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Dear Frances Levine,
dear Dorris Keeven-Franke,
Consul General Quelle,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
What an honor and pleasure to be with you here in St. Louis, Missouri.
When I was invited to come to St. Louis as German Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation, there was no question but to say yes. It is all too obvious for me to come here to St. Louis, the American heartland. St. Louis has always been a beacon of transatlantic cooperation and friendship. And of true German-American history at its best.
It comes to me as no surprise that the renowned Society for German-American Studies just held its annual symposium here in St. Louis last week – on: “the heartlands – America’s most German region”.
And this very museum – the Missouri History Museum – is paying tribute to the German-American heritage and to the very mixed German history and its repercussions for transatlantic relations. It has been showing one exhibition connected to Germany and will do so beginning this week with another.
Let me first refer to the exhibition, which will be closing this week, but has been showing since last November: “Utopia – revisiting a German State in America”.
181 years ago a group of around 500 people of the “Gießen Emigration Society”under the leadership of lawyer Paul Follenius and reverend Friedrich Münch decided to leave Germany behind and seek for a better, a more self-determined life “in the United States of North America”.
They did so as many others did. We – and many German-American Clubs and Societies – remember the most prominent names: Friedrich von Steuben, who helped fight for American independence, among others as Chief of the Armed Forces under George Washington. Or Carl Schurz, who emigrated to the United States just a couple of years later than the emigrants from Gießen.
He was elected to the US Senate as the first German-born Senator and later served in President Hayes’ cabinet.
All of these people and the millions of Germans who emigrated to the United States in subsequent years contributed tremendously to the culture, politics and to the economy of this country. The world-famous Anheuser-Busch brewery – just a stone-throw from this museum – is one brilliant example of German entrepreneurship in this new world.
What these people developed and created serves as the basis of our mutual trust and friendship. They were the guarantors for a common value system, which developed further over time.
I could go much more into details about the many achievements of German emigrants in the United States and in the State of Missouri. I could talk about our common history for hours. And I could specifically talk about the experiences of those 500 newly arrived emigrants from Gießen as they spent their first days here in Missouri. But I do think that the exhibition serves this purpose much better.
I would rather like to talk about the present and future, and what the transatlantic partnership means and stands for. And I want to talk about why this common heritage, this common value-base is so important.
I am convinced that the transatlantic relations are currently more important than ever, especially in these turbulent times with many crises around the world. It is more important than ever for us to invest in this close partnership and friendship.
And the transatlantic relations are not something which is being defined and knit in the centers of politics on the East Coast. They are fostered and defined as much here in heartland America.
As the world evolves, we should however not take the close relationship for granted and leave it as such. We need to work on this close and special relationship day-by-day and continue to invest in it. We need to continue to engage, exchange and enhance our mutual understanding and friendship. This is exactly what your are doing here in St. Louis and at Missouri History Museum! This is why exhibitions such as the ones presented here are so important.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are currently experiencing a sea change in the world. We have reached a time in which the co-existence of people in the world as well as the rules of this co-existence are being newly defined.
Attacks on the international order as we know it are increasing. An order, which has brought us a binding framework of international law, peace, reliability and prosperity.
The crisis in Europe caused by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in violation of international law and its targeted destabilization of eastern Ukraine is one of the clearest signs of attack on the international order. At the same time the terrorism which has been spreading with unparalleled brutality under the banner of ISIS is shaking the fundamental pillars of the universal system of human rights.
And in many other regions of the world, too, the order which we helped shape and which we value so highly is being called into question – sometimes openly, sometimes subtly. I am concerned about processes which are gradually undermining the principles of the rule of law in parts of Latin America. I am equally concerned by the increasing aggressiveness of attempts to enforce territorial claims in Asia.
It is up to us – the United States and Europe - to shape the process of further developing the international order together, actively and assertively. And it must continue to be based on the principles and values which we recognize as right and just in the future, too.
Let me be clear: Only the European Union and the United States of America have the joint power and strength to maintain, strengthen and further develop the international order in the direction we want to and according to our values.
