Welcome

Policy Statement on the European Council by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier in the German Bundestag

18.12.2008 - Speech

Mr President, Members of the Bundestag,

The past few months have been particularly eventful. During the French Council Presidency Europe faced extraordinary pressures and challenges. Today I believe we can rightly say, with some satisfaction and relief, that Europe proved its ability to weather all these crises. Last weekend a major German daily quoted Hölderlin's phrase: "Where there is danger, a rescuing element grows as well". In my view that wouldn't have been enough. When the going got tough we Europeans acted together. We acted in unison and above all effectively.

The European Union silenced the guns when war broke out during the summer in the southern Caucasus, right in our backyard. The EU placed a new financial architecture onto the international agenda. That was a swift reaction to the historic crisis on the global financial markets.

During last week's European Council meeting the EU adopted highly specific and future-oriented conclusions, which we will discuss today: First, an Economic Recovery Plan to the tune of 200 billion euro which sends a clear message to business; second, a decisive breakthrough in climate policy which will hopefully send a signal to our partners worldwide; third, a clear commitment to the Treaty of Lisbon, due to enter into force at the end of 2009.

This is a good result in what is truly a difficult period, and I'm glad about it. It fortunately gives the lie to all those who once again wanted to accuse the EU of eurosclerosis. Instead, the old European virtues – reliability, sustainability, and solidarity – have again proved their worth and made Europe once more capable of taking action. Let me clearly state that without the French Presidency's courageous leadership this wouldn't have been possible. I therefore take this opportunity to thank our French friends for achieving what they did under difficult circumstances. In my opinion that success also deserves recognition from this House.

Ladies and gentlemen, the European Council on 11 and 12 December broadcasted a clear message. By adopting a European Economic Recovery Plan, Europe is facing up to its responsibility for growth and jobs. We pointed out at an early stage that this responsibility lies both with the Member States but also with Europe as a whole. That is part of the logic of an open European internal market. Consultation, coordination and, wherever possible, joint action are also in the interests of the Member States, particularly in tackling the current crisis.

The Recovery Plan amounting to 1.5% of the EU's GDP is in my view a strong signal. The message is that the countries of Europe will together do all they can to counter the downturn and to preserve jobs wherever possible. It is good for us that everyone in Europe agrees on this point.

The Brussels Recovery Plan contains national and European instruments which are designed to and indeed will complement each other. After last week's discussions I can tell you that Germany's national measures compare well within Europe. Less than half of the Member States have introduced packages similar to that which we in this House approved and set in motion last week. At the same time, however, there is of course a debate going on in Germany, which is understandable in view of the current economic data, on whether sufficient national measures are being taken to counter the crisis. The number of proposals is increasingly becoming too large to manage, as you have also noticed.

We know, ladies and gentlemen, that when there is a massive economic and employment downturn, we must perhaps rethink our decisions in order to protect jobs. We will act in a way that is both vigorous and – I promise you – well thought out. We will take effective measures that are at the same time specific and sustainable. This is of the utmost importance.

Economic recovery programmes can only be effective if we in Europe act together, if Europe and the EU Member States march in the same direction. I think we can only really cushion this kind of economic crisis if we do this. That is why we in Europe must together do three things – secure employment, develop infrastructure and promote innovative technologies. The programme we have just approved in Brussels takes many of our ideas on board. I think this is a fairly good accolade for us Germans!

An important point for me is that we must invest more in energy efficiency and in a viable future for rural areas. We must not, also here in Germany, allow these areas to fall behind. We need technical infrastructure in these areas, too. Broadband networks are the lifeblood of modernization, growth and innovation in the countryside. You know from your constituencies that the presence of such networks is now also a factor in whether businesses relocate there. It is therefore only right and proper for us to launch this process at European level, to cut through red tape and to promote the development of broadband.

Another item worth mentioning is the extension of the European Investment Bank's loan facilities for small and medium-sized businesses. This is another thing we Germans proposed at an earlier stage. Recently, here in Germany too, we have often heard that loans are so to speak the "blood supply" of the economy. This is a good analogy. If that is true, then in the present crisis many firms need more "blood" to remain innovative. We must not allow them to collapse. I think the European Council conclusions I spoke about earlier are a good way of preventing just that, and for this reason they are good decisions.

