This was Sigmar Gabriel’s first press conference in the Federal Foreign Office. On Wednesday (22 February), he met his counterpart Bert Koenders of the Netherlands in Berlin. In addition to relations between Germany and the Netherlands, the talks focused on current issues in international politics, particularly the future of the European Union.
Excellent partnership between Germany and the Netherlands
Foreign Ministers Gabriel and Koenders have met several times over the past weeks, most recently at the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bonn. On Wednesday, they met at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. Gabriel said there was an excellent partnership between Germany and the Netherlands. “We enjoy closer relations with our neighbour, the Netherlands, than with almost any other country in the world.” The two countries worked closely together not only in the spheres of politics and business, but also at cultural andpeople-to-people level.
The future of the EU topped the agenda
The question of how the EU can be strengthened in the coming years played an important role in the Foreign Ministers’ talks. Gabriel said that forces in many European countries were calling the EU, the“greatest civilisation project of the 20th century”, into question. The EU Member States needed to work more closely together in various fields in order to counter the arguments in the debates on nationalism, isolation and right-wing populism. These fields included common foreign policy, Common Security and Defence Policy, the fight against terrorism and organised crime, and the development of a strong European single market.
Implementing the agreements in Ukraine
The conflict in eastern Ukraine was also on the agenda. Gabriel said it was difficult to understand why the ceasefire was still not being upheld and the heavy weapons had still not been withdrawn despite what had been agreed at the last meeting in the Normandy format on the margins of the Munich Security Conference. It was now vital to implement the points agreed and to provide the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine with data on the locations of the heavy weapons.
NATO: a comprehensive approach
Foreign Minister Gabriel also spoke about expenditure on NATO, saying that Germany must become more active in the field of security policy. However, a comprehensive approach should be taken here. This should not only focus on military spending. Above all, Germany would increase its activities in the fields of crisis prevention, endeavours to eradicate hunger and poverty, and ways to address the causes of displacement and war.