German-South African Commission

On 8 May the seventh session of the German-South African Binational Commission convened in Berlin under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Deputy President Motlanthe. “South Africa is Germany’s most important partner in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Westerwelle noted. Germany saw South Africa’s new political and economic clout as a tremendous opportunity, he added, to further expand and deepen the good cooperation the two countries enjoyed. 

South Africa and Germany were partners with a shared vision, Deputy President Motlanthe pointed out. Both countries sought to advance peace and security in the world as well as good governance, the rule of law, democracy and human rights, and were working to promote economic development and combat climate change.

As the main instrument of Germany’s strategic partnership with South Africa, the Binational Commission is involved in all these endeavours. It convenes every two years, the last session being held on 8 and 9 April 2010 in Pretoria. The Commission’s activities now cover seven areas of cooperation, each with their own committee: the economy, the environment, development cooperation, defence, education/science/research, culture, labour and social affairs.

Common global challenges

Foreign Minister Westerwelle announced plans for further expanding cooperation between South Africa and Germany on climate protection, renewable energies as well as education and training, all sectors of vital importance for the future. Furthermore, in 2012 a new committee on foreign and security policy convened for the first time. “This new committee testifies to our common desire to help tackle global challenges,” Westerwelle explained.

Co-chairs Westerwelle and Kgalema

Binational Commission in Berlin
© photothek / Köhler

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Co-chairs Westerwelle and Kgalema

Co-chairs Westerwelle and Kgalema

Binational Commission in Berlin

On the issue of UN Security Council reform, for example, South Africa and Germany were “already pulling together”, he noted. Since January 2011 both countries have been non-permanent members of the Security Council. “We see South Africa as a strong and reliable partner in shaping globalization,” Westerwelle pointed out. South Africa is the only African member of the G20 and plays a major role in South-South cooperation.

The two countries agreed to establish a binational commission to promote bilateral cooperation during President Nelson Mandela’s state visit to Germany in 1996, two years after the end of the apartheid era. The initiative was inspired by a common desire to forge a lasting and broad-based strategic partnership that would put relations between the two countries onto a new footing.

Partnership founded on values

Relations between Germany and South Africa are founded above all on shared values.  It is only on this “firm foundation”, according to Westerwelle, that intensive and wide-ranging ties between the two countries can flourish. They may be separated by thousands of kilometres, he continued, yet they are linked by shared experience: “The yearning for freedom, the rule of law and human dignity is stronger than barbed wire.”

For Germany, South Africa is the most important political and economic partner in Sub-Saharan Africa and takes seventh place as a trading partner outside the EU. For South Africa, Germany is a prime trading partner, second only to China. Bilateral relations are by and large problem-free and very intensive in all areas. Official visits are frequent and there is extensive development cooperation; German investment in South Africa is considerable and trade between the two countries substantial. The German community in South Africa numbers around 100,000.

Last updated 08.05.2012

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