We also expect the simplification of state-aid and tendering processes to lead to increased investment and employment. Up to now aid over 200,000 euro has been subject to approval from Brussels; in future this will only be required for aid over 500,000 euro. That means greater planning security than before for many projects. Moreover, the length of the tendering process for large-scale projects will be reduced from the current 87 days to 30 days in future. This too means that companies will gain valuable time, and that is why this decision taken last week is to be welcomed.

Last but not least, the European Social Fund and other European instruments will be once again examined – as we requested – to find ways of safeguarding jobs and promoting reintegration into the labour market. One of the solutions we discussed prior to the meeting was that if small businesses take on an unemployed person, the non-wage costs can be paid out of European funds, including ESF funds, for a fixed period. My view is that if Europe is to become part of people's everyday lives, we must provide more of these practical solutions than we have in the past. Ultimately we'll all benefit from this.

All these measures are in line with the motto which also applies to us here, i.e. "jobs first". That's what we're talking about. That's what we must achieve at national and European level to cushion ourselves against the recession as much as possible. I've already stated elsewhere that 2009 must not be a year of sackings. We must try to prevent this using all means at our disposal.

The European Council conclusions, as you have also noticed, give the Member States the option of taking additional, farther-reaching measures in accordance with their particular circumstances. As we all know we can't apply the same criteria to all EU countries. Their economies are differently structured, something which has even benefited us in Europe up to now. Measures which have, for example, helped the UK services and financial industry tackle the crisis need not be suitable for Germany's – thankfully still – industry-based economy. That's why it was wise of us not to seek a "one-size-fits-all" solution, not to agree on a limited number of tools, but rather to assume that a whole "toolbox" will be needed.

Where joint action is not required and indeed is inappropriate, we coordinate the framework for national action. That's what we did last week, and that's what we will need to do in the future. Why is that? Because this framework also, of course, includes among other things the Stability and Growth Pact. In Brussels the German Government has called for this Pact not to be completely undermined, as it provides a flexible framework for the future. As you know, the Pact allows countries to overstep the 3% debt limit for a short time. But it also clearly states that countries doing so are obliged to reduce the debt and create a balanced budget as soon as the next upswing begins. Nothing has changed here.

The summit's second main issue, alongside the financial and economic crisis, was of course the climate package. Whether it was during the Poznán climate conference or elsewhere –people wondered whether the EU would shelve their ambitious climate-protection goals at the first convenient opportunity. What we decided in the past indeed sounds quite courageous! By 2020 we want to cut European greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 1990. We want to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 20% of our energy consumption.

There were of course some players – companies, countries and, I must say, politicians –, who wanted to seize the opportunity and relegate climate protection from the upper reaches of the national and international agenda. I can tell you now that during the weeks immediately prior to the summit I also sometimes thought postponement of the entire package was more likely than agreement on a compromise before Christmas.

Now that the summit is over, however, we can say that the EU kept its word. We reiterated our objectives and specifically and bindingly divided the burdens among the EU countries. In my opinion the main points of that agreement, which I will now describe, demonstrate this fact clearly and succinctly:

First, we will introduce a joint European emissions-trading system to replace the existing national regulations. All energy-intensive companies in Europe will now finally be given a level playing field – this was sorely needed.

Second, power plants and energy-intensive industries must reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases every year. By 2020 the upper limit will gradually fall by 21% compared to the 2005 level.

Third, in principle no energy producer in Europe will be granted emission allowances free of charge; only for some Eastern European countries will transitional arrangements apply, as these countries are almost completely dependent on electricity from old coal-fired power stations.

Fourth, during the Council meeting the EU Member States committed themselves to binding goals regarding the development of renewable energies. We Germans want to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 18% of our energy consumption by 2020. In 2005 it was a mere 5.8%. There is still a lot of work to do and above all a lot of wise policies to be formulated in this field, and we want to do this together.

These four points I have briefly touched upon are in my view major steps forward in climate protection. For the first time hitherto voluntary goals and declarations are translated into regulations and measures in a very large economic area. That is a success we should neither belittle here in this House nor, if possible, outside it. This is a major achievement.

Let me add that this takes into account the expectations expressed by the Bundestag Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in May 2008. I hear that during yesterday's committee session the Federal Minister for the Environment clearly and convincingly stated that fact, and I would like to thank him for this.

The result proves that climate and employment protection need not be mutually exclusive, but that there are effective links between the two. I want to state quite clearly that whoever wants broad acceptance for climate protection must not carry out this necessary effort on the backs of the employees. We abided by this principle, as I'm sure you'll understand, during the EU summit.

