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Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in the Bundestag debate on the Federal Foreign Office budget for 2023

23.11.2022 - Speech

“We need partners we can rely on.”

That is the sentence I have heard voiced with a great sense of urgency over and over again this past year, wherever I have been – not only in Ukraine, not only in the Baltic region, but also in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and especially at this Climate Change Conference.

For many partners outside Europe, it is not Russia’s brutal war of aggression that is the prime concern when it comes to their security, but the climate crisis – droughts, flooding, displacement resulting from climate change. The truth we have had to face up to this year – a year which has been anything but easy and which I would actually say has largely been terrible – is that Russia’s war of aggression has torn existing wounds further open, especially in relation to the global food crisis. That’s why we are making available an additional one billion euro in this budget, the 2022 budget, to tackle the global food crisis.

Yes, I know that much more is needed. The World Food Programme puts the figure at 44 billion euro.

But here I would point out that within the last ten years, Germany – and this includes all democratic parties here in the German Bundestag – has increased its funding for humanitarian assistance more than twenty-fold. In 2023, as some previous speakers have said, it will amount to 2.7 billion euro. For that I would like to extend sincere thanks to you, esteemed colleagues on the Budget Committee, but also to everyone else who has played a part this year and in previous years – because it is engagement like this that creates the trust Germany continues to enjoy in the world.

Ms Papenbrock and others have already mentioned that reliability is something we need not only in humanitarian assistance, but also when it comes to scholarships, and education and cultural work. I often hear this from various quarters: Germany is the fourth-strongest economy, so why do we have to be the second-largest global donor? We don’t have to be. Of course we can take a different approach.

But I think this year has shown very clearly – and you on the far right should consider this too – that we will never be able to defend our peace, our freedom, our security in Europe on our own – not with weapons on our own, not with diplomacy on our own. Rather, we need the international community.

That’s why I am proud that our country is the world’s second-largest donor.

We will therefore further expand our international cooperation. And particularly our engagement in the Sahel. We decided with ministerial colleagues yesterday that we will recalibrate our engagement in the Sahel, a region blighted by crises, in cooperation with our international partners. In this context, we want to suggest to the Bundestag – as you know, the mandate is up in May, and this gives us time to discuss it in depth with you – that, after ten years, and as part of a revised strategy on the Sahel, we wind down our engagement in the MINUSMA mission in a structured manner.

Ms Dağdelen, you just said that this is the longest withdrawal you’ve known. Yes, because we are reliable partners, because a hasty withdrawal would be exactly the opposite of a foreign policy based on trust.

We are not simply saying that, despite promising countries like Bangladesh or other African states engaged in MINUSMA – you’ve been there yourself, Ms Dağdelen – that we would continue for another year to provide transport helicopters, we’ve changed our mind;

but things are a bit difficult in Germany just now, so we are withdrawing immediately. No. That would be the exact opposite of responsible, and especially of trustful, foreign policy.

Because this mission is about peacekeeping, about steps towards democracy, our proposal is that we continue to provide support in particular for the elections, which we have repeatedly called for and which will take place, we hope, as has been promised, next year and in spring 2024. At the same time, we are making it clear, also in the preparatory work for the National Security Strategy, that UN peace missions remain an essential component of our foreign, development and security policy.

UN peace missions also serve our own security here at home.

Life is complex. If it were just black or white, if everything were simple, then we wouldn’t need such intensive debates as this. Of course security in the Sahel region means, just as it does for us here, completely networked security. If we’re talking about support from the Bundeswehr, we also have to talk about education policy.

We have to talk about climate policy. We are seeing a dramatic illustration of why countries like the Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world and yet determined to remain democratic, why countries like Ghana or Kenya asked us, indeed urged us, at the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting to remain on the ground.

It’s because they know that the terrorist movements hope to taking advantage of the fact that there’s no movement on education or climate work, because then it’s easy for them to recruit.

That’s why it is so important for us to pursue this networked approach, even if it is difficult for us, even if inflation is currently still rising here at home.

Because the world is interconnected – it’s good that we don’t live in isolation – we fought at the Climate Change Conference along with the Development Minister in particular, but also the Environment Minister, the Agriculture Minister and the Economic Affairs Minister – there are a lot of us involved in our climate diplomacy – to reduce our CO2 emissions at long last and at the same time to open up a new chapter in the area of climate justice.

Now you’re heckling “No-one needs climate diplomacy!” Yes, we do! Because otherwise we are endangering our own security.

Of course, we also saw at the Climate Change Conference that the whole time in the background it was all about geostrategy. That is why our strategy on China has a lot to do with our climate diplomacy.

At the conference, namely, we saw a country like Zambia suddenly saying that industrial countries shouldn’t cut their emissions further. You have to wonder how that can happen.

Then when the Chinese representative spoke, he thanked Zambia. You have to wonder – what does that have to do with China? Yes, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy has just been to Zambia and can report who financed the airport in Zambia: China.

In this complicated, complex world of ours, everything is connected with everything else. That is why it is so important that we think about climate policy, humanitarian assistance and our China strategy all together, and do not play one thing off against the other.

To my mind, this also means that we must not play diplomacy and military engagement off against each other. There are moments in life when it’s not enough just to wish that this war were over. Rather, there are moments in life when you have to decide what side you’re on – the side of justice or the side of injustice, the side of the attacker or the side of the attacked.

I am pleased to say that on 24 February, or the weekend thereafter, we democratic parties in this House together decided that we are on Ukraine’s side, the side of the people in Ukraine. In this case, too, I can say that I am proud and privileged to be able to represent a country in which the vast majority says “It isn’t easy with energy prices as they are, and it’s really hard with food prices rising too,” and rightly pose critical questions of their government, but in which both a 98-year-old pensioner and a 9-year-old schoolgirl say “This winter we will continue to stand by Ukraine’s side, because the bombing hasn’t stopped, despite the grain deal, despite the diplomatic negotiations about Zaporizhzhia. On the contrary, infrastructure is being deliberately targeted.” We will not allow Russia’s starve and freeze strategy to be successful.

Esteemed colleagues, thank you.

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