At the beginning of the year, Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier travelled to Brussels to meet with the top officials of the European institutions. According to Steinmeier, this early visit to Brussels, at the beginning of January and shortly after his return to office, clearly signals the Federal Government’s commitment to the process of European integration.
Directly after arriving in the Belgian capital, Frank‑Walter Steinmeier met the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Their discussion focused on the economic situation in the European Union (EU) and Greece’s assumption of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 January. Further topics comprised the upcoming EU Summits on Russia and Africa.
More than a common currency
After his discussion with Barroso, Steinmeier stated that it was no coincidence that his first trip of the year had taken him to the Belgian capital:
This is no coincidence of scheduling but a statement by the Federal Government. We want to say that for us, Europe is not one of many options, but the result of the lesson learnt from German history as well as a source of hope for the future.
2014, moreover, marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. In this year in particular, it should be remembered that Europe was more than just a common currency and an internal market, the German Foreign Minister continued.
This Europe represents more peace and security, it is a byword for hope for so many people. It stands for shared values and for a shared future. We Germans should be very aware of this responsibility and we should channel all of our efforts into overcoming the European crisis which has dominated in recent years.
Promoting the European idea
On 7 January, Foreign Minister Steinmeier met further representatives of the European Union. Following his morning meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, Steinmeier reiterated Germany’s commitment to the process of European integration. Particularly in the run‑up to the European Parliament elections in May 2014, Germany wanted to stand up for the European idea, the Foreign Minister continued:
[Martin Schulz and I] have promised each other that we want to ensure that we do not lose sight of the European idea amidst our long‑term efforts to manage the crisis, but that it once again brings hope, above all to the young generation in the European Union’s southern countries, and is not seen as a kind of threat. This is not merely something that we have promised each other, but something we will work for, both before and after the European elections.
Integration and Europe’s future
Afterwards, Steinmeier met the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as well as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton.
Both of these discussions also focused on the process of European integration and shaping Europe’s future.
Bilateral relations with Belgium
Steinmeier had previously met the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, Didier Reynders, at Egmont Palace in order to discuss further developing the good bilateral relations which exist between Belgium and Germany. Both Foreign Ministers announced their desire to continue their talks on 17 February when the King and Queen of Belgium will be visiting Berlin. On this occasion, Steinmeier and Reynders will open a conference aiming to enhance connections between the two countries’ civil societies.
Steinmeier concluded his visit to Egmont Palace with the words, “there is a lot to do in Europe.” In the new year, the German Foreign Minister will tackle this work together with his European partners and by doing so is clearly signalling that Europe occupies a central place on Germany’s foreign policy agenda.