Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel departed for the Baltic states late on Tuesday evening (28 February), and will visit four countries in three days. His agenda in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius on Wednesday will include talks with his counterparts, meetings on cooperation with media partners and a visit to a NATO base. His trip will continue in Kyiv on Thursday and Friday.
Following his first official visits to Austria and Italy, Foreign Minister Gabriel’s next trip is to eastern Europe. His visit is an expression of solidarity with the Baltic states. Germany stands resolutely shoulder to shoulder with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on security issues within the framework of its obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty.
Cooperation on security
The first stop on the trip was the Estonian capital Tallinn, where Gabriel met his counterpart Sven Mikser early in the morning. Their talks focused on the future of the European Union – a topic on which Germany and Estonia are cooperating very closely. Estonia will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Malta in the second half of the year. Gabriel pledged Germany’s support on this and on security issues, underlining its “commitment to common security”.
Enhancing European coordination
The future of the European Union was also the main point on the agenda in Riga, the second stop on the trip. Gabriel and his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičs were in agreement on the development of the Union. Europe must be more than simply a strong single market and a free trade zone, they said. “We will only be taken seriously in the world as Europeans if we make headway on political cooperation on our continent,” Gabriel underlined. European coordination needed to be enhanced in particular with regard to a common foreign and security policy and protecting the external borders.
Close friendship and cooperation
At the end of the first day of his trip, Gabriel met his counterpart Linas Linkevičius in Lithuania. Germany and Lithuania are linked by close friendship and cooperation, he said. Once again, the topic of security played an important role in the talks. Foreign Minister Gabriel summed up by saying that “security in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania is also our own security”.
Visits to the NATO contingent and to media partners
The focus of Thursday’s agenda was on security. In the morning, Foreign Minister Gabriel first paid a visit to a NATO contingent in Lithuania that includes German soldiers.
Another important aspect of the trip is cooperation with media partners in the Baltic. Through bilateral initiatives, Germany is supporting all three countries in their efforts to counter disinformation campaigns. Various projects are being funded, for example journalist seminars. The aim is to strengthen independent Russian media outlets in the Baltic states, so that local ethnic minorities can receive their information from professional sources. This cooperation began in the form of various projects in 2015, and Gabriel used this visit to be brought up to date on their state of implementation.
Next stop: Ukraine
After winding up his visit to the Baltic states, Foreign Minister Gabriel on Thursday afternoon travelled to Kyiv. The visit took place at a special time: this year marks the 25th anniversary of Germany and Ukraine taking up diplomatic relations. In Kyiv, Gabriel met with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin. He also held talks with President Poroshenko and the President of the Ukrainian Parliament. The focus of these meetings was the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Both sides used this opportunity to search for ways to implement the Minsk agreements.
After conclusion of the talks, Gabriel is expected to arrive back in Berlin on Friday afternoon.