Welcoming speech by Minister Westerwelle to the Delegation from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), 22 February 2010

22.02.2010 - Speech

– check against delivery --

Ms Ulloa Vernimmen,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Berlin! I am truly delighted that you have come to Germany.

Relations between Germany and the countries of South America have a long tradition. The ties are not only political and economic but also have a historical and cultural aspect. Our two continents share fundamental common values. Among others, these are democracy and the rule of law, the need for international cooperation and the primacy of international law. Our views regarding the value of personal freedom and individual welfare are very close.

However, we can improve on what is good and make it even better. Latin America is a key partner region in German foreign policy. We would like to deepen our dialogue particularly with you. For this reason my first major trip as Foreign Minister, in March, will be to Latin America. This is no mere coincidence, but a deliberate choice on our part. Germany and Europe are able and willing to seek joint solutions to global problems in partnership with Latin American countries. It is precisely because we share so many interests that we should unite in a common purpose to overcome problems together.

Difficulties that arise in one region of the world can be felt in other regions too. That the continents are linked together in this respect is nothing new. From time immemorial human communities have had contact with their neighbours and sought trade and exchange with them. This contact was often bellicose, but it often came about peacefully. What is new is the time factor. We all experience this. As late as the 19th century, significant changes in economy and society often took place over a period of 50 years. Today the rise or fall of entire countries and regions is possible in a matter of 20 years. Impressive success stories have been written in recent times, notably in parts of South America.

If a South American country is mentioned in the news, some citizens of my country perhaps wouldn’t know exactly where to find it on a map. But there is a growing recognition that our problems are also your problems, and vice versa.

The global economic and financial crisis shows how closely our economies are interlinked. If one economy is ailing and the symptoms are serious, it will also infect others far away.

This global interconnectedness makes it all the more important that we pursue a model of international cooperation rather than one of confrontation. The lesson that cooperation is always better than confrontation, even though the path may sometimes be arduous, is borne out not least by our own, sometimes dark, German and European history.

We need to learn to draw the positive benefits from our global interconnectness. South America has a key role to play, for example in the fight against global warming. If, together, we protect the tropical rainforest and develop the enormous potential of renewable energies, then this cooperation benefits both parties. The countries of the southern and northern hemispheres both reap the benefits of positive effects on the world climate. Growth and innovation in one place will also promote development on the other side of the planet.

I advocate a broad-based cooperative approach that goes far beyond political and economic partnership. Permit us, therefore, also to talk about cultural policy and scientific and technical cooperation. We would like to hear and discuss your ideas and experiences. And we want to assume global responsibility in partnership with Latin America.

I watch with great interest the development of regional organizations in South America, from the Andean Community and MERCOSUR to UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. In Europe we have experienced how regional cooperation promotes peaceful coexistence. The development of a regional security architecture is the best guarantee of lasting peace, also in South America. I am very confident that we share this common view here at this table.

I am delighted that you, as joint representatives of UNASUR, accepted the invitation to visit Germany to discuss Europe’s experiences regarding collective security.

Ladies and gentlemen,

we have, in Europe, experienced a remarkable history. This continent, its history plagued for so long by war and destruction, is experiencing an enduring period of peace unparalleled in history.

This did not come about as a matter of course. The post war period was marked by the clash of ideologies between East and West. Surely no other place is more symbolic of this clash than Berlin.

I was born in 1961, the year in which the Berlin Wall was built. Many years later – I was about fourteen or fifteen at the time – my father brought me from the former Federal capital, Bonn in the Rhineland, to Berlin. At the time there were wooden platforms in West Berlin from where one could look over the wall and see strips of sand, minefields and watchtowers. I remember the wooden crosses commemorating those who had been shot in their attempt to flee the GDR.

I was not yet thirty when the wall was tumbled. For the Wall did not fall. It was torn down from East to West by people of courage. Berlin has demonstrated that it is not those who strive for peace and cooperation who are the illusionists, but those who believe that confrontation and force will bring them success in the long term.

With the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the CSCE, we managed to overcome the division of Europe. The end of the East West confrontation in Europe simultaneously provided the key to German unity. We can tell you a great deal about this process from our own historical experience. You will make the acquaintance of the successor to the CSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – OSCE for short – when you visit Vienna.

Achieving security within one’s own continental boundaries is the first step towards joining with others to meet global challenges. Future conflicts will no longer arise only between neighbours. Security challenges are no longer limited to regions. In the question of global security our interests are closely intermeshed. The uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons would jeopardize South America’s security as much as Europe’s. It is for this reason that our cooperation also in matters of security is so important. German foreign policy is peace policy. The question confronting us is whether we make the coming decade one of rearmament or disarmament. My response is unequivocal: together we must make the coming decade one of disarmament.

Disarmament, arms control and confidence-building measures are not just concepts of yesteryear. They are as relevant today as in the past. The CSCE was successful because it managed to make compliance verifiable. Confidence-building and the ability to verify compliance are indispensable tools for the success of any regional security system.

The instruments of dialogue and understanding that we have developed in Europe are no “one size fits all” solution. But I am convinced that successful ideas and concepts will inspire you to find your own solutions. For it is precisely this contribution that we from Germany and Europe can make to your current discussion.

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