Even people who speak the same language have to talk to each other regularly: Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier thus met his Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz in Berlin for political talks on 15 January. The agenda covered bilateral relations, Europe and the Western Balkans, as well as Syria.
“We both assumed office at the same time, and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to come together so soon in Berlin.” With these words, Foreign Minister Steinmeier welcomed his Austrian counterpart Kurz to the Federal Foreign Office. And, with a smile, he quoted the Austrian writer Karl Kraus: “The only thing that divides us is our common mother tongue.”
Regular talks agreed
Even people who speak the same language have to talk to each other regularly: Steinmeier and Kurz thus agreed to talk to each other “as often as possible”. The German Foreign Minister stressed that important decisions had also been coordinated in the past, for: “Our two countries are bound not by a partnership like we have with other countries, but by a genuine friendship.” The Austrian Foreign Minister likewise extolled his country’s close relations with its German neighbours.
However, they did not only talk about bilateral relations. Europe and its immediate neighbourhood, as well as the Middle East, Iran and Syria were all issues discussed by the two Foreign Ministers. While Steinmeier expressed cautious optimism with regard to the negotiations with Iran and in the Middle East, he noted that much remained to be done in preparation for the Syria peace conference. The two Foreign Ministers both stated that they were looking forward to the close cooperation between Germany and Austria on all these topics.
The dual system of vocational training – an export success
Before his meeting with Steinmeier, Foreign Minister Kurz had an appointment with Minister of State Maria Böhmer. They already knew each other from their previous posts as Government Commissioners for Integration.
Kurz and Böhmer agreed to explore ways of enhancing cooperation to promote the German language abroad. The dual system of vocational training, which is well established in both Germanyand Austria, is the object of growing interest around the world. The two politicians specifically agreed that German and Austrian experts and politicians should exchange experience on this issue in order to put this export success to even better use for the two countries.
Foreign Minister Kurz and Minister of State Böhmer also talked about the preparations for the year of remembrance 2014. They affirmed that the idea of Europe must play a prominent role in the events planned to mark the centenary of the start of World War I.