Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his French counterpart Ayrault met in Brandenburg an der Havel on Wednesday (15 June). Their talks focused on the Ukraine crisis and cohesion in the European Union.
A welcome change of scene
Steinmeier and Ayrault have known each other for decades and have worked together in a very wide range of roles, for example as Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Parti socialiste (PS) and Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) respectively. Everyone has lost count of how many times they have visited each other in their respective capitals, so it was a welcome change of scene when the two Foreign Ministers met in Steinmeier’s constituency in Brandenburg an der Havel. The famous Dominican monastery, Sankt Pauli, provided the backdrop for the visit.
Before the UK referendum
Two current foreign policy issues dominated the delegation’s talks. Just over a week before the UK holds a referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU, Steinmeier and Ayrault discussed the dangers posed by populist right-wing and Eurosceptic movements in Europe. Both agreed that the resurgence of nationalism can best be prevented by the EU proving its ability to act and finding sensible solutions to the great challenges of our time. With regard to the referendum, Steinmeier said: “Europe would lose a great deal if the UK decides to leave the EU.”
Implementing the Minsk agreement
The second topic ‑ the situation in eastern Ukraine ‑ has been on the agenda for far too long. The implementation of the Minsk peace agreement recently came to a standstill because the parties to the conflict do not agree on security issues and because a law on local elections is still outstanding. “Germany and France are doing their utmost to achieve progress as regards implementing the Minsk agreement,” Steinmeier said after the talks. To this end, diplomats from Berlin and Paris travelled to Kyiv on the same day as the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brandenburg an der Havel. Commitment to resolving the situation in Ukraine has been a link between the two ministers since Ayrault took up office. His first official trip was a joint visit to Kyiv with Foreign Minister Steinmeier in February 2016.
After the talks, the two Foreign Ministers went on a tour of the town, including a boat trip. After all, it’s nice to show really good friends where you live!