Welcome

Speech by Guido Westerwelle, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Ambassadors’ Conference of the Turkish Foreign Ministry

07.01.2010 - Speech

-Translation of advance text-

Ahmet Davutoğlu,
Mr Undersecretary,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m aware that the invitation extended to me by your Foreign Minister, my colleague Ahmet Davutoğlu, is a great privilege and honour. Turkish diplomats enjoy an outstanding reputation. I know from reports by our Embassies that you are held in high regard by German Ambassa­dors thanks to your professionalism and your vast knowledge.

I consider the invitation to be your guest here in Ankara today a special mark of the friendship between our two countries. I’m indebted to you for that. Further intensifying our long-standing relations is important to me personally. I would like to use the strategic dialogue we agreed on last year to take relations between our Foreign Ministries to a new level.

And I want to add, Ahmet, that it’s a particular pleasure to be able to work with a colleague who is so experienced, cosmopolitan and likeable.

In political, economic and cultural terms, people in Germany and Turkey have moved closer together during the last few years than perhaps ever before.

We Germans see Turkey in a new light. We have gained a better understanding of its history, its social and economic dynamism, as well as of Turkey’s strategic role in the Middle East and its importance to Europe.

Our extremely intensive economic relations have done much to shape this new understanding. Our economies are closely interlinked. Germany is Turkey’s most important economic partner. More than 3900 German companies have established a base in Turkey. That is more than from any other country. It therefore goes without saying that I’m accompanied by a business delegation on this trip.

A whole host of exchanges and joint projects have fostered the cultural rediscovery of Turkey in Germany. One project is particularly important to me personally, because it is targeted first and foremost at young people: the German-Turkish University which we want to develop together in Istanbul under the Ernst Reuter Initiative. This university is to train skilled profes­sionals in close cooperation with German and Turkish companies, thus strengthening our aca­demic relations. The importance of this project to the German Government is illustrated by the fact that we specifically mentioned the German-Turkish University in the coalition agree­ment.

It’s important to us that the university can begin offering courses as quickly as possible.

It’s people who really make our bilateral relations unique. Around 2.7 million people of Turkish origin live in Germany, of whom more than 700,000 have German nationality. Many of them have been in Germany for almost half a century.

Turks in Germany and Germans of Turkish origin play a key role in our relations, a role which has an impact in both countries. In Germany, they play an important part as business­people or employees, as lawyers or teachers, or in many other professions, in shaping our country, in boosting its prosperity and cultural wealth. Many of you who have been posted to Germany know this from first-hand experience.

With personal ambition, diligence and education, many of those whose grandparents or parents got on the guest worker trains at Istanbul’s Sirkeci station have achieved remarkable social advancement. Some of my classmates in Bonn are among them. I have great respect for their achievements.

Education and mastery of the national language are the keys to integration in every country, in every society. The German Government has made the integration of people from migrant backgrounds one of its priorities. We know that further major efforts are required in Germany, also on the part of the majority society, if we are to better foster the potential and career opportunities of young people from Turkey. We are therefore trying harder to rectify the shortcomings of our integration policy in the past. However, the endeavours and will of each individual continues to be crucial to the success of this process.

This morning I visited the mausoleum of the founder of the Turkish Republic – not for the first time, but for the first time as Foreign Minister.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s vision of a Turkey which looks to Europe, which is modern, secular and self-confident, in which men and women have equal rights, changed both state and society fundamentally. This vision has a profound impact on Turkey even today. Turkey’s closer ties with Europe are also the engine and goal of the impressive transformation process which Turkey has been undergoing since the start of the last decade.

Some have asked whether the new German Government wants to close the door to Turkey’s membership. Let me state categorically that what has been agreed between the EU and Turkey is still valid. This German Government will honour these undertakings. You have my word on that. For me as a lawyer there can be no doubt about the validity of the “pacta sunt servanda” principle. Turkey has a right to fair negotiations and a reliable negotiating partner.

Our coalition agreement states that the outcome of the negotiations is not a foregone conclusion. Strict compliance with the Copenhagen Criteria remains a prerequisite for accession.

And it goes on to say, “Germany has a particular interest in a deepening of mutual relations with Turkey and in binding the country to the European Union.” The negotiations between Turkey and the EU began in 2005 with the aim of accession. This is an open-ended process. It does not imply any automaticity. And the outcome cannot be guaranteed at the outset.