It is also important that Germany remain a country with a strong manufacturing sector. We need manufacturing enterprises, we can't maintain our prosperity, as you are well aware, with the services sector alone. That's why, ladies and gentlemen, we've agreed on rules that will allow our energy-intensive enterprises to remain competitive and won't drive them out of the country. For me, and for the Federal Government as a whole, this is a responsible policy. That is our standpoint, and that's what we stood for in Brussels.

I know we can't avoid discussing the difficult issues. Coal-fired power stations are one of these. But I believe we can only set standards and remain an example to more problematic parts of the world if we pursue a responsible policy. A ban on coal-fired power stations, which some call for, will not win us any friends in China.

On the contrary, Mr Kuhn, they will shake their heads in disbelief. If coal is used worldwide – and will be for the foreseeable future in many parts of the world – we in particular, as a driving force behind the technology – are you listening? – cannot shuffle off our responsibility. A good conscience, which some of you say we will then have, is not the same thing as a good climate. I therefore believe this was a correct compromise.

Looking back at some of the debates we had during the talks in Brussels, I have to say that I fail to understand many of the public accusations levelled at us. How can they believe that that debate took place in some kind of vacuum in Brussels? When 27 heads of government meet there, they naturally also discuss other current problems, including the economic situation and the need to protect jobs. So why the accusation that this played a role in the debate on climate issues?

The main result of the summit is that in spite of this discussion Europe – we reached a good compromise – remains a pioneer in climate protection. Next year the EU can begin talks on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol with a credible standpoint. I can also state that we're looking forward to a new US President, who will give the fight against global warming a truly new impetus.

I'm aware of how the debate within the US is taking shape. America wants – provided Obama gets his ideas enforced – to reduce CO2, to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels. That is a highly ambitious aim in view of the US debate, but here in Europe we want to go further. This is why I say that the agreements reached and confirmed in Brussels need not make us lack confidence. The objectives haven't changed, but we've made progress because we've now underpinned them with measures and concrete agreements.

The fight against the recession and the climate-protection efforts both demonstrate that we in Europe can achieve more together than separately. But politics is also about organization. Some are right and many are experienced in this regard. And so we have to make sure Europe is capable of acting in the long term. The Treaty of Lisbon, for which we all fought together, stands for this. I believe we found a way, at the European Council, of having the Treaty enter into force next year after all. This progress was only possible because of the courage of the Irish Government in holding out the prospect of another referendum next year, something I greatly welcome.

We, at any rate, want this Treaty. For that reason, in spite of some criticism, we're prepared to meet Ireland halfway. The principle of "one country – one commissioner" will not be abolished in 2014 as originally planned. That really is a key concession which we didn't agree to easily. But our line is that the Treaty must enter into force as planned. That means that re-negotiating the Treaty is not an option. That is something we've agreed on. I'm pleased that Ireland is now also embarking on the road to ratifying the Treaty.

I'm coming to the end now. There can only be peace in Europe when there is peace in its neighbourhood. This year, in the southern Caucasus, we were shocked to see how quickly a situation can escalate. We Europeans work together to make sure this or something similar isn't repeated. That's why we want to strengthen stability and security in the EU's eastern neighbourhood. This is one of our responses to the Georgia crisis. This is practical responsibility in action, or, to put it another way, sustainable foreign policy.

In concrete terms this means that we will in March 2009 reinforce the European Neighbourhood Policy by creating an Eastern Partnership. We have made initial proposals in this regard; these were taken up by Poland and Sweden and incorporated into a European Commission concept. This Eastern Partnership will include Ukraine, Moldova and the southern Caucasus. Should developments in Belarus continue positively – a few signs of this have been seen in recent weeks –, that country will also be able to join the Partnership.

The Czech Republic will make this a focus of its Presidency. The Czech foreign minister was here only a few days ago. I told him we would do all we could to support him in that effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, next year will be an important one for the European Union, not only due to the forthcoming elections. We are facing an era of change. We now have the opportunity to take wise joint steps to ensure that globalization of the markets is followed by political globalization. The new financial-market architecture will just be the first step towards achieving this goal.

We will also have to rebalance the situation on the global stage by getting as many players as possible involved in and integrated into an international community of shared responsibility. We must achieve this, and we can only do so if we Europeans speak with one voice on this particular issue.

