I’m very sorry that I cannot be with you in person today.
I had been looking forward to meeting you: to discuss the challenges that you face in your beautiful country and in the whole Indo-Pacific region.
And most of all: I had been looking forward to celebrating our friendship.
And then – only days before I was due to arrive, technical problems with our plane prevented us from coming to your region.
And I can’t tell you how deeply I regret that.
My colleagues in Suva have told me about the enthusiastic welcome that they have received in Fiji over the past few months – as we worked towards the opening of our first embassy on the Blue Continent.
So my heartfelt thanks go to our partners in the government of Fiji who have made this possible.
Thank you! Vinaka vaka lewu!
I would like to also thank my colleague Beate Grzeski, who has been travelling across the island states as our special envoy over the last few months.
And I would also like to thank our advance team, Melanie Freund and Gerhard Ruckerbauer, who have been working here in Suva since the spring to make this day possible.
For us, the opening of our embassy marks a historic moment.
We are giving our presence in Fiji on the Blue Continent a roof.
And, more importantly, we are giving it a face: with Ambassador Andreas Prothmann, who is now taking up his duties.
I believe this step comes at a crucial moment, at a time of enormous global challenges that we can only address if we stand even closer together.
Most of all, this concerns the biggest security challenge of our times, the climate crisis.
In your region, which many in Europe are familiar with as an incredibly beautiful holiday paradise, this crisis is robbing people of their livelihoods– through the rise in sea levels and extreme weather events.
Had it not been for the problems with our planes, we would have visited the villages of Vuniniudrovo and Togoru here in Fiji. I had been looking forward to meeting men and women from these communities, to listen to them, to hear their concerns about a crisis that is forcing them from their homes, from their lives.
The government of Fiji has identified more than 600 communities threatened by rising sea levels.
You – the Big Ocean states – have been ringing the alarm bells for years, if not decades.
You have been the driving force behind international efforts to address this crisis.
I can assure you that we not only hear your calls, that we do not only open an embassy, but that we stand with you in this endeavour.
The key priority for our embassy team will therefore be to work with you and regional organisations like the Pacific Islands Forum to address the climate crisis.
It’s clear that no money in the world can repair the damage that this crisis is causing if we do not finally tackle its root causes.
And that means what we – Germany and the Pacific Island States – have been advocating for years: drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Secondly, we must help the most vulnerable countries and communities to cope with the impacts of the climate crisis – including those that can no longer be reversed.
And for that, major emitting countries – like mine – carry particular responsibility.
At the COP in Sharm el-Sheikh, we agreed to set up new financing mechanisms for loss and damage. That has been very important to me, personally. We are now working hard to use existing mechanisms better and to set up new structures.
I assure you that you can count on our support again at the COP in Dubai: to push for more ambition.
Climate action also means urgent action on the ground.
That’s what we are doing with our partners in Fiji and across the Pacific region,
by supporting local communities in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands to protect their coral reefs,
and by helping countries to be better prepared in case of major disasters.
Together, we are also addressing the legal questions arising from the destructive force of the climate crisis.
What happens when, despite all our efforts to stem this crisis, an entire country disappears into the water?
Over the past few months, we have stood firmly with our Big Ocean state partners to put these questions on the international agenda.
We lobbied hard to support Vanuatu’s initiative for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice.
To my mind, all these debates highlight one crucial fact that I believe we all agree on: how essential it is to have solid international rules that allow all states – no matter how big or small they are - to freely determine their future.
You here in Fiji and the Pacific Island States have been steadfast in the defence of exactly this:
the defence of our international law and the UN Charter.
Fiji has supported every resolution in the UN General Assembly in support of Ukraine ever since Russia launched its ruthless war of aggression last year – as have all other Pacific Island States that are UN members.
I want to tell you this: just as you are standing up for our global rules, for our joint security, so we will be standing up for yours.
That’s the key commitment of our colleagues here at our new embassy in Suva.
It is our commitment to you, It is our commitment to the government of Fiji.
And it is our commitment to the men and women who live in communities like Vuniniudrovo and Togoru, across the Blue Continent.
And although I can’t be with you in person, rest assured that I’m with you in spirit!