Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Binational Commission in Pretoria

09.04.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

On behalf of the entire German delegation, I would like to thank our South African hosts for the invitation to the 6th session of the Binational Commission as well as for the excellent organization and the kind hospitality.

South Africa and Germany enjoy excellent relations. What sets this relationship apart is the extraordinarily broad spectrum of cooperation. It is worth noting that the partnership focuses not only on political relations between South Africa and Germany, but also on closely linking our economies and promoting friendship between our citizens.

Germany is South Africa’s second largest trading partner worldwide. This trade is supported by approximately 90,000 jobs here in South Africa that were created by German companies. With nearly 5 billion euro, Germany is an important source of foreign direct investment in South Africa.

For many people, however, successful trade relations are less important than a shared passion for football. As back-to-back hosts of the FIFA World Cup, Germany and South Africa have maintained an intensive exchange of information. We are sure that this World Cup will be one-of-a-kind. South Africans’ contagious enthusiasm will spread around the world. Regardless of its performance on the playing field, we already know for sure that South Africa will be a winner of these games! We wish your country good luck and all the best.

There are striking parallels in the histories of our countries. Our countries experienced epic change almost simultaneously. The desire for freedom brought about the end of apartheid in South Africa and reunification in Germany.

The division of South Africa in black and white and the division of Germany in east and west was not overcome by some fortunate twist of fate, but rather through the persistent, steadfast efforts − that also entailed great personal risk − of courageous citizens in our countries. History shows that the desire for freedom, the rule of law and human dignity is stronger than barbed wire. Our countries may be thousands of kilometres apart, but this common experience unites us.

Our partnership is based on shared values.

Shared values provide a solid foundation for successful work. The Binational Commission is an expression of the strength of our partnership. Our close cooperation within the Commission already extends to many policy areas.

This year we have broadened the spectrum of our work even further. In the future we will discuss labour and social issues in a separate working group. This will include, for example, an exchange on labour market policies and on the opportunities offered by Germany's dual system of vocational training. I am pleased that the high-level dialogue on these issues will continue in Berlin in a few days.

One topic that shaped the discussions of several working groups this year was renewable energy. Renewable energy technology will play a key role in the 21st century. It is a field that offers great opportunities for German and South African companies to work together and create “green jobs”. Relying more on renewable energy as a source of power will increase the security of our energy supply and at the same time help counter climate change. This is why we are making cooperation between research institutions a priority.

Stability and prosperity at home in Germany also depends on stability and prosperity in Africa. Climate change, illegal trade in raw materials and organized crime are harmful not only to Africa, but also to Europe. For countries like South Africa and Germany, focusing exclusively on bilateral relations is therefore insufficient. We must expand our regional cooperation and work together to assume greater responsibility in our globalized world.

At present, Africa does not always have the resources it needs to implement its own solutions on its own. That is why Germany wants to cooperate with those African countries and organizations like the AU, ECOWAS and SADC that are committed to maintaining peace, stability and sustainable development on the basis of shared values. Here, South Africa is our top partner.

The decision to abandon the principle of non-intervention in the AU Charter marked a major change of direction for Africa. Responses to situations in Mauritania, Guinea, Niger and Madagascar, for example, show that the African Union and its member states are serious about democracy and the rule of law. Germany and the EU support this resolute approach. I hope that our joint efforts, particularly by South Africa, will also lead to success in Zimbabwe. The citizens of Zimbabwe must be able to vote free of intimidation and fear. The results of the next elections must reflect the will of the people and be accepted by all political actors.

South Africa and Germany do not confine themselves to demanding certain outcomes. With our model of trilateral cooperation, we extend meaningful offers of assistance to other countries. Examples of our joint commitment include our efforts to establish a judiciary in Southern Sudan or our joint training for diplomats in the countries of Southern Africa. I can think of further fields to which we could expand our successful cooperation.

South Africa and Germany share the same values. Our countries are next-door neighbours in what is often referred to as the “global village”. Due to their geographical locations, Germany and South Africa have different perspectives on global challenges which nevertheless produce outcomes that complement one another. That is why we have every chance for great success in our common search for solutions to global issues. The shared goal of our efforts must be to give globalization a set of values and rules so that peace and security are safeguarded in the long term.

South Africa has read the signs of the times, of the age of globalization. South Africa has assumed responsibility in Africa and internationally, whether as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, as the only African member of the G20, or as the driving force of informal cooperation among the major countries of what is still referred to as the “south”, such as India, Brazil and China. I am certain that the pairing “north/south” will soon become antiquated political vocabulary, just as “east/west” did in Europe. We will continue to work together towards this end.

To conclude, I have the pleasure of inviting you to the next session of the Binational Commission in Germany.

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