Article by Federal Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier for the French newspaper Les Echos. Published on 20 March 2015.
When I leafed through my diary recently, I realised that hardly one week – sometimes not even one day – has gone by without me speaking to Laurent Fabius, and that there has not been one month without a meeting or a joint trip. That reflects the intensity of our joint diplomatic efforts to diffuse conflicts and crises. Yet it also shows that the close partnership with France is part of the DNA of German politics. The terrible atrocities in Paris affected me as deeply as if I were myself French, and the cry of protest “Nous sommes tous Charlie” summed up this feeling well.
The attacks targeted our fundamental values: freedom, self‑determination, tolerance, the peaceful co‑existence of peoples and religions. Germany and France are united by their active commitment to these values, a lesson and a task that our history has given us. I also regard it as a historical obligation to take a decisive stand against all forms of discrimination, anti‑Semitism and racism. Laurent Fabius and I intend to maintain our commitment to this goal.
In the Ukraine crisis France and Germany have been working since day one to find a peaceful solution. On numerous joint visits to Kyiv and Moscow and in close cooperation with our EU partners we are striving to find ways to establish a permanent ceasefire in the country and to lay the foundations for a peaceful future.
We are standing shoulder to shoulder to confront the terrorist threat in the Middle East. In Africa we are promoting a networked approach to stabilisation and development. Germany and France are working to encourage more effective cooperation with the EU’s neighbours both to the south and to the east. That is one of the reasons why Laurent Fabius and I visited Tunisia, Georgia and Moldova together.
The European Union remains the foundation of Franco‑German cooperation and the source of our strength. That is why it is important to expose the populist manipulation attempts for what they are – they want to weaken Europe, claiming that states are stronger acting on their own than within the European alliance.
The scope of our foreign policy is closely linked to economic development. In the medium and long term we in Germany face far‑reaching challenges such as the transformation of the energy system, the digital revolution and demographic change. The low birth rate in our country is reducing the opportunities for growth and prosperity in the future. We are also lagging behind with regard to investment in maintaining our infrastructure. We can learn from France in these areas: in supporting families, childcare and combining work and family life, but also with regard to building an efficient transport infrastructure.
France has embarked on a difficult reform process designed to make the country fit for the future. I know from my own experience in Germany how hard it is to implement effective structural reforms. Everyone had to do their part: politicians, enterprises and employees. We have also had to accept that it takes time for our efforts to bear fruit. Bringing reforms to their conclusion requires courage, determination and patience.
But it is worth the effort. The reforms that France is introducing at the moment and the Government’s other projects will trigger growth. Growth creates jobs and higher wages. I am convinced that, with its reform process, France is heading in the right direction and has earned the trust of its European partners.
The Franco‑German Council of Ministers will convene in Berlin in a few days’ time. We want to continue our exchange and coordination and examine where and how we can reinforce our common stance – in the interests of our people and with the aim of building a strong France, a strong Germany and a strong Franco‑German tandem.