Annual review 2020: the good news
Federal Foreign Office, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net
The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the news in 2020. Yet there were also positive developments that deserve attention. We have compiled a few examples.
Despite all obstacles: solidarity during times of crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has confronted countries throughout the world with huge challenges. The social and economic consequences of the pandemic are still not yet known. Yet the crisis has also generated signs of solidarity: since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany has taken in and treated over 260 intensive care patients from neighbouring countries. It has also sent many items of equipment, such as masks and ventilators, to partner countries in the EU and throughout the world. Germany has provided support in the form of knowledge exchange and deployment of experts as part of the German Epidemic Preparedness Team to countries in Latin America, for example, to help overcome the pandemic. The rapid development of a vaccine has also been successful thanks to international cooperation among scientists. The COVAX vaccine platform is intended to help developing countries gain access to vaccines. In the EU, the member states are supporting their economies through their agreement on the Next Generation EU recovery fund, which has a volume of 750 billion euro. The G20 states suspended debt payments to help the 77 poorest countries in the world to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
The strength of the law as opposed to the law of the strongest: cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region
A key goal of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union was achieved in November. The EU and ASEAN entered into a Strategic Partnership. This step is highly significant – not only from a symbolic perspective. It is above all a sign of the enhanced cooperation between the two economic regions. The focus is on their common interest in a rules-based order and free and fair trade. That is also a guiding principle of the policy guidelines for the Indo-Pacific, in which the Federal Government defines the framework for its Indo-Pacific policy. In recent years the region has become increasingly important in both a political and an economic context. More than half of the global population lives in countries around the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
Diplomatic relations with the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”
The kingdom high up in the Himalayas maintains diplomatic relations with only a few dozen states and international organisations. Since 25 November, Germany has been one of those states. Cooperation with the young democracy has been expanded over the past few years. One central issue is tackling climate change. Bhutan is committed to long-term carbon neutrality. The goal of “gross national happiness” is enshrined in Bhutan’s constitution. This involves sustainable growth objectives – and specifically also a commitment to protecting nature and the Environment.
Libya: we are finally making progress!
Good news from Libya has been rare this past year, but several recent developments give grounds for hope. Germany is supporting the UN’s efforts to stabilise the country. At the start of 2020, the Berlin Conference on Libya was held at the invitation of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the course of the conference, supporters of the parties to the conflict pledged to reduce external influence and thus facilitate an intra-Libyan political process under the auspices of the UN. Since the summer, the EU has been playing an important role in the concrete implementation of the arms embargo through its operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI. A nationwide ceasefire is now in force in Libya. Since early November, 75 Libyans from all regions and political groups have been negotiating on the country’s political future within the context of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.
Israel and the Arab states: new momentum
Something has been set in motion in the Middle East: after the United Arab Emirates Bahrain, the Sudan and Morocco have entered into relations with Israel – a great diplomatic success for the team surrounding US President Donald Trump. Germany has expressly welcomed the closer ties. In September, the Israeli and UAE Foreign Ministers met for the first time ever in Berlin at the invitation of Foreign Minister Maas. The Federal Government is working with its partners in Europe and the region to use this new momentum also to kickstart the deadlocked Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians – for example in a format with France, Jordan and Egypt.
Strong together: international cooperation to combat antisemitism and racism
Since March 2020, Germany has held the chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) for the first time. In this context and in the course of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Germany has worked successfully to promote international cooperation in the fight against antisemitism and other forms of exclusion and discrimination: an international taskforce is currently formulating strategies to combat Holocaust denial at Germany’s initiative. In the autumn, the IHRA agreed for the first time on a working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination. The definition will help policymakers and civil society to recognise and tackle discrimination and hatred targeting Roma and Sinti. In December, the EU adopted a joint declaration on combating antisemitism. This also involved a consensus on developing a joint security concept to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe, which is now being drafted.