Relations between Russia, Germany and Europe, foreign and peace policy, and particularly the balance between East and West: these, Gernot Erler says, have been his “life’s work”. Having obtained his university entrance qualification and moved to divided Berlin in 1963 to study history, Slavonic languages and politics, he found his interest in this field sparked by Willy Brandt’s commitment to Ostpolitik and détente.
“Through difficult times Gernot Erler worked tirelessly to ensure that political differences between Germany and Russia never drove a wedge between our societies,” said Foreign Minister Maas. With Erler’s departure, the Minister went on, the Federal Foreign Office was losing a dyed in the wool foreign policy specialist.
First “Russia Coordinator”
After 30 years as a Member of the German Bundestag, Gernot Erler can look back on a long parliamentary and political career, which included several stints at the Federal Foreign Office. As Minister of State from 2005 to 2009, he supported the work of then Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier. Erler is regarded as one of the originators of the EU Strategy for Central Asia, which was adopted in 2007 during the German EU Council Presidency. In January 2014 he was appointed Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership Countries. From 2003 to 2006, Gernot Erler was the first ever “Russia Coordinator”, as he was called, particularly by the press and the public.
Untiring commitment to dialogue
Erler established numerous lasting political priorities, for instance during the German OSCE Chairmanship in 2016, a time when he was Special Representative of the Federal Government and relations between Europe and Russia were difficult. No matter what political post he occupied, Gernot Erler always believed it important to seek dialogue, to overcome differences between states and societies, to establish trust and to resolve conflicts by political means. The Federal Foreign Office appreciates Gernot Erler’s achievements in foreign policy and in particular his commitment to relations between Germany and Eastern Europe. His work is deserving of our greatest recognition, respect and gratitude.