Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the opening of the Ambassadors Conference at the Federal Foreign Office

06.09.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advence text --

Esteemed Colleague,


Members of the German Bundestag,

Guests and friends of the Federal Foreign Office,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I bid you a warm welcome to this year’s conference of heads of German missions abroad.

It’s a special pleasure for me to welcome my Mexican colleague Patricia Espinosa Cantellano as today’s guest of honour. Many of you know her as a former ambassador to our country, as a friend of Germany and of the German language. We’re very pleased to have you here!

Ladies and gentlemen, during the past few months I’ve visited many of you in your missions. Some of you are here for the first time. I’m looking forward to discussing the direction and focuses of German foreign policy with you over the next few days.

Our work is often determined by our unsettled world’s current crises and conflicts. It’s therefore all the more important to have a clear view of the long-term challenges. For that reason I want to concentrate today on the three major priorities I see for German foreign policy and which we’ve already made serious efforts to tackle in past months:

First, shaping globalization through values-based and interest-oriented policies.

Second, a German peace and security policy built around disarmament and non-proliferation, in close cooperation with our allies and partners.

Third, strengthening and advancing European integration as the foundation of German foreign policy.


If we want to shape globalization we need like-minded partners. Four weeks ago the Federal Government adopted a comprehensive Latin America concept. Latin America is the focus of this first Ambassadors Conference to be held during my term in office. I’m well aware that some people derided this choice at the beginning, but those who, like me, have experienced this continent’s spirit of renewal and fantastic dynamism, as well as its affinity to Europe, will know what opportunities and potential this region possesses.

A German foreign policy that sees itself as both values-based and interest-oriented has always set its sights on both aspects. As a major trading nation we must have the big picture of global dynamism. This is why, during my first months in office, I travelled to China, Russia and Africa. In a few weeks’ time we will on behalf of the Federal Government present a new Africa concept designed to revamp our policy towards this continent, too.

This October I will visit India.

However, I also visited Latin America because I see these countries as our natural partners in shaping globalization. Latin America is characterized to a greater extent than other regions outside the “West” by the values of the European Enlightenment. We share the values of individual liberty and the rule of law with most countries in this region.

Over the coming months and years Latin America will increasingly become the focus of attention. This November, in Cancún in Mexico, we will renew our efforts towards international climate protection. Mexico will take over the chair of the G20 from our French neighbours. In 2014 during the FIFA World Cup, and during the 2016 Olympic Games, the eyes of the world will be on Brazil. Latin America is a multi-faceted continent, and we want to help it find solutions to its most pressing issues, such as internal security. But above all I want to focus attention on the huge opportunities and the political and social potential which lie in closer relations with Latin America.

We need strong partners like Latin America so that we can back up the globalization of markets with the globalization of values.

To give globalization a human face we need a strong United Nations in line with 21st century reality. The greater significance of the Southern countries must be reflected in the Security Council. We’re working for a reform of the Security Council to ensure that Africa and Latin America are also permanently represented.

Germany is facing up to its responsibility in the UN. While a permanent seat on the Security Council is our long-term policy aim, Germany is currently standing for non-permanent membership of the Council for 2011 and 2012.

Our election campaign is making good progress. With your daily work you are creating the trust your host countries’ governments place in Germany, and for this I thank you. Keep up this good work so that we will have the majority we need during the elections in the General Assembly in mid October!

Global trade isn’t what’s new about globalization – we’ve had that for centuries. The new factor is time, the incredible speed with which it takes place. As late as the 19th century major economic and social changes often took 50 years to happen. Today maybe 15 or 20 years can decide whether nations rise or fall.

A nation’s wealth is no longer mainly its raw materials. Education is becoming more and more important. Knowledge arises from hard work, not from geological coincidence. We need more education out of respect for the generations to come. Children don’t need good schools so that they do well in the PISA test, they need schools so that they can make the best use of their talents and live life to the fullest.

It’s also a question of our society’s competitiveness. We need good schools and universities to hold our own in the global competition for the brightest students. Only if our universities remain attractive can we keep our high flyers in Germany, only then will we encourage gifted young people from other countries to study here.

In this case, too, interests and values interact. Those who return home after studying here maintain links with Germany and disseminate our values in their own countries. Our cultural relations and education policy makes Germany more competitive, while at the same time helping to globalize our values.

An active cultural relations and education policy isn’t a luxury but wise and far-sighted. Partner schools and Goethe-Institute, university partnerships and the promotion of talented young people are elements of a foreign and globalization policy which is in Germany’s vested interests.

Latin America gives us many examples of such cooperation. Together with Chile and Colombia we have set up Centres of Excellence. In São Paulo, the largest German business community abroad, a German Science and Innovation Forum is being created. In Buenos Aires we will open a German-Argentinian University Centre and a Max Planck Partner Institute. In Mexico there are German professorships.

