Federal Budget speech by Minister Steinmeier, 26 November 2008, German Bundestag

26.11.2008 - Speech

“Key questions facing humanity” can only be solved together.In view of the economic crisis, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier emphasized this during the budget debate in the German Bundestag.The aim of foreign policy therefore had to be a global partnership of shared responsibility. The 2009 budget showed, Steinmeier said, that Germany was taking its responsibility in the world seriously and that it was actively promoting its culture and way of life at global level.

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen,

The state of things since the outbreak of the financial crisis has been described in varying tones over the past two days. We talked about the responsibility politics has, as well as the limits of politics. And of course when we discuss all of these things we're not just talking about economic and financial affairs.

When our usual patterns are thrown into disorder, when it's difficult to see the way forward because the dust has not yet settled, when people are holding their breath because what they knew before has been uprooted and the shape of what's to come is still unclear, then we can certainly say that this is a wide-ranging crisis; this is true. This crisis has shaken people from New York to New Zealand, from Paris to Beijing to their very core and its effects continue to be felt. It's a crisis that is forcing a readjustment of global power structures, and for me this is an especially important point.

However, this crisis is not just spreading disconcertment rather, hopefully, also promoting recognition, changing our awareness and paving the way for new thinking. This demands, above all, a willingness to draw lessons from the disaster we are currently experiencing.

As in every crisis, there are of course upheavals that politics must respond to and assume responsibility for. But there are also opportunities, specifically the opportunity to avoid the mistakes and unfavourable developments of the past in the future. These are the opportunities politics must focus on, and which it cannot let slip away. This is of the utmost importance.

Why do I view this as so important? Rarely have people experienced at such a personal level that the 21st century is the first global century. We now know that whether our grandchildren will still see the peaks of the Alps covered in snow depends to some degree on how modern Chinese coal power plants are. In the last few weeks it has also become clear that the actions of speculators in New York affect jobs and the future of families in Europe.

We also know that growth rates in Asia have an effect on how many German-manufactured cars are sold. Upon taking a closer look, you can say that none of these findings are really new. But they heighten the awareness that in the future we will only be able to find solutions to the central issues facing humanity by working together.

We need a sense of responsibility that stretches far beyond our national and regional neighbourhood. Politics cannot ensure that we remain untouched by crises like the one we're experiencing now. But we can ensure, and people expect this from us, that our answers to these questions are comprehensive and take a long-term perspective.

Applied to foreign policy, this means that the goal of our work must be the step-by-step development of what I call a global community of shared responsibility. This is arduous; there won't be progress every day and it is a lot of work. To realize this we need ideas, but also suitable financial resources for foreign policy. I thank the German Bundestag for transcending party lines to grant this funding. For that, thank you very much.

In my opinion, the 2009 budget demonstrates a recognition of the signs of the times, shows that we take our country's responsibility to the world seriously and shows that we actively promote our culture and way of living in the world. […]

Increasing the Federal Foreign Office's budget for the next year by 5.9 percent is a good sign. It's not only a good sign for the Federal Foreign Office, but also for our country as a whole because our leadership and commitment on the international stage is more in demand than ever. This is therefore a responsible budget.

Because it's often only said at the end of speeches and usually always comes only at the end of a debate, I would like to take the opportunity now to say a very special thanks for the support I received in reforming and restructuring our cultural relations policy. Here it's about no more and no less than the image of ourselves we Germans are projecting abroad. In the future we will be better able to do this with the envisioned financial resources. This is an issue that affects the future of this country. That's what I would like to express my sincere thanks, especially for the fact that our cultural budget has been increased by nearly 10 percent for each of the last three years. This opens up more possibilities. Every euro is well-invested.

For me not having to discuss the rescue or restoration or even the closing of Goethe-Instituts is a new experience. Instead, for the first time we are talking about launching new Goethe-Instituts and related new programmes.

By 2009 we will have increased the number of partner schools around the world to 1,000 and by no less than an additional 600 within four years. With this budget we will be able to present Germany much more convincingly as a location for education and research than was possible in the past. These are all investments in the future of our country, and in the end in what I call the “roots” of the global community of shared responsibility. It is right to make these necessary investments.

I think we can all agree that the groundwork for the world of tomorrow, which is still undefined (...) and only now beginning to take shape, is being laid right now and not at some unknown time in the future. The principles of our foreign policy: understanding, cooperation and dialogue are in my opinion more relevant now than ever before. That is why we need to promote them very intensively now.

So how does all of this affect our foreign policy? It does so in three ways. Firstly, after the difficult times we had with the EU this year we are – let me emphasize this – consciously focusing on Europe. If you look a bit closer, especially at the crisis over the past few weeks and last summer, the EU proved it was able to act on foreign policy matters as well as in the field of economic and financial policy. It demonstrated tremendous stability and dependability exactly at the moments when it really counted. We should remind ourselves of this occasionally if next year during the election campaign for the European Parliament a politician or two has some bad things to say about the EU.

