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“Extending cooperation with foundations”

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (17 May 2017) about the Foundation Congress to be held in Osnabrück.

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At the Foundation Congress in Osnabrück at which Europe’s foundations enter into dialogue with politics and business, the focus is on education. What central message do you as Foreign Minister have for the three‑day Congress?

First of all, I would like to say that I would have loved to come to Osnabrück for the Foundation Congress but I unfortunately couldn’t manage as I am heading off on a trip to the United States and Mexico. But back to your question. Since 2015, the Federal Foreign Office, the first government institution in Germany to do so, has conducted strategic dialogue with private and charitable foundations which are working internationally. Given the upheaval in our world and the large number of conflicts, we are trying to involve the foundations, which have unbelievably good networks and expertise, more intensively in our foreign policy communication. Many successful projects that have been conducted through public private partnerships demonstrate to me how important and valuable these partnerships are. I want to build on this.

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In eastern Africa, millions of people are starving. At the Somalia Conference in London, you pledged assistance. Are others ruthlessly shirking their responsibility?

I was in Somalia two weeks ago to see the situation for myself. You are right, the drought on the Horn of Africa has robbed many of their livelihoods. Fields are parched, livestock dead, people starving. We cannot stand by and do nothing. That is why Germany recently made more funding available. We are now the second-largest bilateral donor in the sphere of humanitarian assistance worldwide and we will continue along this path. Together with other international donors, we have now covered some 55% of what is needed according to United Nations figures. But, that also means a further 45% is still required. We must mobilise more funding.

And how?

Instead of constantly demanding more money for arms, we need to realise that for lasting stability and peace we need above all hope for a better life, development prospects and an end to poverty. After all, this is the breeding ground where the terrorist organisations of our world are finding recruits. That is what is behind our Berlin Humanitarian Call, and also the Somalia Conference in London. We are talking to other donors, also with those who could do more. For us, these countries include China, Russia and also Saudi Arabia. And we will not wane in our efforts.

Turkey has again denied Members of the German Bundestag access to German soldiers at the Incirlik air base. What do you think about moving the troops to Jordan?

The work of the Bundeswehr, the German parliamentary army, is an important factor in the fight against IS – this is not just in our interest but is shared by key NATO partners, for example by the United States. Using this deployment as a political pawn, as Turkey is obviously planning, can only backfire. Those who try to blackmail us to force us to disregard the German fundamental right to asylum and only allow our parliamentarians to visit the Bundeswehr in their country if we expose political refugees to imprisonment and torture are not going to get anywhere with us. We did not give into this in the past and we are not going to do so in the future.

What does that mean exactly?

If it is no longer possible to work sensibly from Incirlik – and this does of course include that Members of the German Bundestag can visit their soldiers – then we need to consider alternatives. In recent months, we really have done everything not to slam the door shut for Turkey. We have been insulted and have tried time and again to reach out to the Turkish Government. But now that German nationals keep being imprisoned with incomprehensible charges, that they are denied consular assistance, that Germans are not allowed to leave Turkey and now that attempts are also to be made to blackmail the German parliament, we have reached the limit of what is acceptable. I can only hope that the Turkish Government will change its mind in the coming days. Otherwise the German Bundestag will surely not leave the soldiers in Turkey.

One final question: You can be pleased about good popularity ratings and praise for doing your job courageously. Have you found the best job of your life?

My three wonderful daughters are the best job of my life. But what you say is right, the job as Foreign Minister is not just very important, I’m also enjoying it very much.

Interview with Beate Tenfelde.

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