Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the Business Forum of the Conference of the Heads of German Missions

30.08.2011 - Speech

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start off by thanking the host of this event for allowing us to assemble here in the Telekom building.

Ms Nemat, this is one of your first public appearances since joining the board of Deutsche Telekom. We are delighted to see you here. We wish you all the best in tackling your new duties. The election of a competent woman such as yourself makes me recall the words of former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher: “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.”

I like the way you get things done, as I am sure, do many others present today.

You hopefully identified the young man who had the privilege of greeting you at the door in his habit, as Martin Luther. He, too, was a firm believer in the business sense of women. Katharina von Bora, his wife, managed the considerable estate of the monastery at Wittenberg and with her business acumen did much to ensure the success of the great reformer.

Luther himself can be considered the personification of cultural relations. Not just as a reformer of the Church, but also as the key figure in establishing a standard form of written German.

The Luther Decade runs until 2017, and we are of course using Luther and other historical figures to promote our culture and the German language around the world.

Without a doubt, Luther and the Reformation ushered in new freedoms and laid the groundwork for our liberal economic order, and even today they represent a culture that matches freedom with responsibility, a culture that embraces the canon of values underlying our democratic societies.

Culture provides the “value framework” for our society and for the world of business. There is good reason why cultural relations is a key component of German foreign policy.

I could put it diplomatically, like Goethe: “The mediator of the inexpressible is the work of art.”

The Federal Foreign Office promotes the German language abroad. There are currently some 14.5 million people learning German around the world, but their numbers are diminishing all the time. In many countries a second foreign language is no longer compulsory at school. By promoting the German language we seek to boost Germany as a location for business and research. We also aim to help young people prepare for new livelihoods in their own countries, in particular in crisis regions.

The 150 Goethe Institutes, the 140 German schools abroad, our 1500 foreign partner schools (under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative), the German universities in cities such as Cairo, Istanbul, Ho Chi Minh City, Almaty in Kazakhstan, as well as the Danube Institute at Budapest University, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation not only offer German language instruction but also provide a hothouse for the elites of tomorrow.

That is why we are putting extra investment into German language programmes and into the Excellence Initiative for Innovative Learning at the German schools abroad. We want these schools to be an advertisement for the German education system with emphasis on the STEM subjects, digital learning, foreign language instruction and intercultural training. These schools will produce the highly skilled workers and experts of the future that you will need on the German labour market. That’s why we need German businessmen and women as our partners!

Thanks to their promotion of culture and education abroad, the German embassies and consulates provide key marketing support for German business.

The Arab Spring is a historic event which has brought to everybody’s attention the links between values and interests. In the Arab world, people are fighting for universal values such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. We will stand by those who have thrown off the yoke of tyranny and are fighting for genuine change and dignity for all, not just in Egypt and Tunisia, but also in Syria and Libya. Or consider the neighbouring country, Algeria. A huge state with a relatively small population of around 32 million. In 2010, however, more than 25 percent of these people were less than 15 years old. Just think what that means, and what potential is inherent in such a young society. We want German foreign policy in the region to be shaped by a transformation partnership, and we want to help awake civil society in Algeria and the region.

More democracy through education! By investing in minds, also through the dual system of vocational training, we want to create new prospects fast, above all for young people in North Africa. Investing in minds should also counter the risk of Islamicization.

Back in February, we therefore offered Egypt and Tunisia substantial support within the framework of so-called transformation partnerships, and the Federal Foreign Office’s Advisory Council on Global Issues identified northern Africa as exemplifying the links between key climate, security and economic issues.

We support the goal of tapping the intense and reliable sunshine of the deserts of northern Africa as a sustainable source of energy – through DESERTEC. This initiative, which is one of the cornerstones of our transformation partnerships, is a classic win-win project. Together with the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, I have initiated a Round Table at the Federal Foreign Office with ambassadors from northern African countries and other key players and decision-makers. We are staking our bets on an energy policy transformation, and are offering long-term assistance for political and economic transformation in the countries by providing know-how, generating skilled jobs, especially for young people, and creating value added on the ground. Our goal is the creation of an integrated Euro-Mediterranean energy market.

The German business community has recognized the opportunities here and been actively involved from the start. Umbrella organizations such as the Federation of German Industries, the German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce and the Chambers of Commerce Abroad have launched and sponsored projects such as the employment pact in Egypt and the training initiatives in Tunisia.

