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Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the German Foreign Press Association reception on 6 October in Berlin

07.10.2008 - Speech

Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the German Foreign Press Association reception on 6 October in Berlin

Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the German Foreign Press Association reception on 6 October in Berlin

- Translation of advance text -

Ladies and gentlemen,

"It's all happening at once," as the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne put it during the "long century" of the Renaissance from 1450 to 1640. He said it with a mix of hope for and fear of the future. He said it at a time in which many people faced great uncertainty.

He could just as well have said it today!

The international financial crisis; rescue packages that are amounting to hundreds of billions; parliaments and governments holding dramatic all-night sessions; major and minor international crisis meetings.

There is certainly no shortage of headlines. You and your colleagues will not be bored!

There's no doubt about it, the situation is serious and demands careful and determined action. Above all it demands that we finally put our money where our mouth is. We need transparency and reliable regulations for the international financial markets. That is the major task politics now has to tackle. Hopefully you've reported that the German Finance Minister has been pushing for this for two years.

The financial crisis has us in its grips – as if there weren't enough serious problems already.

The Caucasus. Fortunately we were able to stop this heated conflict after just a few days. But now we are dealing with a mistrustful ceasefire at best. The path to lasting peace is long and will require a great deal of effort – our EU observers on the ground see it every day.

But the road to peace is long and rough in other regions of the world as well: in the Middle East, where every day we are reminded what an arduous struggle it is; in Sudan, in Somalia.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, there are successes in reconstruction to report. Yet at the same time the unstable security situation that threatens to undo everything also makes the news.

In other conflicts such as in how to deal with the Iranian nuclear programme we've been struggling for years to find solutions, united with international powers – and still have not been successful.

The beautiful new world we dreamt of after the Cold War ended – well for now it is still just a dream. Every meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers is a new rendezvous with the current world crises. Now more than ever, foreign ministers are asked to act as crisis managers.

It's high time we got our own European house onto solid ground. But here too, there are delays in the construction work. Since 12 June in Dublin we know that we will not deliver the reform treaty on time. And we will have to work intensely to deliver it all. Yet we need this treaty – I'm still very convinced of this – today more than ever.

This is not an easy environment for shaping international policy.

But you are first and foremost correspondents for Germany.

Things are not boring here either!

Not only in German football, where things are exciting again in the premiere league after FC Bayern Munich said goodbye to its top spot. Many people are still looking for them with a telescope, though now maybe they just need to look in the bottom half of the score table!

Speaking of Bavaria – it seems Oktoberfest is the only thing that hasn't changed. In politics anyway the CSU has to find a coalition partner for the first time in years. And I'm sure you've explained to your readers just how big of a change that is.

Things are changing in other parties too, not least in my own. As one of those most immediately affected I can tell you just how shaken up we were. But I can also tell you that Germany's oldest party is now well equipped and is looking to the future with confidence.

I know many people, you included, were asking whether the Grand Coalition would still be able to act. I can tell you that yesterday the coalition committee met. We had a difficult, but productive session which produced important results for our country on issues such as healthcare reform and unemployment insurance.

If you had doubts that the coalition would hold until autumn 2009, you can now safely report: yes, they'll make it. They'll make it because they know that they have a responsibility to the voters. And because there are still many joint projects they want to accomplish.

I really count on you. Of course we have nearly 200 diplomatic missions around the world. But it is primarily you – the correspondents here in Berlin – who shape the image of Germany in your countries.

Here's my request to you: try to understand us and pass on this understanding in your home countries.

Because if there's one currency we really need in this world that has grown complicated, then it's mutual understanding. We have to listen to each other, we have to learn to understand each other better.

Only then can we deal with one another. And deal with one another we must – globalization leaves us no other choice. Major global issues like climate change or energy security make this all the more clear.

However we want globalization that opens up opportunities for people, that doesn't leave anyone behind. Globalization with a human face.

Therefore, we need to continue dialogue, even if it's often very difficult.

That's also why – as I'm sure you've observed – I'm very involved in cultural relations and education policy. It helps build bridges – also where diplomacy has reached its limits. It's also for this reason that I will travel to the opening of the Book Fair next week, where this year Turkey is the guest of honour. I hope some of you will be there.

"You only see what you know" – a few years ago a major German travel guide publisher advertised its books with this slogan.

I assure you, we want to do what we can to help you see and learn things that could be worthwhile for your readers to know. And I hope that in order to do this, we will remain in close contact.

Thank you very much!

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