Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the 10th Conference of German Employees in International Organisations and European Institutions, held in Berlin
Esteemed conference participants,
It is still early in the morning, and many of you have travelled from far afield. So allow me perhaps to start with a few questions for you to help you wake up!
What is the capital of Lesotho?
When did Greece join the EU?
What are the UN’s priorities in Libya?
Where is the seat of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction?
I must admit that some of these questions also have me scratching my head. But I realise that there are many people in this room who know precisely what the answers are. After all, these are all questions from the recruitment tests and job interviews of the institutions that you work for, ladies and gentlemen!
Many of you took these tests – perhaps most fortunately – quite a while ago. Others of you may still recall them well. What these questions clearly show, however, is the impressive journey that you have all travelled in the course of your careers.
And I’m not talking here about the difficult steps that you had to take in order to actually get the jobs you hoped for. No, what I am talking about is, first and foremost, the important and challenging work that you as Germans do day in, day out in these organisations.
My colleagues at the EU, OSCE and UN often tell me how much they value working with their German colleagues – that is, with you – because of your expertise, commitment and reliability.
And especially now in these turbulent times. Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Mali, Iraq, Afghanistan – crises and conflicts are raining down upon us with an unprecedented frequency and vehemence at the present.
Germany made a most conscious decision to assume the OSCE Chairmanship in these difficult times. At the end of the day, it is clear to us that we won’t stand any chance at all – and there’s no guarantee here – of making progress, whether in Ukraine or in the arc of crisis from the Middle East to North Africa, unless we draw on international forums such as the OSCE in our efforts to find political solutions and unless we work together. To do this, we are reliant upon multilateral cooperation, for which we need to work together with you, ladies and gentlemen.
It is also for this reason that we aim to get still more top German personnel into international organisations. After all, a country that has such a strong multilateral outlook and is so globally connected as ours must be sufficiently represented.
Efforts to promote young talent in a targeted manner are already yielding results in many areas.
The German Junior Professional Officers (JPO) programme is now the largest in the world and the most successful scheme of its kind with respect to its hiring rate.
Moreover, an above-average number of Germans continue to achieve success in the EU’s concours.
And in the UN’s Young Professionals Programme, Germans have, thanks to more intense coaching, performed so well in the past five years that Germany has even been excluded from this competition until further notice!
I can only say that I’m glad this rule does not apply to football! Just imagine – a successful team, a world champion, for example, being excluded from the European Championship because it is too talented. It doesn’t bear thinking about! Fortunately, we will be starting the competition with an amazing team in France on Sunday. And I am personally counting on your support for the German team, ladies and gentlemen, no matter whether you work in Brussels, Madrid or London.
Promoting young talent is not everything, however, neither in the football world nor in the political arena.
We must also be represented in management-level positions. We were painfully reminded of the fact that this is not an easy task in the past 16 months with the three top German candidates in the UN system. And this was despite the fact that they were excellent candidates and despite the full support of the Federal Government. But we will not slacken our efforts here and are already in the process of preparing our next attempts.
We are both well into the German OSCE Chairmanship. And we are not the only ones currently liaising extremely closely with each other – our colleagues are working together productively at all levels. Permit me to offer my German colleagues at the OSCE here in this room this year an extra warm welcome and my sincere thanks.
Last night, we were reminded once again that the work of the OSCE and especially our colleagues belonging to the monitoring mission on the ground in Ukraine is not easy and also not without danger. By working together and exerting sufficient pressure, we managed to secure the release of a captured OSCE observer. However, we have also experienced other cases, particularly at the beginning of the mission, where this took a very long time and it was unclear what the final outcome would be.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our OSCE colleagues’ work is difficult; it requires tact, commitment and, in many cases, tenacity. And it is essential, even if success is not guaranteed and is also not always apparent. We are used to thinking in small steps and to celebrating small successes. These steps may often appear to be too small in the eyes of many media observers, however. Such commentators overlook the fact that new stability can emerge from the mosaic of small steps and that this can shape a path towards peace.
And what is all too often forgotten, in all the difficulties and frustration that we are experiencing in our efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, are the dimensions that this crisis could have taken on if the OSCE had not been there. If we didn’t have this important instrument of dialogue and de‑escalation. I for one am glad, Lamberto, that we have the OSCE and its excellent employees.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to turn to a further topic that is in the spotlight today: the 2030 Agenda. The international community made a great step forwards with its adoption in September 2015. While this is true, now it’s time for the real work – to implement the agenda! In the last few days, we invited a group of high-ranking German experts from various international organisations to Berlin to discuss this topic. And I am most delighted that a number of them were willing to stay to continue their discussions with you. Many thanks for your great dedication.
I would like to mention one last thing, ladies and gentlemen. It is a topic that, I hope, is occupying many of you: Europe!
And, for once, I don’t mean the European Championship, but rather the future of the European Union. Our gaze is fixed on the Brexit debate and the few days that we have ahead of us before the referendum in the UK.
And if we want to draw a parallel with the European Championship, then allow me perhaps to put it like this: you all know that, from tomorrow, three teams from the UK will be taking part in the football tournament held in France – England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
On 23 June, we will know which of the three has made it into the final sixteen.
And on 24 June? I would welcome it if at least one team from the UK were among the final 16 on 24 June, but also if the country as a whole were to remain on the ball in the European Union and that we can continue to go about the business of European politics together with this country in the EU.
This sentence right at the end of my speech is my sincerest wish. Because I do not believe that the EU would be the same without the UK – following a UK exit from the Union. It is not just a question of moving on with 28 minus one. The character of this Union would change. Therefore it is not only our love for the UK, but above all our appreciation of the EU and the European integration process that must make us hope that the UK remains within the EU.
I hope you will all enjoy an excellent conference and enriching discussions. Thank you very much.