On 27 January, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed his Estonian counterpart Marina Kaljurand on her first official visit to Berlin. The meeting focused on bilateral relations between Germany and Estonia, the refugee crisis and other international issues.
The two Foreign Ministers used the opportunity to look at historic documents from the long history the two countries share. These included Estonian instruments of ratification from the late 1920s, the letter of credence from the Estonian President Konstantin Päts dated 15 September 1923 for Ambassador Karl Menning and the technical drawings by the Reichsbaudirektion (Reich Building Authority) of the German Embassy building in Reval (today’s Tallinn) acquired in 1926.
“Bilateral relations that are excellent”
Foreign Minister Steinmeier paid tribute to the way in which the two countries have been “shaping their bilateral policies together for years”. Over the last year, cooperation has been extended to include additional fields. The two Ministers are, for example, “very pleased” that cooperation in the sphere of communication and the media has got off to “such a good start”. Something else the two countries share is their early realisation that it is necessary to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
Estonia is a country which, like us, is very interested in developing renewable energies and is thus one of the advocates of a responsible and forward-looking energy policy in Europe.
“Two colleagues standing side by side in turbulent times”
Steinmeier underscored that the “excellent” bilateral cooperation continues in the European framework. In Brussels, Foreign Minister Kaljurand and he are “two colleagues standing side by side in turbulent times”. Steinmeier was referring here to the still-lingering financial and economic crisis, the migration crisis and the question as to the UK’s future in the EU. “I don’t want to imagine a European Union without the UK,” Steinmeier added.
“We have made progress”
Above all the migration crisis has caused major shock waves in Europe in recent weeks and months. Here, Steinmeier pointed out:
In many questions we are not close enough to one another here in Europe, particularly as far as the mandatory distribution key is concerned. But we have made progress.
Turkey has taken the initial steps to implement the agreement with the EU. Above all, Turkey is now opening the labour market to Syrian refugees and has re-introduced compulsory visas for Syrian refugees from third countries. For its part, the EU has to produce the 3 billion euros which it offered in return for Turkey helping accommodate refugees.
“Every inch is a struggle.”
Steinmeier was more sceptical about the Ukraine conflict. “I am far from happy”, the Foreign Minister admitted. Yet, “Sometimes you have to look back and ask where we would be without the Minsk Process”. It did successfully restrict the conflict to the Donbass. Yet it is not done and dusted. Every inch is a struggle.
“Just now we are negotiating with the conflicting parties so that they finally create the prerequisites for elections in eastern Ukraine.” At the same time, there are talks with Ukraine about how and when there can be a vote on amending the Constitution as laid down in the Minsk Agreement. “I hope that we will make further steps in the course of the first half of the year - provided that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine holds,” concluded Steinmeier. For him, this is the only way to bring the Minsk Process to a happy conclusion.