Opening statement by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during questions put to the Federal Government in the German Bundestag

10.04.2024 - Speech

When I last stood here during a question-and-answer session back in October, the horrendous Hamas attack against Israel had only just happened. Since then and for six months now, concern for the hostages and the unspeakable suffering of the people in Gaza have been at the forefront of our minds. There have been times during all the negotiations when we hoped not only to be able to end this war but to create an opportunity to open up a political horizon, an opportunity to end the conflict, but unfortunately, none of that has come to pass.

Yet we have also seen, myself included, what foreign policy can do in these times, above all else shuttle diplomacy and foreign policy often taking place behind closed doors. In these hugely challenging times, these efforts are to my mind more important than ever, because our dogged endeavours and negotiations, often behind closed doors, about border crossings, about every single lorry, do make a difference. After all, every bag of flour, every litre of water, every single hostage who is released matters.

We have done this and continue to do so in close coordination with our partners – it is also plain to see at this time just how important trust and partnership really are. Thus we are working in close coordination with the Americans, with the British but also the Jordanians and Egyptians to finally get more humanitarian assistance to Gaza and to convince Hamas to finally lay down their arms.

This is all just a start but without this start we would have been abandoning people. That would have been the exact opposite of our foreign policy, which aims to focus on each and every individual. I say that with a view to the Middle East.

And even more so with a view to the situation in Ukraine. Every day people are dying, right now first and foremost in Kharkiv, struck down by Russian missiles, by drones. People are intentionally being cut off from electricity.

What is perhaps most horrifying right now is that we are hardly hearing any reports about it, even here we aren’t even talking about it much. At the same time, Putin is making abundantly clear, particularly with these targeted infrastructure attacks, which, after all, equate to attacks on civilised existence, that he has not laid his imperial claims on Ukraine to rest. It is not just that we see this every day but above all we are hearing it time and again in his many statements.

As time is short, I would like to say quickly but with no less urgency that we should not forget the impact of these imperial claims in the countries of our European neighbours, in the Baltic region, in Poland, but also in northern Europe. While we can talk about this question in abstract terms, it is crystal clear to the people there that if Putin’s campaign cannot be stopped, he will be standing at the external border of the EU and European NATO. That means, for many of our partners and neighbours, he is standing right on their doorstep. So while we have made plain that the security of Eastern Europe is our security, this is something we should not forget particularly at this time. That is why it is so essential for me now that, when we consider our support for Ukraine, we continue to explore how we can support our partners.

We have just celebrated NATO’s 75th anniversary - although actually no-one was in the mood for celebrating because, perhaps for the first time in NATO’s history, governments are asking themselves what it means for us in practical terms if we have to engage in collective defence. It means that our support for Ukraine is not just support for Ukraine but also for our European insurance policy, for our Eastern European neighbours who were there when we needed them at the time of German reunification, at the time when Germany took its place in the international community once more. Now it is our turn.

That is why I consider it so important that in all the debates we conduct, for example on the budget, we keep asking ourselves what our European responsibility really means. It also means that we are in the midst of an exceptional situation. What can be more exceptional than celebrating NATO’s 75th anniversary while discussing first and foremost whether or not NATO is able to defend itself?

This makes me very grateful that, when we were discussing the National Security Strategy in this House a good year and a half ago, we made plain across party lines that internal and external security can no longer be separated. That is precisely what we need to implement now, including when it comes to our investments. That is precisely why it is so important to me and why I am so grateful above all to the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry that in our budget negotiations we defined our security as internal and external security. To my mind, in the weeks and months that lie ahead, we all shoulder shared responsibility for our peace, for our freedom, for our security. This should be our ultimate priority, one for which all democrats ought to close ranks.


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