Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took part in the German-Italian Business Forum held in Rome on Thursday (8 May). Next to the Forum, he also had a chance to talk to Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini about the situation in Ukraine.
The day was all about Europe for Foreign Minister Steinmeier. After starting Thursday by opening a European Writers’ Conference in Berlin and taking part in broadcaster WDR’s Europaforumat the Federal Foreign Office, he boarded a plane for a short visit to Italy– one of Germany’s closest European partners. The reason for his trip was the second German-Italian Business Forum being held in Rome, which is intended to help deepen bilateral economic relations.
A warm welcome from Foreign Minister Mogherini
In the early afternoon, Foreign Minister Steinmeier was welcomed to Rome very warmly by his Italian opposite number, Federica Mogherini, and the President of the German-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Frankfurt am Main, Emmanuele Gatti. In his speech to the German and Italian entrepreneurs and business representatives, Steinmeier emphasised the impossibility of a strong Europe without a strong Italy. He said he took his hat off to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for the determination with which he approached difficult decisions.
The euro: generating European unity
The German Foreign Minister also used his speech to underline the importance of the common currency to Europe’s economic and political development. The euro, he said, generated unity, bringing markets and people together. “I am convinced that calling the euro into question would set off a chain reaction which would eventually see European integration in its entirety called into question too.” On the negative consequences of the European debt crisis, Steinmeier insisted that “Europe is not the problem – but Europe needs to help solve the problem.”
A diplomatic solution for Ukraine
Both at the Business Forum and during Steinmeier’s talks with his Italian counterpart, the crisis in Ukraine was high on the agenda. Many companies are worried about the effects which the latest escalation could have on the European economy.
Steinmeier emphasised the importance of a “diplomatic solution” to the crisis. Turning to the outcomes of the Geneva meeting on Ukraine and the most recent talks which OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter has been holding in Moscow, the German Foreign Minister called on those involved to finally put what they had agreed into practice. “There can be no more playing for time,” he said, as there was a risk that we would otherwise reach a point where the whole situation would spiral out of control. In that context, Steinmeier welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call, following the most recent escalation of the conflict, to postpone the referendum which pro-Russian forces are planning in eastern Ukraine, describing it as “perhaps a small hopeful sign that diplomatic efforts to seek a political solution are still on the table.”
The German Foreign Minister returned straight to Berlin in the evening after his talks in Rome. His very European day ended with an appearance at the Long Night of European Literature.