-- Translation of advance text --
Ladies and gentlemen,
I'm delighted to welcome you to today's meeting. We all share one wish: we all want to continue working – and are indeed doing so with great commitment – towards the goal of enabling people in Afghanistan to lead their lives in peace and dignity, in safety and free of violence.
Almost exactly one year ago in London, the Afghan Government and the international community set realistic goals. This is reason enough to take initial stock today and to ask ourselves critically: Where do we stand?
We do so in the understanding that the pace and magnitude of the political, economic and social reconstruction is being determined more than ever by decisions made by the sovereign Afghan Government and the democratically elected Afghan Parliament.
Our Afghan friends should be aware that the international community continues to stand by their side.
Much has been achieved in the last 12 months. Reconstruction is advancing. The institutionalization process is progressing: Parliament has been constituted and has fully functioning committees. The provincial councils have begun their work in all 34 provinces. More than seven million Afghan boys and girls are now able to go to school. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams have achieved much together with their Afghan partners towards considerably improving infrastructure in the regions.
All of this has benefited ordinary people. But let's not kid ourselves: reconstruction is not happening quick enough for many Afghans. In the southern provinces, those forces which use religion as a pretext to restrict people's freedom are regrouping. We are also concerned that opium production has increased drastically during the last 12 months. We can and must not accept that.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The international environment in which reconstruction is being carried out hasn't become any easier either.
We have to take the more difficult basic conditions seriously and gear our actions accordingly, while maintaining our ability to critically review the course we are following.
This view led the Federal Foreign Office to launch the initiative which has brought us together today.
We want to initiate a political exchange of ideas – the frankest possible debate on how we can steer our commitment even better and in a more targeted fashion in future.
We want to look at the issues about which people in our countries are also concerned. Incidentally, I have heard that people in are no less preoccupied with these issues than people in those countries which have been staunchly supporting and its fresh start since 2001.
I don't want to anticipate your discussion. Nevertheless, allow me to ask the questions which we believe are especially important:
Are the coordination procedures agreed on in London in the Afghanistan Compact enough?
Has the political determination of the capitals to ensure the success of the stabilization and reconstruction of been followed by sufficient action?
Shouldn't we focus even more on the deployment of civilian means?
Have we found the right strategies for dealing with the problem of drugs?
How can 's regional environment be used better for 's reconstruction?
Of course, these questions don't provide answers.
Ultimately, practical measures are needed.
I want to mention three areas which believes are especially important.
First of all, security sector reform is vital to the transformation process we are promoting together in Afghanistan.
We – the international supporters of Afghanistan's reconstruction – are thus also helping to prepare for the end of our military engagement in Afghanistan, although that won’t be in the foreseeable future.
As key partner nation, Germany has a special responsibility for the rebuilding of the Afghan police force. In the light of our experiences during the last year, we want to step up and, at the same time, Europeanize our commitment.
The EU Presidency wants the EU Foreign Ministers to make a decision on a ESDP police mission to Afghanistan at the Council meeting in February.
Secondly, everyone has said time and again that we have to coordinate military action better with civilian reconstruction measures. That is an extremely ambitious undertaking. During the last few months, we have launched a series of projects – and not only in the north of the country! – which combine military and civilian areas of responsibility. We will continue our efforts here.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly: we have to do everything we can to promote Afghan ownership. I believe that this concept, which has been a fundamental principle underlying the reconstruction process since the 2001 Bonn Agreement, is just as right today as it has ever been.
In the final analysis, Afghanistan's friends can only support goals and measures which you yourselves pursue.
This means that you often have to make difficult decisions – for example, on issues such as fighting corruption, disarming informal power brokers or the promotion of good governance.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I'm pleased that our initiative has received so much support.
I hope you will examine seemingly unconventional ways of improving the chances of success of our joint project.
We want a new Afghanistan which, on the basis of its constitution, guarantees its citizens the prospect of a life in peace under the rule of law.
If the talks today can highlight new courses of action, then it was successful.
I urge you all, especially our Afghan guests, to play your part.