Panama – an anchor of stability
During his visit to Panama on 17 February, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was impressed by the small country’s economic success story. Panama was also “an anchor of stability in Central America”, he said. However, Germany and Panama were linked not only by political and economic ties, but also by their “declared wish to build bridges between our two countries with the help of young people”.
Foreign Ministers Westerwelle and Henríquez Sasso in Panama
© photothek / Köhler
The two countries are currently discussing the possibility of opening a German school in Panama, and a German Academic Exchange Service lector is to be sent to the country. Panama is the third stop on the Federal Foreign Minister’s trip to Latin America after Brazil and Peru.
Westerwelle wants to upgrade relations with the whole of Latin America: “The fact that I am visiting Latin America for the third time already in my tenure as Foreign Minister is a reflection of a new political strategy on the part of the German Government,” he said in Panama City. “We believe Latin America to be a continent with a great future.”
The fact that Latin America and Europe share common values was important, the Minister went on, and that was one particular reason why relations between the two continents should be intensified.
The fight against drugs
Panama Canal and Panama City
© picture alliance / dpa
One important subject on the agenda for the two Foreign Ministers was the problem of the drug trade and organized crime. Panama actively protected its own territory, Foreign Minister Henríquez Sasso said, so that no drugs from South America could get into the country. That was why the number of border police officers had recently been increased, particularly along the border with Colombia.
Westerwelle expressed respect for the Panamanian Government’s courageous policy in this field. Europe and North America, as key consumer regions, also had a special responsibility to help combat the drug trade and related organized crime.
Against the background of drug-related crime, the Panamanian Government cooperates closely on security issues with Costa Rica, Colombia and the US. The SICA (Central American Integration System) Operations Centre for Regional Security was inaugurated in Panama in April 2011. SICA is an international association of Central American states established in 1991 with the aim of promoting integration in Central America in order to create a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development.
The Panama Canal
At the Panama Canal
© photothek / Köhler
During a visit to the Gatún Locks on the Panama Canal, Foreign Minister Westerwelle had the chance to see how work was progressing on enlarging the Canal. The Panama Canal is one of the country’s main commercial advantages, alongside its privileged geographical situation, its standing as a modern financial centre, and its stable economic situation with strong economic growth.
The Canal, which was opened in 1914 and links the Atlantic and Pacific, is around 80 km in length and works by means of a system of locks. On 31 December 1999 Panama took over full responsibility for managing, operating and maintaining the Canal. Work on enlarging it is due to be completed in 2014.
On 18 February Foreign Minister Westerwelle left Panama for Los Cabos in Mexico, where he will be attending the first G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.
Last updated 18.02.2012