I am talking about the right to freedom of opinion, to free and fair elections, about the basic principle of liberty, women’s rights, the protection of minorities, in short: the protection of universal human rights, and of the principle of the rule of law, of the integrity of national borders, of free and fair trade which guarantees the protection of workers’ rights, health and our environment.
If the US and the EU do not manage to jointly defend this order then others will fill the vacuum, as is already happening in parts of the world. And I can only warn against letting matters take their own course.
There are various concrete developments and events, which ask for coordinated US-EU leadership:
Most prominently, the negotiations for a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement – the so –called TTIP –are a decisive mechanism to bring us – not only our economies – even closer together.
A forward-looking, robust agreement would bring roughly 50% of global GDP closer together and create an unmatched space for entrepreneurial freedom, innovation and economic growth and prosperity.
Moreover, it would set the rules and standards for global trade in the 21st century as we define it – not others. This is why I am not only a fervent supporter of TTIP, but continue to do my utmost to facilitate a timely conclusion of the negotiations.
The United States and Germany are also key in defending global goods – the so-called “global commons”. International climate policy is particularly important in light of the upcoming climate conference, the COP21, set to take place in Paris in December this year. As you know, in recent years under the leadership of Chancellor Merkel Germany has developed into a worldwide pioneer of intelligent economic policy geared towards maintaining an industrial foundation and innovative spirit whilst conducting environmentally-friendly energy policy. We have received praise and recognition from around the world for our efforts.
But also the US is quickly developing new technologies to use energy more efficiently and decrease the amount of green house gases emitted – despite the new abundance of unconventional energy reserves. We should bring our efforts together and move forward a transatlantic initiative which provides international climate policy with significant impetus and which sets standards for the future!
Ladies and gentlemen,
Especially the events in Ukraine have underscored once again the importance of our security partnership under the umbrella of NATO. Russia’s unlawful actions required a joint and firm response. We sent this response in close and coordinated fashion applying a targeted and forceful sanctions regime which already shows its effectiveness.
At the same time, we will pursue every possible diplomatic effort to bring all parties back to a negotiating table. The latest meeting of the Foreign Ministers in the so-called “Normandy format” yesterday in Berlin, as well as today’s meeting of the G7 Foreign Ministers in Lübeck served this diplomatic purpose. At the end of the day, the Ukraine crisis will only be solved sustainably through diplomatic means. It is this conviction, which led the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her French counterpart President Francois Hollande to the recent diplomatic initiative.
And the transatlantic allies agreed to a comprehensive reassurance package during the last NATO summit in Wales. By concrete action and new mechanisms we will do everything to assure the security and territorial integrity of each and every member state of NATO – especially those at its Eastern borders.
And Germany has and will bring in its share in a responsible and reliable way.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I do not have to explain to you the mixed German history with its very dark chapters. And the very important exhibition, which started this week - “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda” -sheds light into one of the darkest chapters of German history – the activities of the terrible Nazi regime that resulted in the Shoah.
Germany has learnt its lessons from this past and has drawn conclusions:
One is that we will never forget this part of German history. We will always bear it in mind as a horrific memory and as a living warning never again to think of, let alone repeat such actions.
Moreover, the lessons of the Shoah obligate us to be watchful and fight upfront any form of Anti-Semitism or other forms of oppression of people based on their religion, ethnicity, belief or habits.
This takes me to another conclusion we have drawn from history: Germany is in an especially important position to be world-wide champion in the fight against Anti-Semitism and oppression. And Germany is taking responsibility for this purpose on the world stage.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Manipulation of public opinion is not only a phenomenon of the past. Especially in our days with the spread of social media we have to be more watchful than ever. If you read the blogs and postings on the Ukraine crisis these days you will be surprised about the level of deliberate misinformation and lies.
Similarly, the terrorist group which calls itself euphemistically “Islamic State” is widening its outrageous recruitment campaign through the internet using a detestable and deeply false world-view.
Let me once again thank the Missouri History Museum for your continued and highly valuable efforts to raise these important issues and questions through the exhibitions you present here in this building. We can never stop making efforts to bringing us closer together and continue understanding each other.