Launch of a new phase in German-Australian relations: Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Defence Minister von der Leyen met their Australian counterparts Bishop and Payne in Berlin yesterday.
Canberra, on the other side of the planet, and Berlin are separated by a distance of 16,000 kilometres. Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Marise Payne, Australian Minister for Defence, took a 20-hour flight to mark a milestone in German-Australian relations. The inaugural German-Australian 2+2 consultations began with a ceremony in the Bendler Block in the ceremonial courtyard of the Federal Ministry of Defence in Berlin, where German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed their Australian counterparts with military honours. Afterwards, the ministers laid a wreath at the Bundeswehr Memorial.
Advantages for both sides
The historic park surrounding Villa Borsig borders on Lake Tegel. Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited his colleagues to the Federal Foreign Office’s guest house to discuss the most important challenges in global politics, namely the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the peace process in Ukraine and the conflicts in the South China Sea. Germany and Australia work closely together on international challenges. The long geographical distance between the two countries creates benefits for both sides. “We are very grateful for our Australian colleagues’ expertise on the entire Asia-Pacific region,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said. For their part, the two Australian ministers welcomed Steinmeier’s insights on the Ukraine conflict.
Geographical distance, political closeness
Germany and Australia launched a strategic partnership in the Berlin-Canberra Declaration in 2013. Since then, both countries have been liaising on an even wider range of topics. “Australia may be a long way from Germany, but we enjoy all the more closeness in political, cultural and economic issues,” Steinmeier said.
During their meeting in Villa Borsig, the four ministers agreed on the positions they will take at the United Nations General Assembly, which will start in late September. “I think what unites us is that we represent two countries that firmly believe in a rules-based international order and work to achieve this,” Steinmeier said. After the talks at Lake Tegel, it was clear once again that Australia and Germany may be at opposite ends of the world on the map, but share a common vision.