This year’s Ambassadors Conference was dedicated to the topic “Managing crises, shaping the future”. It drew not only the 200‑odd heads of German missions abroad to Berlin. The guests also included numerous high‑level representatives of politics, business and the cultural sphere from Germany and abroad. Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened the conference on Monday morning accompanied by guest of honour Parag Khanna from the New America Foundation.
Opening speech centres around international responsibility
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made it clear at the start of his opening speech that he saw Germany’s responsibility in international affairs not as “a matter of choice or wishful thinking, but simply as a reality”. That, he said, was why Germany had decided to assume Chairmanship of the OSCE at this particularly difficult time – out of a sense of responsibility for security in Europe.
Steinmeier pointed to the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme as evidence that perseverance and diplomatic channels could lead to solutions which enhanced security for all involved. He saw this as a source of hope:
Perhaps we can now capitalise on the momentum of the Vienna agreement to de‑escalate the to‑date seemingly intractable conflicts elsewhere in the region. [...] A security architecture for the Middle East now needs to go on the agenda.
Steinmeier called on the ambassadors in attendance to play their part in shaping the international order of the future. His examples included the up‑coming climate‑change conference in Paris and the UN summit where new sustainable development goals are to be set down in the 2030 Agenda.
Rational compromises trump defence of narrow national interests
Foreign Minister Steinmeier spoke at length about Germany’s responsibility in and for Europe, particularly because, as he put it, German diplomacy was only effective because it was anchored in the European framework – as demonstrated recently by the Minsk peace agreements and the negotiations with Iran. He emphasised the following point:
Germany’s strength in Europe must never be measured solely by how effectively we defend narrowly defined national interests. Especially as a country at the centre of Europe, we must measure our strength by how we manage to broker rational European compromises, working with France, Poland and our other European partners – including difficult partners!
Part of this responsibility, he said, was to listen closely to and look carefully at how our neighbours saw the united Europe, to acknowledge the reforms undertaken in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal and to recognise the magnitude of the reforms that had to be demanded of Greece.
On the pressing matter of refugees in the EU, Steinmeier called for Europe to protect all people in need of protection in a humane way regardless of which EU country they arrived in. This, he said, would require new and much more ambitious integration of refugee policy in Europe. In Germany as elsewhere, he pointed out, the time had come for immigration law in keeping with the times that took into account the country’s demographic realities.
Hamburg’s Olympic bid – top of the agenda for embassies
On the first morning of the conference, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg made use of the gathering of ambassadors to present its bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz and the President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation had travelled to the Federal Foreign Office specially. Foreign Minister Steinmeier assured them that “our ambassadors will make the 2024 Olympics a top priority”, as the Olympic bid was a great opportunity for German foreign policy to gain trust and goodwill around the world.
Ambassadors Conference on “Managing crises, shaping the future”