Few of the world’s countries are so far away geographically yet so close to us politically as Australia and New Zealand. Although both countries are literally on the other side of the world from the point of view of us Europeans, freedom and democracy are part of our common DNA.
Despite a huge distance of more than 16,000 km, we can rely on each other like close neighbours, learn from each other as good friends and support each other as strategic partners. This is demonstrated by our comprehensive assistance to Ukraine. It is demonstrated by our dealings with China, which is asserting its interests in an increasingly aggressive manner. And it is demonstrated by our cooperation on cyber security and in reducing strategic dependencies by further deepening our trade relations.
Now that a modern EU free trade agreement has been concluded with New Zealand, I hope that we will manage to get a similar agreement with Australia over the line in the near future.
As an economic powerhouse and the world’s sixth-largest country, Australia is one of our most important partners in the region. There is hardly any other country outside NATO with which the Bundeswehr conducts exercises at such regular intervals. Australia’s planned deployment of an AWACS aircraft to Germany as a contribution to European aerial reconnaissance sets new standards.
Australia is ahead of us in many respects, for instance in recruiting skilled workers and in terms of dealing with foreign interference. I will therefore also use my visit to Australia to exchange views on these issues.
New Zealand is considered to be the gateway to the Pacific Island States and enjoys links with us in many areas. The free trade agreement with the EU that was signed recently and the bilateral agreement concerning the reciprocal protection of classified information were giant steps forward for even closer economic and security cooperation. I would like to build on this during my visit. And we can also learn a great deal from New Zealand as hardly any other country has so firmly enshrined the issue of equality and the rights of the indigenous population.
I would like to use my visit to Australia and New Zealand to strengthen the bonds of cooperation that connect us with our partners who share our values around the globe. While we may be on the other side of the globe in geographic terms, our shared values and common view of the world connect us very closely.