Steinmeier in London: "I can’t even contemplate an EU without Britain!"

Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited his British opposite number Philip Hammond on Monday (30 November). Their talks initially focused on joint efforts to bring the civil war in Syria to an end and on the fight against terrorism. Looking ahead to the planned referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union, Steinmeier said: “I can’t even contemplate an EU without Britain!”

Hillwalkers’ diplomacy

Hillwalking – the two Foreign Ministers share this passion. And the experience of hillwalking was also an important lesson for the diplomacy business, said Steinmeier during his visit to London: For often more patience is required than you may have thought at the outset and you need staying power if you want to reach the top of the mountain. In practice, the two Foreign Ministers had last experienced this during the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme, which were successfully concluded in Vienna in July after twelve difficult years. The British-German initiative to revive the reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina had also required patience and staying power.

Fight against ISIS

At present, Germany and the United Kingdom are engaged in two related issues which also require patience: the ending of the civil war in Syria and the fight against the terrorist organisation ISIS. Steinmeier stated after his talks with Hammond:

It’s absolutely clear that we have to take steps to ensure that the influence of ISIS doesn’t spread even further.

He went on to say that even if ultimately there could not be a purely military response to terrorism, military means were indispensable in the fight against ISIS. For state structures would have to be preserved if the Syria conflict were to be resolved. The British Foreign Secretary praised Germany’s contribution to the fight against terror: “Britain and Germany are key members of the international coalition against ISIS.” Germany is planning to provide reconnaissance aircraft and a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle” in the Mediterranean. The Bundestag is to vote on the corresponding Cabinet decision before the end of the first week in December. However, the overriding aim remains a political solution of the conflict in Syria through the Vienna process. Referring to these talks, Steinmeier said:

Anyone who knows the Middle East will not spread optimism unless there is good reason to do so. However, since the two meetings in Vienna, there is – for the first time – a glimmer of hope that after five years of being engulfed in civil war, after 300,000 deaths and 12 million people losing their homes,we’re finally seeing some movement.

Steinmeier and Hammond at their joint press conference

Steinmeier and Hammond at their joint press conference
© Photothek / Koehler

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Steinmeier and Hammond at their joint press conference

Steinmeier and Hammond at their joint press conference

Steinmeier and Hammond at their joint press conference

Britain’s future in Europe

Britain’s future in the European Union was also discussed during the Foreign Ministers’ talks. The British Government has announced that it will hold a referendum in 2017 at the latest on whether the United Kingdom should stay in the EU. Ahead of the referendum, the British Government is demanding reforms in the European Union in four areas: the relationship between the eurozone and the other EU member states, the role of the national parliaments, competitiveness and the free movement of persons. During the joint press conference, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stated:

It’s no secret that we want a strong and effective European Union. And we want an EU in which Britain makes a real contribution as a committed member. I’ve said before in this room: I can’t even contemplate an EU without Britain!

He went on to say that he was optimistic that the right path would ultimately be found. For:

We shouldn’t forget when we’re arguing about the details that the European Union has helped to maintain peace in Europe over many decades.

Further information

Vienna talks on the situation in Syria

Steinmeier and Hammond in Bosnia and Herzegovina

United Kingdom country profile

Last updated 02.12.2015

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