On Friday (27 January), outgoing Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier handed over to his successor, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, at a ceremony at the Federal Foreign Office. After receiving their letters of appointment and discharge from Federal President Gauck in Schloss Bellevue, Steinmeier and Gabriel gave speeches to ministry staff and a large number of guests in the packed Weltsaal at the Federal Foreign Office.
The Federal Foreign Office welcomes Foreign Minister Gabriel
The handover ceremony opened with music, followed by a speech by State Secretary Markus Ederer, who gave a warm welcome to Foreign Minister Gabriel on behalf of all Federal Foreign Office staff and promised him the ministry’s full support in his new role. Ederer said that Gabriel was taking over a very well‑organised ministry, which would stand by him in every way.
Steinmeier thanked for his work
Ederer thanked Frank‑Walter Steinmeier warmly for his work and said it had been a pleasure to work for him. In view of a world that is out of joint, Steinmeier had insisted that Germany must act “earlier, more decisively and more tangibly”. Ederer highlighted the “unambiguous analysis, unflappable calmness and untiring dedication” that Steinmeier had shown in achieving German foreign policy goals.
Personal farewell speech by Steinmeier
The outgoing Foreign Minister then gave a very personal speech to Federal Foreign Office staff, who he said had been close allies all the time. He thanked the staff and their families warmly for their hard work. “You’re a great team and I will miss you!”
Steinmeier looked back on packed years marked by a large number of crises in the world. “We achieved things that make me proud, and I hope you feel the same way.” He also mentioned the Federal Foreign Office’s review process, which had launched the most comprehensive inventory ever of German foreign policy.
Steinmeier said he looked forward to “continuing to work closely with the Federal Foreign Office” should he be elected Federal President in February. He was handing over a foreign service to Foreign Minister Gabriel that was “stronger than ever before”.
Foreign Minister Gabriel thanked his predecessor
Following the warm welcome in the Weltsaal, Foreign Minister Gabriel paid tribute to his predecessor, describing him as an “outstanding Foreign Minister”. He said that Steinmeier had restored the Federal Foreign Office to the position it merited in the German Government, not only in the eyes of the German public, but also internationally. With regard to his predecessor’s future role, Gabriel said Steinmeier would be “the ideal Federal President” and he wished him strength and every success.
Gabriel then addressed the staff of the Federal Foreign Office, saying that he wanted to build on his predecessor’s work. Speaking directly to his new colleagues, he said, “I would be very grateful to be able to count on your expertise and dedication so that we can steer our country in what are certainly not easy times through waters that are likely to remain troubled.”
Cornerstones of German foreign policy
“We are eyewitnesses to a recalibration of the world,” Gabriel said. Internal and external affairs could no longer be separated in our interconnected world. This world offered a great many opportunities, but there were also many conflicts, sources of friction and threats. The international challenges were increasing.
Gabriel went on to say that Europe, transatlantic relations and multilateralism were the cornerstones of German foreign policy. “Foreign policy today means conducting international politics that does justice to the longing for more equitable and stable globalisation with more winners and fewer losers.”
First official visit to Paris
Gabriel will undertake his first visit as German Foreign Minister on Saturday (28 January), when he will travel to Paris to meet his French counterpart Jean‑Marc Ayrault. Their talks will focus on the crisis in the European Union, as well as on conflict-hit regions such as Syria and eastern Ukraine.