For Germany the main answer to globalization is still Europe, not only a European market but a Europe for all people, one which not only issues formal declarations and documents but which gives the right answers to the fundamental questions of the future. Last week's European Council in my view sent out a highly encouraging message to this effect.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr President, Members of the Bundestag,

The past few months have been particularly eventful. During the French Council Presidency Europe faced extraordinary pressures and challenges. Today I believe we can rightly say, with some satisfaction and relief, that Europe proved its ability to weather all these crises. Last weekend a major German daily quoted Hölderlin's phrase: "Where there is danger, a rescuing element grows as well". In my view that wouldn't have been enough. When the going got tough we Europeans acted together. We acted in unison and above all effectively.

The European Union silenced the guns when war broke out during the summer in the southern Caucasus, right in our backyard. The EU placed a new financial architecture onto the international agenda. That was a swift reaction to the historic crisis on the global financial markets.

During last week's European Council meeting the EU adopted highly specific and future-oriented conclusions, which we will discuss today: First, an Economic Recovery Plan to the tune of 200 billion euro which sends a clear message to business; second, a decisive breakthrough in climate policy which will hopefully send a signal to our partners worldwide; third, a clear commitment to the Treaty of Lisbon, due to enter into force at the end of 2009.

This is a good result in what is truly a difficult period, and I'm glad about it. It fortunately gives the lie to all those who once again wanted to accuse the EU of eurosclerosis. Instead, the old European virtues – reliability, sustainability, and solidarity – have again proved their worth and made Europe once more capable of taking action. Let me clearly state that without the French Presidency's courageous leadership this wouldn't have been possible. I therefore take this opportunity to thank our French friends for achieving what they did under difficult circumstances. In my opinion that success also deserves recognition from this House.

Ladies and gentlemen, the European Council on 11 and 12 December broadcasted a clear message. By adopting a European Economic Recovery Plan, Europe is facing up to its responsibility for growth and jobs. We pointed out at an early stage that this responsibility lies both with the Member States but also with Europe as a whole. That is part of the logic of an open European internal market. Consultation, coordination and, wherever possible, joint action are also in the interests of the Member States, particularly in tackling the current crisis.

The Recovery Plan amounting to 1.5% of the EU's GDP is in my view a strong signal. The message is that the countries of Europe will together do all they can to counter the downturn and to preserve jobs wherever possible. It is good for us that everyone in Europe agrees on this point.

The Brussels Recovery Plan contains national and European instruments which are designed to and indeed will complement each other. After last week's discussions I can tell you that Germany's national measures compare well within Europe. Less than half of the Member States have introduced packages similar to that which we in this House approved and set in motion last week. At the same time, however, there is of course a debate going on in Germany, which is understandable in view of the current economic data, on whether sufficient national measures are being taken to counter the crisis. The number of proposals is increasingly becoming too large to manage, as you have also noticed.

We know, ladies and gentlemen, that when there is a massive economic and employment downturn, we must perhaps rethink our decisions in order to protect jobs. We will act in a way that is both vigorous and – I promise you – well thought out. We will take effective measures that are at the same time specific and sustainable. This is of the utmost importance.

Economic recovery programmes can only be effective if we in Europe act together, if Europe and the EU Member States march in the same direction. I think we can only really cushion this kind of economic crisis if we do this. That is why we in Europe must together do three things – secure employment, develop infrastructure and promote innovative technologies. The programme we have just approved in Brussels takes many of our ideas on board. I think this is a fairly good accolade for us Germans!

An important point for me is that we must invest more in energy efficiency and in a viable future for rural areas. We must not, also here in Germany, allow these areas to fall behind. We need technical infrastructure in these areas, too. Broadband networks are the lifeblood of modernization, growth and innovation in the countryside. You know from your constituencies that the presence of such networks is now also a factor in whether businesses relocate there. It is therefore only right and proper for us to launch this process at European level, to cut through red tape and to promote the development of broadband.

Another item worth mentioning is the extension of the European Investment Bank's loan facilities for small and medium-sized businesses. This is another thing we Germans proposed at an earlier stage. Recently, here in Germany too, we have often heard that loans are so to speak the "blood supply" of the economy. This is a good analogy. If that is true, then in the present crisis many firms need more "blood" to remain innovative. We must not allow them to collapse. I think the European Council conclusions I spoke about earlier are a good way of preventing just that, and for this reason they are good decisions.

We also expect the simplification of state-aid and tendering processes to lead to increased investment and employment. Up to now aid over 200,000 euro has been subject to approval from Brussels; in future this will only be required for aid over 500,000 euro. That means greater planning security than before for many projects. Moreover, the length of the tendering process for large-scale projects will be reduced from the current 87 days to 30 days in future. This too means that companies will gain valuable time, and that is why this decision taken last week is to be welcomed.

