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Speech by Federal Minister Steinmeier at the award of the Grand Cross 1st class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Dr Javier Solana

29.01.2007 - Speech

Distinguished colleagues,
Members of Parliament,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
My dear friend Javier,

European politics is an attractive but exhausting business. We are therefore all the more pleased that we have finally found an opportunity, alongside the EU-Afghanistan Troika and ESDP Conference, to honour you, Javier, one of the great Europeans of our age.

I would like to thank you all for coming to today's ceremony despite your busy schedules. The sight of so many prominent members of the "Solana Fan Club" gathered here today speaks for itself and, just like today's occasion, it shows in what high regard you are held here in Berlin and in the whole of Germany.

Very few people would still claim today that the European Union is an economic giant but a political dwarf. The Common Foreign and Security Policy long since involves more than simply drafting statements. Today it plays a key operative role in crisis management in many trouble spots around the world.

For example, it helped prevent another bloody Balkans war in FYR Macedonia. In the Congo, the EU made a vital contribution towards ensuring a stable environment for the elections. And I could mention many more examples.

Today European foreign policy is much more than the proverbial telephone number. It is recognized, respected and valued throughout the world. The Office of the High Representative, or to be more precise Javier Solana, has given our common foreign policy a face and a voice. It was seven and a half years ago that you, the first "Mr CFSP" entered the international stage. It is largely thanks to you, your tireless commitment, your assertiveness and your extraordinary diplomatic skills, that the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy has been developing with great momentum since then.

We all know that these last few years have been anything but easy and that you have often faced opposition from many sides. But you have never given up. Instead, you have used your office and mandate to the full and striven with all your might to ensure that the CFSP is given a strong role. Many of your initiatives – on the development of the ESDP, in the Middle East or in Africa, on strengthening transatlantic relations and, in particular, on drawing up the first European Security Strategy – have left their mark on European policy.

By the way, this also applies to your time as NATO Secretary-General. During your term of office, you were faced with the important but difficult task of extending the European area of stability and democracy to the East without permanently damaging relations with Russia.

Especially owing to your wise diplomacy, it was possible at that time to enlarge the Alliance and, at the same time, develop a partnership with Russia and with Ukraine.

These successes are partly due to the institution, the office itself. More than anything, however, they are thanks to Javier Solana, the man. In addition to "external" diplomacy, "internal" diplomacy, that is to say your ability to mediate between Member States and to establish consensus, have played a vital role in the success of your work. As well as all your intellectual and political brilliance, your work is distinguished by your considerable human qualities, your sensitivity and interpersonal skills. It would therefore be no exaggeration to claim that you have become not only the face but also the soul of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Javier, you know that you have considerable support here in Berlin. You have always worked closely and in a spirit of trust with us in the German Government. Here you have benefited from your decades-long contacts, some of which go back to the era of cooperation between the Spanish Socialist Party and the SPD under Willy Brandt. Nor have we forgotten how much you did for the release of the Wallert family in 2000. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you once more for your support and cooperation.

When we look back today on more than seven, all in all, good years in the CFSP and ESDP, we know that all of this is just the beginning. We are still far from our goal of developing Europe into a truly important global player. However, I can assure you that Germany will endeavour during its EU Presidency to help strengthen European foreign policy.

For this reason, too, we will do everything we can to give the European constitutional treaty fresh impetus. One of the major reforms it contains is the creation of a European Foreign Minister. I would like to say to all of those who declared this historic project dead that they can learn a lot from the energy and endless optimism which make you such a special person and politician. If we want to overcome the current crisis, Europe has to again project confidence and the courage to act! For this, Europe needs people like you!

Javier, it gives me great pleasure to present to you today on behalf of the Federal President the Grand Cross 1st class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. I congratulate you most sincerely on this honour.

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