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Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during the debate in the German Bundestag on the presentation of the 2023 federal budget

07.09.2022 - Speech

No matter how hard and terrible the last six months have been, we can be really proud and grateful to not only have defended the people in Ukraine and our peaceful order, but also when we see how our country ‒ and above all, the people in it ‒ have stood united and demonstrated unconditional solidarity with those who had to flee Ukraine. This cohesion, this unity, was and remains our common strength.

And yes, I listened very closely to the debate this morning. Some speakers hinted at it, while others asked openly whether we are doing enough, each and every minute, to strive for peace by diplomatic means. Yes, we are trying to do so, each and every minute! But especially now when we are paying tribute to the late Mikhail Gorbachev, we must remember that it is not him we are dealing with in this situation, but the Russian President.

What matters right now is saving people’s lives – and not the German Foreign Minister being in the headlines because she also spoke on the phone to someone in Russia. That is why we have been deploying all our diplomatic energy during the past six months to save people’s lives, working behind the scenes, via the United Nations because it currently represents the only key to bringing us even a millimetre closer to peace.

That is why I, my team, the German Government and the Federal Chancellor particularly support the organisations that still have some access to Ukraine ‒ the International Committee of the Red Cross to enable humanitarian corridors and the IAEA to prevent a nuclear disaster. This work behind the scenes to help people ‒ and not huge headlines ‒ is effective diplomacy, as the only thing that matters are the people whose lives are at risk.

We are fortunate to live in a free country where everyone can say what they want and demonstrate for or against whomever or whatever they want. But I ask you not to make it so easy for the Russian regime to attack our greatest strength in these situations, namely our cohesion, this moment when we stand together as one.

Today is not the only example of certain people not saying a particular thing here in the Bundestag, but being very quick indeed to spread their message on Facebook or Twitter. I really find it incredibly cynical to play people in Germany who are worried about how they will pay their gas or electricity bills off against people in Africa who don’t know how they will be able to feed their children in the next few days or to talk like that about gas bills when the most fervent wish of Ukrainian mothers and children every single day is to be finally reunited with their husband and father. To be honest, I think this is exceptionally cynical.

This is not human rights policy, but rather support for those who are attacking not only Ukraine, but also the rules-based international order.

We need to realise that this war is being played out on various levels, not only with arms, but also with gas and oil, with lies and false narratives.

And yes, videos are edited to this end so that they convey a totally different message to what was actually said. Yes, it is part of our job to be able to cope with that. This is why I urge all those who believe in international law and in the strength of the law rather than the law of the strong not to be fooled, but to help ensure we recognise such manipulation together! One of us here may be the target of such propaganda today, but tomorrow it could be someone who is more vulnerable than we are.

We already experienced all this when millions of refugees came to Europe. Mayors who worked on a voluntary basis resigned, saying they could no longer stand the abuse.

That is the moment where we need to stand together, starting right at the top with those here in parliament who have all the means, channels and publicity to counter this false propaganda.

And this does not just mean calling out fake news. It also means ‒ and yes, this is the role of the German Government ‒ helping people who are rightfully worried about what to expect in the winter and about what will happen if they can’t pay their energy bills by providing them with a social relief package.

We discussed this in depth today. But not allowing ourselves to be divided also means that this cohesion cannot only be at the domestic level. It also needs to be international.

That is why it will not be enough if the EU, NATO and the G7 continue to stand as united as they have done so far in the coming months. It is also crucial that the 141 countries, and to be honest, that number is growing and not decreasing when we speak behind the scenes, continue to stand together.

That is why it is so important that the one billion euro for global food aid in the relief package, but particularly in this budget, convey a clear message that now, when our European peaceful order is under attack, we are supporting in particular at the international level those who most need our support.

I would like to take this opportunity to say ‒ and this is something we also discussed at today’s Committee on Foreign Affairs meeting ‒ that it is very important to me that we don’t make it too easy for ourselves in the Sahel.

As the German Foreign Minister, as a member of the German Government, but actually also speaking on behalf of the EU, I cannot urge other countries to help us defend our peaceful order in Europe, but then to say we don’t have enough capacity or resources at the moment to continue our engagement in the Sahel. In the modern world, everything is connected.

Yes, our soldiers’ safety is paramount. But it is equally crucial that we are reliable partners now in particular, and we are also working together on that.

In this context, I would like to thank all those who are thinking constructively about how we can set clear priorities in humanitarian assistance, as well as in cultural relations and education policy, at a time when we have to make hard choices.

I have also paid close attention to what some of you have advised me, namely to watch out that the budget isn’t dramatically cut. But overall this means understanding that in one of the most severe foreign-policy crises ever, we cannot cut back on foreign-policy spending and economic cooperation. Instead, we need to safeguard the budgets needed for these areas in the future.

One of my African counterparts told me very clearly: “We don’t need partners who only want to please us. We want partners who believe in us.”

We can only convince others if we continue working together, not only at the level of ministries of foreign affairs, but also in cultural and educational policy, research labs and journalists’ organisations.

Now is the time when we need to stand united at the international level. Now is the time to fight together for a world in which rules and the law apply, not power, lies and despotism. That is also the best protection for our democracy and for a strong social state.

Thank you very much.

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