Two weeks ago, I became German Foreign Minister. Since then, many people have asked me one question – and maybe you have it in mind as well: What can we expect from the new German Government in terms of foreign policy?
My answer is: Our new Government remains firmly committed to Germany’s foreign policy fundamentals – European integration, the transatlantic alliance and multilateralism. At the same time, we will step up international efforts: with a view to tackling the global climate crisis, building a more sovereign European Union and speaking up for democracy and human rights.
For all these reasons, Ukraine will remain a crucial partner for us. Dmytro – you were among the first foreign ministers I spoke to on the phone last week – and I look forward to visiting Kyiv soon. Ukraine has been high up on my agenda during my first days as foreign minister – although for unfortunate reasons:
Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border is of grave concern to all of us. Since taking up office, Chancellor Scholz and I have underlined the urgent need for Russia to de-escalate. Together with our partners in the European Union, the G7 and NATO, we have made it clear that any new military aggression against Ukraine will have massive political and economic consequences for Russia.
Given the tense situation, Germany appreciates the restraint Ukraine is showing. We are convinced: diplomacy is the only viable way forward. Together with France, Germany will continue its efforts in the Normandy format and towards implementing the Minsk agreements. It is important not to allow Russia to undermine the Normandy format. And in our view, the Minsk agreements remain the best path to a sustainable solution to the conflict in Donbas.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ever since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, Germany has been a strong supporter of Ukraine’s struggle for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Germany was instrumental when the European Union imposed sanctions against Russia. Germany has become one of Ukraine’s largest bilateral donors, with more than 1.8 billion dollars in assistance since 2014. We have treated more than 120 wounded Ukrainian soldiers in German hospitals.
Next month, Germany and Ukraine will be celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations. Three decades ago, few would have imagined how intertwined our countries are today – from people-to-people contacts to trade and investment. At the same time, I know that our friendship must not be taken for granted. During the Second World War, Germans committed horrific crimes against Ukrainians. These crimes are not as present in the German historical consciousness as they should be.
I therefore suggest that we make next year’s anniversary of our diplomatic relations a starting point – to further deepen our bilateral contacts, and to bring Ukraine and the European Union closer together. I see huge potential to cooperate more on green energy. I would like to move forward in addressing our common history. Regarding EU-Ukraine cooperation, the EU-Ukraine Summit in October and the Eastern Partnership Summit last week set out the agenda. And we trust in Ukraine’s capacity to take its reform efforts forward.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As I said at the beginning, it’s been only two weeks since I became foreign minister. But the past two weeks have done one thing: They have reaffirmed my appreciation for diplomats. And I don’t say this only to charm a diplomatic audience. I say it because I am convinced that in order to deal with the challenges of our time – ranging from international tensions to the climate crisis – we need you, diplomats, and we need diplomacy.
On this note, our new government looks forward to ever closer diplomacy between Germany and Ukraine!
Thank you and all the best.