Last but not least, the European Social Fund and other European instruments will be once again examined – as we requested – to find ways of safeguarding jobs and promoting reintegration into the labour market. One of the solutions we discussed prior to the meeting was that if small businesses take on an unemployed person, the non-wage costs can be paid out of European funds, including ESF funds, for a fixed period. My view is that if Europe is to become part of people's everyday lives, we must provide more of these practical solutions than we have in the past. Ultimately we'll all benefit from this.

All these measures are in line with the motto which also applies to us here, i.e. "jobs first". That's what we're talking about. That's what we must achieve at national and European level to cushion ourselves against the recession as much as possible. I've already stated elsewhere that 2009 must not be a year of sackings. We must try to prevent this using all means at our disposal.

The European Council conclusions, as you have also noticed, give the Member States the option of taking additional, farther-reaching measures in accordance with their particular circumstances. As we all know we can't apply the same criteria to all EU countries. Their economies are differently structured, something which has even benefited us in Europe up to now. Measures which have, for example, helped the UK services and financial industry tackle the crisis need not be suitable for Germany's – thankfully still – industry-based economy. That's why it was wise of us not to seek a "one-size-fits-all" solution, not to agree on a limited number of tools, but rather to assume that a whole "toolbox" will be needed.

Where joint action is not required and indeed is inappropriate, we coordinate the framework for national action. That's what we did last week, and that's what we will need to do in the future. Why is that? Because this framework also, of course, includes among other things the Stability and Growth Pact. In Brussels the German Government has called for this Pact not to be completely undermined, as it provides a flexible framework for the future. As you know, the Pact allows countries to overstep the 3% debt limit for a short time. But it also clearly states that countries doing so are obliged to reduce the debt and create a balanced budget as soon as the next upswing begins. Nothing has changed here.

The summit's second main issue, alongside the financial and economic crisis, was of course the climate package. Whether it was during the Poznán climate conference or elsewhere –people wondered whether the EU would shelve their ambitious climate-protection goals at the first convenient opportunity. What we decided in the past indeed sounds quite courageous! By 2020 we want to cut European greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 1990. We want to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 20% of our energy consumption.

There were of course some players – companies, countries and, I must say, politicians –, who wanted to seize the opportunity and relegate climate protection from the upper reaches of the national and international agenda. I can tell you now that during the weeks immediately prior to the summit I also sometimes thought postponement of the entire package was more likely than agreement on a compromise before Christmas.

Now that the summit is over, however, we can say that the EU kept its word. We reiterated our objectives and specifically and bindingly divided the burdens among the EU countries. In my opinion the main points of that agreement, which I will now describe, demonstrate this fact clearly and succinctly:

First, we will introduce a joint European emissions-trading system to replace the existing national regulations. All energy-intensive companies in Europe will now finally be given a level playing field – this was sorely needed.

Second, power plants and energy-intensive industries must reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases every year. By 2020 the upper limit will gradually fall by 21% compared to the 2005 level.

Third, in principle no energy producer in Europe will be granted emission allowances free of charge; only for some Eastern European countries will transitional arrangements apply, as these countries are almost completely dependent on electricity from old coal-fired power stations.

Fourth, during the Council meeting the EU Member States committed themselves to binding goals regarding the development of renewable energies. We Germans want to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 18% of our energy consumption by 2020. In 2005 it was a mere 5.8%. There is still a lot of work to do and above all a lot of wise policies to be formulated in this field, and we want to do this together.

These four points I have briefly touched upon are in my view major steps forward in climate protection. For the first time hitherto voluntary goals and declarations are translated into regulations and measures in a very large economic area. That is a success we should neither belittle here in this House nor, if possible, outside it. This is a major achievement.

Let me add that this takes into account the expectations expressed by the Bundestag Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in May 2008. I hear that during yesterday's committee session the Federal Minister for the Environment clearly and convincingly stated that fact, and I would like to thank him for this.

The result proves that climate and employment protection need not be mutually exclusive, but that there are effective links between the two. I want to state quite clearly that whoever wants broad acceptance for climate protection must not carry out this necessary effort on the backs of the employees. We abided by this principle, as I'm sure you'll understand, during the EU summit.