I’m pleased it was possible to open the environment chapter in the accession process just a few weeks ago at the European Council. At the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers held in Brussels in December, I urged that the accession negotiations be continued.

However, I realize from my own experience of negotiations in Brussels that we desperately need fresh momentum in the accession negotiations. The key to this lies – as we all know – in the question of Cyprus: the ratification and implementation of the Ankara Protocol by the Turkish Government, the negotiations on Cyprus under the aegis of the United Nations, as well as the EU Direct Trade Regulation.

Although it’s important in foreign policy to analyse past mistakes and political misjudgements, I’m firmly convinced that those of us actively involved in foreign policy must act today in such a way that we don’t regret any missed opportunities tomorrow.

The willingness of the Turkish Government to explore new avenues in resolving old conflicts deserves the highest recognition. We see that willingness in Turkey’s domestic policy and we see it in Turkey’s active and successful neighbourhood policy. Because I’m keen to see Turkey’s accession process successfully continued, I greatly hope Turkey can take new routes on this issue, too. I’m aware that not only determination but also political courage is required here. I also expect the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to play its role in reaching a consensus solution.

I would like to express my deep respect and appreciation to Turkey’s Government, Parliament and active society members for what they have achieved to date in advancing the process of EU related reforms. I want to encourage you to continue along that path.

This as yet incomplete process of reforms aimed at taking Turkey along the road to Europe has meant, and indeed still means, overcoming considerable opposition, allaying fears and winning political majorities. But we all know that freedom of opinion, the press and religion are vital pillars in our European community of shared values.

I am following with great interest the discussions on the policy of “democratic opening” which is currently being debated in Parliament. As a Member of the German Bundestag I believe it is very important that, in a democratic state, Parliament is the central forum for political decision making, and that Parliament should represent all major societal groups. It’s crystal clear that violence and extremism are completely unacceptable as instruments of politics! We all know that to tolerate such intolerance would be stupid rather than liberal.

“Yurtta Barış Dünyada Barış”

– “Peace at home, peace in the world” – This Atatürk quotation is the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s motto.

I share this view that one of foreign policy’s main tasks is to work towards world peace. The Turkish Government, and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu personally, have undertaken numerous initiatives and have thus played an impressive role in achieving stability and peace in and between other countries. Turkey has used its good relations with those countries in order to act as a constructive mediator in their bilateral conflicts. For its neighbouring regions Turkey is not only an anchor but also an exporter of stability.

I need only remind you of the Ankara Process initiated by the Turkish Government aimed at improving relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the conferences involving Iraq’s neighbouring countries, and Turkey’s contribution to the Doha Agreement on political recon­ciliation in Lebanon. Let me also recall Turkish efforts to improve Israel Pakistan relations, the “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform”, and the “proximity talks” between Syria and Israel.

In its immediate neighbourhood Turkey has pursued a very consistent policy of bilateral understanding and economic cooperation. For example, its relations with Iraq and Syria have in recent months been put on a new footing, in a spirit of partnership, through a series of bilateral agreements.

Last year Turkey and Armenia opened a completely new chapter in their relations. I want to express my respect and recognition to all those who have helped achieve this rapprochement, which I’m sure was no easy matter.

I appeal to both Armenia and Turkey to ratify and implement the normalization protocols as soon as possible. I say this because, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Europe’s political division, we Germans have seen that above all the people of our coun­tries benefit from the opening of political borders and the lifting of barriers in our political thinking. Good neighbourly relations between Turkey and Armenia also represent an import­ant contribution to greater security, stability and cooperation in the Caucasus region.

In foreign policy terms Germany and Turkey, NATO allies and partners in international organizations, are facing major challenges. These include the problem of how to deal with Iran and its nuclear programme, which threatens the security not only of Turkey and the region as a whole but also in particular that of Israel. In Afghanistan we and many other part­ner countries are working to achieve self sustaining security, stability and economic recon­struction. In the Middle East our shared goal is lasting peace on the basis of a two state solu­tion and the security of Israel.

Turkey’s voice carries weight in all these issues. I’m therefore very keen for Germany and Turkey to seek even greater mutual exchange and to work even more closely together on foreign policy. This is why I’m happy to be here with you today, and why I want to shape the strategic dialogue between our Foreign Ministries to our mutual benefit.

Thank you again, Ahmet, for inviting me here today. I wish you all every success for your work during the coming year, and thank you very much for your attention.

Çok sağ olun!

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