Let me also remind you that at the world economic summit, which wasn't so long ago, in the end, Madam Chancellor, the EU demonstrated an impressive leadership role. Many elements of the action plan that was adopted there – rules, principles for the regulation and oversight of the financial markets and for transparency – were based on proposals the EU had agreed upon in an action programme a few days before.

Joint action is called for not just in handling the immediate effects of the financial crisis, but also when considering the consequences the crisis will have on the real economy. Let me underline that we have to approach what we can reasonably manage at the European level together and in coordination with one another.

In this time of crisis there is clearly a growing awareness, even beyond Europe – we feel that quite strongly these days, that the European Union is more than just a strong community; it is also valuable especially when it comes to offering its smaller partners protection. Now this may surprise some of you, but I've heard from the Irish that especially now, in times of crisis, approval for the European Union is growing again in Ireland. I see it as a good sign that countries like Sweden and Denmark, where in the past talk of the euro was taboo and it was rejected, are now beginning to consider that it might not be such a bad idea to apply to join the euro zone. That's why in my view it is neither overconfident nor self-righteous to say that in the midst of this global crisis we can see the first signs that we are on the verge of a European Renaissance. This is good because we can all achieve more collectively with, and in, this Europe than any of us could alone.

Secondly, and Mr Hoyer is also right in this respect, in the coming days, weeks and months we will have to collaborate even more closely with the US. Starting in January we will have a partner in Washington with whom we share a common vision on many issues. In my opinion, the new Administration offers the opportunity to really achieve a fundamental reformation of transatlantic relations – the discussions we've had indicated this – which also carries benefits for us.

Here I'm thinking of thoroughly demanding things like Europe and the United States assuming a joint lead role in global climate protection, in disarmament, Mr Hoyer, in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in resolving regional conflicts. And above all, this is no easy task, in peacefully including every player on the international stage who has so far not had a strong enough presence or taken on an appropriate amount of political responsibility. These are the important issues in the transatlantic partnership between Germany and the US.

I believe on our side that we also have a further interest in a decisive improvement in relations between the US and Russia, in seeing that a more durable basis for the relationship is found. I don't want to give up hope that this will be possible under the leadership of two presidents whose mindset is no longer influenced by the Cold War. There must be more possible here than we have seen in the past. This is something I really hope for and for which I am prepared to work.

Along with this come questions for all of us: not only the question of how we should respond to non-proliferation proposals, but also the difficult question of how to respond to proposals for a new European security architecture. How should we respond to the question of Georgia and Ukraine taking steps to join NATO? This will be the primary subject of discussion in the very near future at the meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels next Wednesday. I don't want to beat around the bush on this issue in this House. My belief is and will remain that there is no reason now, just months after the NATO summit in March to go beyond the decisions made at Bucharest.

We should think of ways we can act to support Georgia and Ukraine within the joint NATO-Georgia and NATO-Ukraine Commissions, but stand by the March decisions.

If the US and Europe make stronger efforts to work together again, I am sure that in the future we will continue to have major influence in shaping political globalization. Yet in my view, and I hope that the majority of you in this House share a similar opinion, it is clear that there will undoubtedly be shifts in power at the global level. A few months ago I urged for us to take much greater account of rising powers from Asia, Latin America and Africa in shaping our global future.

That's why – and with this I come to the third conclusion I've drawn from the current crisis – I believe we should expand the G8 structure. Last year at Heiligendamm we took a decisive step in the right direction. We should now use the next G8 Presidency, Italy's Presidency, to clarify several issues. In any case, for all of the countries I just mentioned I believe one thing is indispensable: they must be invited to join us at the international community's conference table. This doesn't, as some mistakenly believe, only benefit those countries, but will also benefit us in the end. I am completely convinced of this. This has already been demonstrated at the world economic summit in Washington.

Afghanistan will demand much of our attention over the next year due to the presidential and parliamentary elections there. Of course it is important that alongside our military engagement we continue to expand our civil engagement. We have multiple financial possibilities for doing this. For this I would like to thank the budget people. With respect to what has already been said, allow me to say once more very explicitly that focusing just on Afghanistan will not be enough. I hope that my efforts have made clear that we are pursuing a regional approach and that we need to include Pakistan, the key country for the stability of this region, from the very start in all considerations.

To put it plainly, next year will also be a tough year in foreign policy with regard to the international conflict situation. It will be a year of laying groundwork for Europe, for transatlantic relations, for the global economy and for shaping a new global order. Let me tell you, many are looking to us with great expectations and we cannot disappoint them. We share the realization that in the world of tomorrow a country's influence won't depend so much on its size or on its position in a certain region of the world, but rather on the rational and balanced contributions it makes in dealing with pressing future tasks.

We want to work together with you on this. Thank you for your support.

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