With a ceremony in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office on Tuesday (14 February), Foreign Minister Gabriel inducted the new State Secretaries Rainer Sontowski and Walter Lindner. Just prior to this, he had discharged outgoing State Secretary Stephan Steinlein from his duties. With the instalment of the two new State Secretaries, the top echelon of the Federal Foreign Office is again complete only a few weeks after Foreign Minister Gabriel himself assumed office.
Bidding farewell to State Secretary Steinlein
Speaking to a packed Weltsaal, Foreign Minister Gabriel addressed the old and new State Secretaries, also making quite a few humorous remarks. On behalf of all staff, Gabriel first thanked outgoing State Secretary Steinlein for his work and accomplishments. Steinlein had been one of the “key supporters of and a driving force behind” reforms at the Federal Foreign Office and in German foreign policy.
Referring to the close relationship between Steinlein and former Foreign Minister Steinmeier, Gabriel said the “stone age” at the Federal Foreign Office was now ending ‑ alluding to the German meaning of "Stein" as in Steinlein's and Steinmeier's names. He went on to say that this “stone age” had been a “highly productive period”. He pointed out that great challenges await Steinlein in his next posting as State Secretary at the Office of the Federal President, where he will continue to work for Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will be taking office as Federal President. He wished him the best of luck for the performance of his new duties.
Welcoming the new State Secretaries Lindner and Sontowski
Afterwards, Gabriel welcomed the two new State Secretaries, Walter Lindner and Rainer Sontowski. Together with State Secretary Markus Ederer, they will now join the top echelon at the Federal Foreign Office. Foreign Minister Gabriel said he very much looks forward to working with Lindner. Lindner is “always right where the action is” and a true man of the people. Gabriel said he had at various times had the opportunity to see this for himself. Lindner’s most recent posting was as Germany’s Ambassador to South Africa.
Gabriel went on to say that he equally looks forward to working together closely with Sontowski. Sontowski previously held the post of State Secretary at the Federal Economic Affairs Ministry and has been on Gabriel’s staff for many years. At the Federal Foreign Office, a principal task of State Secretary Sontowski will be political coordination with the other Federal Ministries and with the Länder, in connection with Foreign Minister Gabriel’s role as Vice Chancellor.
Making the case for a strong Europe
Looking ahead to Germany’s foreign policy challenges, Gabriel noted that the motto for times of growing uncertainty and crises should be “hoping for the best, preparing for the worst”. He added that it is all the more important to now focus fully on all tasks related to Europe, with the aim of making Europe stronger. He insisted there is no reason to be discouraged.
Steinlein’s farewell address
The Foreign Minister’s speech was followed by Steinlein’s farewell address, and it was met by a big round of applause by the staff of the Federal Foreign Office. His remarks were fully focused on saying “thank you”. He said he will continue to think of the Federal Foreign Office as his home, even though he is now bidding a final farewell and will take up his new duties as State Secretary at the Office of the Federal President.
The new State Secretaries’ inaugural speeches
In his inaugural speech, the new State Secretary Walter Lindner expressed his appreciation of the trust that has been placed in him. He said he looks forward to working at the Federal Foreign Office at a time when there are a great number of tasks that need to be tackled. The Federal Foreign Office is, he pointed out, “the only Federal Ministry that never sleeps”, since its staff are on duty 24/7 around the world.
State Secretary Sontowski later added he trusts he will benefit from the sensitivity and expert knowledge with which Federal Foreign Office staff perform their duties. Finally, he expressed his conviction that the Federal Foreign Office will be further strengthened thanks to the Vice Chancellor responsibilities that have now been added to its portfolio.