Dear colleague, you are living proof of Germany’s cultural relations and education policy. I first met Patricia Espinosa Cantellano this April. She went to the German School in Mexico, speaks excellent German, and was her country’s ambassador in Berlin and Vienna. Our shared language and access to culture links us and enables us to cooperate to the benefit of both our countries.

Mexico and Germany are ideal partners in the quest for values-based globalization. During the next few months, dear colleague, you can count on our support in making the Cancún climate summit a success under your chairmanship.

Education policy is just one example of the extent to which our country’s influence abroad depends on our performance at home. Domestic and foreign policy are becoming increasingly interlinked. Only an economically strong country can have sufficient foreign-policy clout.

It’s therefore important not only from a domestic-policy but also from a foreign-policy standpoint that we take the right road in the financial and economic crisis. The Federal Government’s budget cuts are painful, also for the Federal Foreign Office, but if we use our budget wisely Germany will in the medium term have more, rather than less, of a role to play on the foreign policy stage.


The second key priority is a German security and peace policy that is in keeping with the times.

On a current note, let me first say that Germany will do everything in its power to help ensure success of the direct talks that have just begun between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is the two sides that have to make peace with one another. That we cannot do for them. But we will continue to do all we can to strengthen the forces of reason and reconciliation. The first German-Palestinian Steering Committee that met this spring in Berlin has taken our cooperation with the Palestinians to a new level. This close cooperation has met with strong approval not only in the Arab world, but also in Israel. That is important to us – because the security and bright future of Israel is and will remain a fundamental pillar of German policy.

At the beginning of this government’s term of office, there was a need to reshape Germany’s engagement in Afghanistan. We have done a level-headed and honest stocktaking.

This included reassessing the operation and determining that, from an international humanitarian law perspective, it is an armed conflict. On this basis, we have drawn up a strategy that, first, realistically defines our objectives, second, brings deployment of our military and civilian assets in line with these objectives and, third, clearly highlights the need for a political solution.

The mission in Afghanistan is certainly not popular. But it remains necessary, and it serves our core security interests. Looking at the country today, it still presents a mixed picture with more and less encouraging developments. Yet in recent months we have achieved a great deal, and we want to continue our steady progress down this path.

At the London Conference in January, we closely coordinated our strategy both within NATO and with the international community.

We have markedly increased our presence in Afghanistan at all levels. I would like to extend to the diplomats, service members, police officers and reconstruction workers my deep respect and gratitude for the duties they are performing there for our country, in very difficult conditions.

A few weeks ago in Kabul, we set out a roadmap. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 18 September, and they are the first to be organized under sole Afghan responsibility. This November at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, we will be taking a decision on whether to hand over security responsibility in several regions of the country.

By 2014, we want to have transferred security responsibility for the entire country to the Government of Afghanistan, in line with President Karzai’s objective.

By following this roadmap, we are creating the real prospect for a withdrawal of our women and men in uniform, and for an Afghanistan in which Afghan women and men once again will take charge of their own destiny. Yet our benchmark remains that a threat to international security must no longer emanate from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s neighbour Pakistan is key to stabilizing the entire region. The flooding in recent weeks has caused unthinkable destruction and human suffering.

We have provided rapid and effective assistance; beyond the humanitarian aid offered during the initial weeks, we will remain engaged in reconstruction and political reform efforts. Pakistan deserves to be a special focus of our attention, on both a humanitarian and political level.

Despite these crises that we are facing right now, we must not lose sight of the long-term security and peace policy challenges. On Sunday, we will mark the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the 2+4 Treaty, a masterpiece of foreign policy and a milestone on the path to German unity. This is a fitting occasion to thank our partners and allies in the transatlantic community for helping bring about a Germany that is united and free.

The Alliance remains the foundation of our security. But the world has changed in fundamental ways. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a significant increase in the nuclear threat due to the proliferation of weapons and missile technology. The uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons poses one of the greatest threats to our security. Mitigating this development is a question of survival. Disarmament is therefore not a 1980s issue, and it is not a pipe dream; rather, in our globalized world, it is a necessity.

The conclusion of a new START Treaty between Russia and the United States marked the encouraging beginning to a decade that must become a decade of disarmament.

At the NPT Review Conference held in New York last May, tactical nuclear weapons were for the first time included in the disarmament effort, which was a success for the policies of this Federal Government and the German Bundestag.

It is our aim, on the one hand, to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and, on the other hand, to reduce the existing stockpiles of these weapons. These are two sides of the same coin. That is why the controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme goes far beyond its regional implications; it is in fact a global issue.

We are going to great lengths to ensure that disarmament and arms control will remain a key issue, also within NATO’s new Strategic Concept that is to be adopted at the Lisbon Summit in November. This will create the opportunity for us to devise a truly cooperative security architecture for all of Europe, expressly including Russia. The initiative presented by myself together with the Foreign Ministers of the Benelux countries and Norway at the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Tallinn last April regarding the reduced significance of nuclear weapons within NATO served this same purpose.