This year, too, over a thousand businessmen and women have accepted the invitation to today’s event, to an exchange of ideas with the Federal Foreign Office. The talks on “Shaping globalization – ensuring Germany’s prosperity” emphasized that Germany’s good reputation in the world is based not least on the high repute in which German business is held by our international partners, and for that I would like to expressly thank you tonight. The Federal Foreign Office attaches great importance to dialogue with you.

This year, too, we have been able to draw on the expertise of the heads of the German missions abroad and of German companies in our numerous discussion sessions, in order to jointly identify the best ways forward on issues currently of relevance to German external economic affairs.

The discussions have proved enlightening in various ways.

Today we debated possible ways of further improving external economic promotion. What possibilities are being opened up by new areas of business in the megacities of Asia and Latin America? How can we improve the conditions of competition for German companies in Africa? How can the business community and the German Government work together to master the challenges on the energy and commodities markets, or related to making advances in electro mobility?

I would like to thank you for your ideas and suggestions. They will help us match our external economic promotion even better to present needs.

Shaping globalization also means that we have to actively raise our interests and explain our values if we want to assert them successfully. It is becoming ever clearer that values and interests are interdependent; they are two sides of the same coin.

Globalization has effects that have often been discussed, such as the acceleration of exchange and the diminution of distance. But it also has a third, equally obvious effect – issues have become far more interlinked, far more interdependent. For example, climate change can cause food scarcity and political instability. Water, energy and raw materials are also closely related.

It is no longer the individual issues that are important, but the connections between them.

Globalization has put the onus on the Federal Foreign Office to organize the broad spectrum of bilateral issues into a coherent foreign policy, bringing issues, economic requirements and international relations together in a unified whole. Foreign policy is globalization policy. That is why I established an Advisory Council on Global Issues with members from the worlds of business, academia and politics.

I will now turn briefly to our European identity.

The European Union is a union that promotes freedom, a union that is without alternative for the Germans. Just like the euro. For the euro, too, we need a stronger Union, a political Union. The euro is a success story – as you business people know best of all! That is why we now need the necessary coordination and integration of economic, fiscal and monetary policy on the basis of a sensible culture of stability (look – here’s that term “culture” coming in again through the back door).

Just yesterday I met the three founding fathers of the Weimar Triangle. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Hans Dietrich Genscher and Roland Dumas were present, like me, at the Weimar Triangle’s 20th anniversary celebrations at the National Theatre in Weimar, an event hosted by the Government of Thuringia and the Weimar Triangle Committee. Mazowiecki, the first Prime Minister of non-Communist Poland, said “What Europe lacks is faith in itself, in a future imbued with the ”spirit of Weimar“.” Let me add that Europe has given us a great deal that we have come to take for granted too quickly: liberty, peace, growth and prosperity! As Hans Dietrich Genscher so succinctly said: We need more Europe, not less.

“Shaping globalization – ensuring Germany’s prosperity” not only means maintaining business relations, but also promoting networking between societies, knowledge communities and cultures. For innovation and creativity, specialist knowledge and education are indispensable factors in our competitiveness. Our cultural relations and education policy promotes inter-societal exchange and is thus a major pillar of our foreign policy. It provides a space for dialogue, fosters confidence and creates a basis for stable partnerships.

The German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce is an indispensable partner to the Federal Foreign Office with respect to external economic promotion and cultural relations and education policy. I am delighted that we were able to persuade Dr Martin Wansleben, the Association’s CEO, to come and speak to us today.

But before I hand over, I would like to express my very special thanks to those who have made this evening possible. I would like to thank Deutsche Telekom and in particular Ms Nemat and Mr Ropers for allowing us to meet in their historical and yet so wonderfully modern Representative Office. I would also like to thank Mr Ischler and his colleagues from Siemens, Mr Neukirchen and the rest of Lanxess and Dr Wansleben on behalf of the German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce. You have all helped ensure that this closing event takes place in style.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you once again for coming to Berlin to take part in our Business Forum. The doors of the Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad are always open to German business. Don’t hesitate to contact us and make use of any opportunities that may transpire! Thank you.

Earlier today a participant – one of you out there! – called out these words: “If this Ambassadors Conference Business Forum didn’t exist, we would have to invent it.” I can only agree –and add, in the words of Erich Kästner: “There is no good unless one does it!”

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