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Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the final plenary session of the German-South African Binational Commission, 24 October 2006

24.10.2006 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Foreign Minister,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We will soon be celebrating a minor anniversary, for it was ten years ago that the Binational German-South African Commission was founded in conjunction with a state visit to Germany by Nelson Mandela.

The Commission's founding fathers can be proud of its achievements. The Commission has convened for its fifth session over the past two days, and the reports from the special committees reveal the astonishing breadth and depth of relations between our two countries. This can also be seen by looking at the state of these relations today, as illustrated for example by the volume of our mutual trade – which has tripled in only ten years – and by our economic cooperation.

It can also be seen when we look forward, for example to the year 2010, which will be to South Africa pretty much what 2006 was to Germany – the year of its regency over King Football! This is a topic I'll return to later.

South Africa, as I said to you yesterday, is an African country of outstanding importance to Germany. South Africa is not just the economic powerhouse of the continent, but is now also an anchor and exporter of stability in a region that is sadly racked by far too many crises.

Since the end of Apartheid, South Africa has not confined itself to tackling its own problems, but has come to play a leading political role in Africa and is a motor for political and economic integration on the continent. This was underlined by the clear margin by which South Africa was voted onto the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for 2007 to 2008 just a few days ago. Let me congratulate you, Minister, and your country once again on this achievement.

For us, South Africa is an important and strategic partner. With the Binational Commission we have an instrument for the creative development of our relations.

And this is something we need, because our common agenda is more than full, and will remain so for the foreseeable future! Let me mention a few areas in which we should work together very closely, areas which go far beyond our bilateral relations.

On 1 January 2007 Germany will assume the Presidency of the European Union for six months and the Presidency of the G8 for a full year. Cooperation with Africa will, in so far as we can arrange it, play a major role in both organizations.

We all know how important stability and development on the African continent are for peace and security all around the world.

As neighbouring continents, Europe and Africa are moreover dependent on one another to a particularly great degree and are linked by their shared history.

In December 2005 the EU adopted a Strategy for Africa. But our common goal goes far beyond this. Our goal is a joint strategy for the European Union and Africa, a strategy that we want to draw up together and thereafter implement together.

The work on this has begun. On 8 May 2006 the EU and the African Union agreed a joint action paper. We will continue these efforts with great commitment.

We must recall one crucial factor as we elaborate this joint strategy, and I know that our South African partners in particular agree with me on this: Africa needs support from outside, and the EU is aware of its responsibility in this regard. The future of Africa will however only be a success if the people of Africa and the countries of Africa themselves assume responsibility for their future. African responsibility, African ownership and good governance must be at the heart of this strategy.

The aim is to make sufficient progress on this front so that we can adopt the joint programme at an EU-Africa summit envisaged for the second half of 2007, during the Portuguese Presidency. We all know that we need agreement on Zimbabwe by this stage, a country whose leaders most certainly do not share our joint vision at present.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Africa will also be one of the priorities of our G8 Presidency, at the Heiligendamm Summit, at the Outreach Summit and at the Foreign Ministers' meetings. It will also be a priority in connection with the future of energy policy and security of energy supply, an issue we will examine at a further Foreign Ministers' Meeting, probably in May 2007.

South Africa was one of the countries responsible for establishing NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, a far-sighted initiative drawn up by the Africans themselves, which is designed to foster the necessary reforms.

The G8 supports NEPAD with the G8 Africa Action Plan, agreed in 2002, and its 2003 plan to enhance African capabilities to undertake peace support operations.

Ladies and gentlemen,
These are all positive steps, it is true. But if we are honest, as all good partners should be, we have to note that Africa is still perceived in Europe very much as a continent of crises, such as those in the Sudan, the Congo and Côte d'Ivoire. Of course, the international community and we Europeans in particular also bear a responsibility for resolving these conflicts. As you know, Germany is engaged in the region, for example as part of EUFOR in the Congo and UNMIS in the Sudan.

But it is also important that the Africans themselves assume a role. South Africa is active in the Congo, the Sudan, Burundi and elsewhere. In my opinion it is also important for regional and pan-African institutions to be strengthened.

This applies in particular to the African Union, whose role in crisis and conflict management, as a mediator and in humanitarian interventions must be further enhanced.

I detect a new self-awareness in the way in which the AU, urged on above all by South Africa, is becoming ever more established as the contact partner for the entire continent and is prepared to take on responsibility. This is in my view the self-awareness of a confident Africa that would like to take responsibility for the concerns of the continent into its own hands.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In the year 2010 the whole world – indeed without exaggeration, billions of people – will be watching South Africa.

I am speaking of course of the 2010 World Cup. Our experiences in 2006 have shown that this football extravaganza can inspire euphoria and infectious good cheer like almost no other sporting event.

This is something to bear in mind if the preparations seem to involve an unending string of problems – something our organizers can sympathize with all too well!

Think back if you can to the positive images from public viewing areas across Germany and from the Berlin fan mile. And when I imagine the pictures that we might see in four years time of South African men and women, together with fans from around the globe, cheering in their stadiums and public viewing areas, I am glad that we can already enjoy the prospect of these images.

It is our very good fortune that we Germans can now pass the ball on to South Africa. I'm sure you would not object if our teams were to meet in four years time in the World Cup final!

In this spirit, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, let's "keep the ball rolling!"

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