Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier met his counterpart from the Netherlands, Frans Timmermans, for political talks in The Hague today. Amongst other things, the focus was on the situation in Ukraine. Following this, they opened the 13th German Netherlands Forum, at which they discussed Europe in the wake of the European Parliament elections and the (un)limited impact of digitalisation in Germany and the Netherlands with students from both countries.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to The Hague on Monday (16 June) to meet his counterpart from the Netherlands, Frans Timmermans, for political talks. The focus was on current European and international issues, including the situation in Ukraine and in Iraq.
Topics – EU, Ukraine and Iraq
In a joint press conference, Steinmeier underlined that currently, the most important task on the agenda was setting the right priorities for the incoming EU Commission. Timmermans and he agreed, he said, that in the future the European Union must focus on the most important issues: for example boosting growth and employment as well as improving the monetary union.
With regard to the crisis in Ukraine, the German Foreign Minister voiced his concern about the further escalation of the crisis. All sides had to measure their words and actions carefully in order to prevent the crisis from spiralling further out of control. There was still a risk of Europe becoming divided, he continued and “the shooting down of a transport plane at the weekend was a setback”. In light of the escalation of the dispute over gas, Steinmeier called on Ukraine and Russia to continue striving to reach a compromise.
Steinmeier described the highly dangerous situation in Iraq as a wake up call. What was now needed was for all regional actors to pull in the same direction in order to prevent the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) from expanding further. It would only be possible to stop Iraq from falling apart if the government succeeded in reconciling Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish interests, he stated.
German-Netherlands Forum on the impact of digitalisation
Following this, together, Steinmeier and Timmermans opened the 13th German Netherlands Forum. This year’s motto was: “The (un)limited impact of technology in Germany and the Netherlands”. In a series of talks, experts from Germany and the Netherlands discussed the political and social implications of the increasing impact of digital technology on our lives. This addressed topics such as how to deal with the trading of online data by internet companies or with digital spying, as well as how political and public debate in Germany and the Netherlands is addressing these issues.
Bilateral relations have “never been better!”
In a panel discussion with students, Foreign Minister Steinmeier answered the question of how he would describe relations between Germany and the Netherlands in three words with “never been better!”
Next: meeting of Foreign Ministers in the Baltic region
Following his visit to The Hague, in the afternoon Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled on to Estonia in order to meet his colleagues from the three Baltic states for the “3+1 Meeting of Foreign Ministers”. The agenda for the informal round of talks in Tallinn once again includes the current situation in Ukraine and relations with Russia. Latvia’s upcoming EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2015 will also feature in the consultations between the four Foreign Ministers.