Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened the two‑day OSCE conference Connectivity for Commerce and Investment at the Federal Foreign Office on Wednesday (18 May). The objective of the event was to explore opportunities for improved trade and investment opportunities in order to strengthen business relations in the OSCE area. The conference brought together representatives from the worlds of politics, business and civil society from different regions and economic systems in some 70 countries and was held as part of Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship.
Digital and physical connectivity
“You have all travelled to Berlin to take part in an experiment here with us,” Steinmeier said at the beginning of the conference. It was also an experiment, he added, because the definition of connectivity was not yet clearly established and still offered scope for creativity. He said that the conference was essentially about establishing “stronger and better physical and virtual links” between the countries in the OSCE area and beyond. Infrastructure projects, transport corridors, trade agreements and digital connectivity between the countries are the focus of the two‑day event bringing together representatives from companies, associations and governments of the 57 OSCE countries and 11 partner countries.
Creating shared visions
Steinmeier cited the railway line between Chongqing in China and Duisburg in Germany, which covers a distance of over 10,300 km, as a positive example of efforts to promote physical connectivity. He said that while this rail link demonstrated that the world’s connectivity was constantly advancing in both physical and digital terms, this was not something to be taken for granted. The challenges that emerge as a result of increasing connectivity are manifold. Great geographical distances must be overcome and different interests and economic systems are running up against each other. This was, Steinmeier said, another reason why this conference was an experiment, because it was an attempt to create shared political visions at a time of severe political discord.
To the benefit of all those involved
Steinmeier said that, especially in view of these challenges, it was now even more important to strengthen international cohesion because “smart connectivity can be of benefit to all those involved”. He said that while this cohesion could be strengthened by expanding business relations, economic cooperation, as stated back in the Helsinki Final Act, the founding document of the OSCE, was not merely an end in itself. The Minister emphasised that “economic ties can foster prosperity, stability and security in our common area”.
In order to achieve this objective, Steinmeier continued, a precise analysis of the current problems and interests was required as a first step. He said that the actors would then need to engage in dialogue – “even if it is heated and contentious at times”. He added that dialogue with new or difficult partners would need to be sought in this regard in order to put the focus on common interests and draw up specific projects to promote connectivity. He said that the OSCE and the conference on connectivity offered a forum for precisely this kind of dialogue.