In the long term, we remain committed to President Obama’s Global Zero vision, that is a world without nuclear weapons. We have quite a long way to go. But in formulating our policy, we will not lose sight of this goal.

Terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction already on their own pose a great threat to us all. We must do everything within our power to prevent them from entering unholy alliances, and their becoming a curse brought about by globalization.


Probably the greatest challenge, but also the most rewarding task, of German foreign policy is the construction of Europe.

A united Europe is the foundation on which German foreign policy rests. Europe is not everything, but without Europe everything is nothing.

In May, we needed to take two consecutive, very difficult decisions to shield the euro – and thus Europe – from a severe crisis. These difficult weeks made it clear to all of us that European integration must be fought for again and again. It is not a permanent condition. It is also not “irreversible”. Eurobarometer public opinion polls point to a dramatic drop in Europe’s approval rating in Germany. I am deeply worried about this, but I am also highly determined to work for, and champion the cause of, the construction of Europe. I ask you all to join me in this effort.

For us Germans, a united Europe is not some luxury that we could, if need be, do without. It guarantees our prosperity, our peace and our freedom.

To keep it this way, we Europeans must make progress on reducing deficits, and we must put in place strict rules governing new borrowing. This is the only option for restoring sound growth to Europe. It is obviously in all EU member states’ own interest to keep the euro healthy. Stability of the euro is everyone’s responsibility. If anyone opts out of our common responsibility for Europe, this must automatically have consequences in the form of sanctions.

Rule violators should be barred from receiving money from the EU Structural Funds. These sanctions must apply to everyone, no matter how large or powerful a European country it may be. We want a European Union of responsibility, and not one of transfer payments, where a country can shirk responsibility and hope for a bailout. These are our objectives in ongoing negotiations within the van Rompuy led group.

Strengthening cohesion within the European Union is dear to my heart. For a strong and united Europe, we want to reinforce ties with partners to our east as much as to our west, ties that have been nurtured over decades. My first trip abroad as Foreign Minister was to Warsaw. Germany’s relations with France and with Poland are both top priority. Here, there is no “either … or”, it is always an “and”.

We have successfully reactivated the Weimar Triangle. It is becoming a driving force of European policy.

During my first year in office, I visited European member states regardless of their population size – because the European project has no use for sorting countries according to their importance; rather, all member states must stand as one.

Only on the basis of this internal cohesion can we use Europe’s international clout to our advantage. In the coming days, we will hold intensive discussions in Brussels about Europe’s relations with strategic partners such as China and India.

During my recent travels to Turkey and the Western Balkan countries, I saw that the European project for peace and prosperity remains as attractive as ever. In these countries, the prospect of drawing closer to the EU is probably the strongest factor driving reform.

In all of this we must, however, be certain that our citizens stand behind our policies. Europe is only strong when its citizens support the construction of Europe and recognize the truly inestimable value it holds for our country.

Before I ask my Mexican colleague to take the floor, I want to address an issue that many of my co workers here at this ministry have been giving much thought to, namely the future of our foreign service.

The world is constantly changing, regardless of our need to save money. Across the globe, power is shifting. We must closely examine and adapt how we use our resources. At the same time, we are in the process of establishing a European External Action Service.

This will cause some of you to wince and say that, in your area, efficiencies have been maximized, changes and savings are simply not possible. My answer to this is, you must view this situation as an opportunity.

Continual change is one of the few constant factors of diplomatic life. Just as you have done for yourself, the Federal Foreign Office must develop an institutional culture of change. Who would know better than you which changes are required? Let me thank all Foreign Office staff, from local staff to ambassadors, who have contributed to the fruitful discussions on our intranet “forum for the future”.

We will discuss the results during this Ambassadors Conference, for one thing. But the project “AA 2020” will continue, so that the Foreign Office will remain ready and able to lead German foreign policy.

In the diplomacy business, one must always be prepared for the unexpected. Crises, whether natural disasters or man made, are not predictable.

We require structures that can quickly adapt to changes. Above all, we need staff who find the right solutions in unusual situations. During the ten months that I have been in office, I have again and again been reaffirmed in my view that Foreign Office staff do great work and effectively promote our country’s interests abroad. I know that their efforts are also highly respected in the German Bundestag.

Please take my thanks back to your missions, pass it on to your colleagues, and especially also to their families and partners.

For centuries, Germans have found a new home in Latin America, where they have seized opportunities and achieved success. Today we are partners in globalization. I am pleased about our long-standing, close ties with Mexico that are based on trust, and I now have the honour to hand the floor over to the Secretary of Foreign Relations of the United Mexican States.

Dear Colleague, dear Patricia, over to you.

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