Over 1200 decision‑makers from major corporations, SMEs and start‑ups came into conversation with the heads of Germany’s missions abroad at the Ambassadors Conference Business Forum in the Federal Foreign Office. Emmanuel Macron, French Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector, joined Foreign Minister Steinmeier to open this year’s Business Forum. The topic was “The world in motion”.
In foreign affairs, the world is changing due to a large number of crises; business, too, is undergoing fundamental change thanks to digitisation. The Federal Foreign Office therefore wishes to liaise with the business world to find ways of actively influencing that change – since promoting foreign trade and investment is one of the essential duties of the foreign service.
Opened by Steinmeier and Macron
On Tuesday morning (25 August), Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened the Business Forum of the 14th Ambassadors Conference together with French Economic Affairs Minister Emmanuel Macron. Steinmeier began his speech by underscoring the increasingly pressing need for exchange between the foreign policy realm and the business world. He singled out migration and Europe as two subjects whose development in the coming years would be crucial in that exchange.
As Steinmeier put it, the issue of migration was one our generation had to face and which could only be resolved at the European level. That, he said, was why he had developed a ten‑point plan for European policy on refugees and migration in collaboration with Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel. An important element of it is fair distribution of refugees on the basis of a quota system rooted in the principle of solidarity.
Like anywhere else, Germany needed immigration law in keeping with the times, Steinmeier said:
The old claim that Germany is not an immigration society was disproved by reality long ago. Today some 20 per cent of the German population has roots abroad. The changes I hope for do not just mean adapting the debates on immigration to fit reality. They also mean responding to our demographic situation and to the growing shortfalls in our labour market.
Don’t casually pass judgment on European neighbours
Steinmeier pointed out that, even after the vote on the package for Greece, Europe still had challenges to face. If Germany wanted to play its responsible role within Europe, he said, it would need to be genuinely interested in how its partners were doing:
I am a bit astonished at how casually we sometimes pass judgment on our European neighbours in public discussions – countries that in some cases have been set back more than a decade in the growth of their prosperity by the crisis and must now begin crawling forward again with great effort. This is true of Spain, it’s true of Portugal and Italy and of course France. In Greece, generations of policies and politicians have built up a succession of errors and misguided developments that one single generation now has to make up for.
Future of mobility
At the final event of the day, entitled “Future of mobility”, Foreign Minister Steinmeier talked to BMW Board of Management Member Peter Schwarzenbauer and Michael Bültmann, CEO of HERE Deutschland. In his speech, Steinmeier identified a number of megatrends which could become a challenge to Germany’s leading position in the global automobile sector – such as urbanisation and digitisation. To arm itself against new competitors from the IT sector, he said, German engineering would have to successfully merge with big data.