“Migration and integration” is the topic of this year’s German-Dutch Forum, which is being held in Berlin on 17 and 18 January. Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders opened the forum at the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government. The forum is part of a series of events titled “What Kind of Europe Do We Want?”
A forum for discussing current issues
Whether it be Europe in the age of globalisation, voluntary euthanasia, demographic change, language, communication or identity, all these issues have been discussed at past German-Dutch Forums. The event has been held since 1996 and gives young people the opportunity to discuss current political and social issues. It takes place alternately in Germany and the Netherlands and was jointly launched by then Foreign Ministers Klaus Kinkel and Pieter Kooijmans with a view to enhancing relations between Germany and the Netherlands.
Workshops and discussions
The focus of this year’s forum and workshops is “Destination Europe – are we witnessing a culture of welcome, or isolationism?” The forum was opened by Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders.
Steinmeier: We need to relearn how to fight for Europe
So far, the European Union has not managed to come up with a joint response to the refugee flows, Steinmeier said in his opening speech. It is quite the opposite, he insisted. At the latest since the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the EU appears to be divided. “We need to relearn how to fight for that Europe, if what has been achieved thanks to European integration in the past years and decades is to be preserved,” the Foreign Minister said. He went on to say that, at the same time, Europe must provide answers to the questions that people in the Member States are asking. Citizens want progress on refugee flows and migration, as well as on national and international security. Especially in the south, they want economic progress.
It is therefore all the more important to promote discussions among the citizens of Europe through formats such as the German-Dutch Forum, and to include all generations in the debate. He said he was particularly pleased that 20 students from both countries are participating in the forum.
Steinmeier and Koenders’ third meeting in one week
Before the opening event, Foreign Minister Steinmeier received his Dutch colleague at the Federal Foreign Office. It was their third meeting that same week, after the Middle East conference in Paris and the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels. They discussed bilateral relations between Germany and the Netherlands, as well as international crises and conflicts.
During this meeting, as well, Steinmeier addressed the future of the European Union. Also after the UK Brexit vote, the remaining 27 Member States must work harder than in recent months to build Europe’s future. Steinmeier insisted we must help the European Union once again become “a project of hope, a project that looks to the future”.