It is also important that Germany remain a country with a strong manufacturing sector. We need manufacturing enterprises, we can't maintain our prosperity, as you are well aware, with the services sector alone. That's why, ladies and gentlemen, we've agreed on rules that will allow our energy-intensive enterprises to remain competitive and won't drive them out of the country. For me, and for the Federal Government as a whole, this is a responsible policy. That is our standpoint, and that's what we stood for in Brussels.

I know we can't avoid discussing the difficult issues. Coal-fired power stations are one of these. But I believe we can only set standards and remain an example to more problematic parts of the world if we pursue a responsible policy. A ban on coal-fired power stations, which some call for, will not win us any friends in China.

On the contrary, Mr Kuhn, they will shake their heads in disbelief. If coal is used worldwide – and will be for the foreseeable future in many parts of the world – we in particular, as a driving force behind the technology – are you listening? – cannot shuffle off our responsibility. A good conscience, which some of you say we will then have, is not the same thing as a good climate. I therefore believe this was a correct compromise.

Looking back at some of the debates we had during the talks in Brussels, I have to say that I fail to understand many of the public accusations levelled at us. How can they believe that that debate took place in some kind of vacuum in Brussels? When 27 heads of government meet there, they naturally also discuss other current problems, including the economic situation and the need to protect jobs. So why the accusation that this played a role in the debate on climate issues?

The main result of the summit is that in spite of this discussion Europe – we reached a good compromise – remains a pioneer in climate protection. Next year the EU can begin talks on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol with a credible standpoint. I can also state that we're looking forward to a new US President, who will give the fight against global warming a truly new impetus.

I'm aware of how the debate within the US is taking shape. America wants – provided Obama gets his ideas enforced – to reduce CO2, to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels. That is a highly ambitious aim in view of the US debate, but here in Europe we want to go further. This is why I say that the agreements reached and confirmed in Brussels need not make us lack confidence. The objectives haven't changed, but we've made progress because we've now underpinned them with measures and concrete agreements.

The fight against the recession and the climate-protection efforts both demonstrate that we in Europe can achieve more together than separately. But politics is also about organization. Some are right and many are experienced in this regard. And so we have to make sure Europe is capable of acting in the long term. The Treaty of Lisbon, for which we all fought together, stands for this. I believe we found a way, at the European Council, of having the Treaty enter into force next year after all. This progress was only possible because of the courage of the Irish Government in holding out the prospect of another referendum next year, something I greatly welcome.

We, at any rate, want this Treaty. For that reason, in spite of some criticism, we're prepared to meet Ireland halfway. The principle of "one country – one commissioner" will not be abolished in 2014 as originally planned. That really is a key concession which we didn't agree to easily. But our line is that the Treaty must enter into force as planned. That means that re-negotiating the Treaty is not an option. That is something we've agreed on. I'm pleased that Ireland is now also embarking on the road to ratifying the Treaty.

I'm coming to the end now. There can only be peace in Europe when there is peace in its neighbourhood. This year, in the southern Caucasus, we were shocked to see how quickly a situation can escalate. We Europeans work together to make sure this or something similar isn't repeated. That's why we want to strengthen stability and security in the EU's eastern neighbourhood. This is one of our responses to the Georgia crisis. This is practical responsibility in action, or, to put it another way, sustainable foreign policy.

In concrete terms this means that we will in March 2009 reinforce the European Neighbourhood Policy by creating an Eastern Partnership. We have made initial proposals in this regard; these were taken up by Poland and Sweden and incorporated into a European Commission concept. This Eastern Partnership will include Ukraine, Moldova and the southern Caucasus. Should developments in Belarus continue positively – a few signs of this have been seen in recent weeks –, that country will also be able to join the Partnership.

The Czech Republic will make this a focus of its Presidency. The Czech foreign minister was here only a few days ago. I told him we would do all we could to support him in that effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, next year will be an important one for the European Union, not only due to the forthcoming elections. We are facing an era of change. We now have the opportunity to take wise joint steps to ensure that globalization of the markets is followed by political globalization. The new financial-market architecture will just be the first step towards achieving this goal.

We will also have to rebalance the situation on the global stage by getting as many players as possible involved in and integrated into an international community of shared responsibility. We must achieve this, and we can only do so if we Europeans speak with one voice on this particular issue.

For Germany the main answer to globalization is still Europe, not only a European market but a Europe for all people, one which not only issues formal declarations and documents but which gives the right answers to the fundamental questions of the future. Last week's European Council in my view sent out a highly encouraging message to this effect.

Thank you for your attention.

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