Interview by Foreign Minister Steinmeier in the Brazilian newspaper “Folha de São Paulo”. Published on 19 August 2015.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier, you and Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Brazil at a time of serious political instability (with President Dilma Rousseff at a record-low level of popularity) and demonstrations on the streets. How does the German Government see this situation in Brazil?
Our profound and friendly bilateral relations go back a long way, with the first German immigrants arriving in Brazil almost 200 years ago. German companies set up in Brazil 150 years ago. Brazil, and São Paulo in particular, has since become one of the most important locations of German industry abroad, a major hub of German expertise, engineering and design.
That is the best example to illustrate that we take a long-term perspective in our bilateral relations. Our relationship is built on mutual trust and shared values. Brazil is and remains our most important partner in Latin America – entirely irrespective of current challenges in Brazilian domestic politics. A strengthened German-Brazilian partnership is in our common interest, both locally and globally.
What are the main subjects that Germany will put on the table in the bilateral consultations with the Brazilian Government? What will Germany offer Brazil in terms of cooperation?
The fact that high-ranking members of the German Government will cross the Atlantic and pay Brazil a visit to hold the first intergovernmental consultations with our Brazilian partners tomorrow in Brasília is a strong and globally visible expression of our strategic partnership with Brazil. There are only a few countries in Europe, and even fewer beyond Europe’s borders, with which Germany engages so intensively.
As important players in their respective regions, Germany and Brazil intend to intensify cooperation and exchange on international affairs, as we just recently successfully did when we gained consensus on our German-Brazilian resolutions on internet privacy at the United Nations. We will also look into the future of peacekeeping, fostering human rights issues and strengthening maritime security.
The consultations will also lend important momentum to our bilateral cooperation. Germany and Brazil will intensify their already remarkably strong cooperation in the fields of science, technology and education. Let me mention a few examples. We will sign a framework agreement on intensified cooperation in research and science. We have developed project agreements on the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory. We want to create new opportunities for young Brazilians interested in learning German at school in Brazil. We will be looking into plans for a Centre for German and European Studies in Brazil. And we want to establish a new framework for future cooperation on urban development, including water management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transport.
With less than four months to go until Paris COP 21, Brazil hasn’t yet set its goals for greenhouse gas emissions. Given the fact that Germany is a key player in the effort to cut global emissions, will you and Chancellor Merkel ask President Rousseff to make a decision regarding this issue during your visit? What does Germany expect from Brazil?
A far-reaching and ambitious climate treaty is a key factor for the sustainable future of our planet. Both Brazil and Germany need to live up to their global responsibilities. We want to play a leading role at the climate conference in Paris in December. We are currently working on a joint declaration of intent regarding COP 21. Germany is strongly committed to contributing to all elements of the COP 21 agreement – decarbonisation, adaptation and climate finance. Germany’s “Energiewende” – the transformation of our energy system – has become a trademark for ambitious reforms that fundamentally change our approach to producing and consuming energy in a sustainable way. I am confident that Brazil will not be any less ambitious.
What negotiation strategy will Germany use in Paris to prevent failure to reach a deal, like at the 2009 Copenhagen summit?
Our French hosts decided to enter the decisive phase of pre-negotiations at a very early stage, and governments around the world have been constructively involved in the negotiation process from early on. I am convinced that this is the right way to tackle these issues. Paris has our unequivocal support. There is a sense of a constructive and positive atmosphere in the run-up to the conference and a general commitment to political leadership – such as at the G7 summit that was held in Germany in June. We need to make sure that the positive monentum will help us to make substantial progress during the actual negotiations.
The Mercosur-EU free trade negotiations have been facing a slowdown. Why isn’t there a breakthrough on this issue? How could Germany help to make this process faster? And what should be Brazil’s role from Germany’s point of view?
We discussed possible progress during the EU-CELAC Summit and at the Mercosur-EU Ministerial Meeting in early June. I am confident that this will lend new impetus to the negotiations and help us to conclude an ambitious, comprehensive and balanced agreement. On both sides of the Atlantic, we have a lot to gain from further strengthening our trade and investment relations. Within the EU, but also vis-à-vis our Mercosur partners, we will continue to work towards a substantive agreement that helps to intensify and strengthen EU-Mercosur relations. I know that the same holds true for Brazil, which is equally dedicated to this process.
Besides the financial crisis, Greece has currently been experiencing great difficulties in dealing with a massive influx of immigrants coming from Turkey. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has already asked for the EU’s help. Does Germany have any plans to provide Greece with economic support for this migration crisis?
The situation of millions of refugees who are fleeing civil war and political turmoil in the Middle East, in Syria and elsewhere, and in Africa is indeed dramatic. The drastic increase of the influx of refugees to the shores of Europe is a huge challenge to our humanity and solidarity. It is true that Greece is hit hard by the arrival of refugees. Every day, thousands of refugees arrive on the islands and in mainland Greece.
Solidarity is an important cornerstone of the European idea, and this holds particularly true in the case of Greece, which has just started to implement further demanding profound and far-reaching reforms. We must and we will support Greece in this matter. It is our moral obligation to provide shelter to those fleeing war and oppression. Germany itself has become a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of refugees. No country outside the region has taken more refugees from Syria than Germany has. We have provided support via the UNHCR and Red Cross missions to refugees in Greece, but clearly, more needs to be done. We are currently talking with the Greek Government about further forms of support.
With the world in turmoil and in search of a new order, we need to realise that huge refugee flows are a challenge that we will have to deal with for decades. This is certainly one of the most pressing issues of our time. We need to cooperate not only on a European, but also on a global level, and to develop comprehensive strategies. One key is certainly to address the roots of migration, that is, to improve the situation in the countries of origin and transit.