world view is the world view of those who have never viewed the world”. You, on the other hand, who work in the diplomatic service, view the world. You build contacts. You explain points of view and mediate between points of view. You help to build and consolidate the trust that is essential for good cooperation.
I’m grateful that you are available to us as points of contact. I also say this on behalf of the entire Federal Government, of which many members are here today: the Head of the Federal Chancellery, the Minister of State from the Foreign Office, the Minister of State from the Federal Chancellery, the Parliamentary State Secretary from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and another Parliamentary State Secretary, and so on and so forth; we’re just trying to outdo each other here. When the Minister is out and about, then the Parliamentary State Secretaries can also indulge in a spot of travelling, which is nice. It goes without saying that Directors-General from the Federal Chancellery and various ministries are also here. All of us are looking forward to continuing our work with you. Thank you – and a warm welcome to you once again.