Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to the German Bundestag at the second and third reading of the 2018 federal budget

04.07.2018 - Speech

– verbatim report of proceedings –

Mr President, fellow members of this House, ladies and gentlemen,

I would first of all like to thank you most sincerely for your recognition of the work done by our diplomatic service around the world. I will pass it on with pleasure and firmly believe that this praise is justified.

I’m also looking forward to the budget debate due to begin on Friday and hope that you will all support with equal vigour the personnel numbers and the development plans for the diplomatic service we will put forward there. For much of what you have said today will be included in them.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fact that the diplomatic service really does have an increasingly important role to play is due to the dramatic changes in the international order. All of the key concerns have actually already been mentioned in this debate: transatlantic relations, the growing authoritarian developments in Russia, in China or in Turkey, the increasing number of nations choosing to go it alone rather than engage in multilateral cooperation – and sadly there are ever more examples of this in Europe, too – and the attacks on the rules-based world order.

Yes, fellow members of this House, it actually isn’t so important in such a debate or within the overall political context who can deliver the best explanation for all of these developments. Rather, what should matter is who has the best political answers. That’s why I want to first of all say that there is one answer which is not an option. For it would mean us stooping to the level of those whom we all, or almost all of us, criticise. That answer is isolationism and nationalism. Those who react to isolationism with isolationism are heading down the wrong road and, in the situation we currently find ourselves in, will help turn Germany into a political dwarf. We cannot allow that to happen.

Without our partners, especially without our European partners, we won’t be able to successfully tackle any of the challenges facing us. Neither the migration issue nor climate change – climate change really is making the Atlantic a bit bigger, Mr Karl – nor the threat to world trade we’re talking about nor the issue of the nuclear order which we have to deal with – not even we, the largest member state of the European Union, will be able to resolve any of these issues on our own. In reality, ladies and gentlemen, the only answer to – and these slogans are interchangeable – “America first”, “Russia first” or “China first” can only be “Europe united”.

I also want to say something to those here who are always talking about Germany’s interests: yes, German foreign policy also has to serve Germany’s interests.

Indeed, its prime purpose is to serve German interests. However, you have to realise that the way things are in the world at present, Germany’s interests now have a name, and that name is Europe.

Thus, everything that benefits Europe is in Germany’s interests. If you haven’t understood that then you should start to look at the realities of today’s world.

A review of the current situation in Europe shows that there are indeed divisions: in the migration issue, as well as in financial policy and in many other issues. More and more countries are going it alone without prior consultation.

This is usually at the expense of others, and that’s why conducting politics in this way won’t work on the whole. There’s no sensible alternative to tackling the major problems of our time in a united Europe. This Government’s foreign policy is committed to this.

Ladies and gentlemen, we also have to say something about how to make the European Union capable of conducting foreign policy. For the demands on it are growing. We – not us alone but together with our French friends – have put forward some proposals on this. In future, we don’t want the Council to make foreign policy decisions on a unanimous basis. Rather we want – and the treaties permit this – to identify issues on which majority decisions can be made so we can act as quickly and effectively as possible. We need the European Security and Defence Union. By pooling our interests – in the form of a European Ostpolitik, a balanced new partnership with the United States as well as a European Africa policy – we’re doing what the challenges of today’s world demand of us. This, too, is a European task which we want to successfully master.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re already doing this in many other foreign policy issues, also with our partners, and are shouldering responsibility. Not so long ago – for the first time in more than 16 months – the Normandy format Foreign Ministers met once again thanks to a Franco-German initiative. We brought the Russians and Ukrainians back to the negotiating table for the first time in more than a year and discussed with them how matters that had long been agreed in the Minsk agreements – such as the ceasefire or the withdrawal of heavy weapons – could finally be implemented, and how we could lend the entire process more momentum with a new initiative, namely a UN mission for eastern Ukraine.

This is the subject of very concrete negotiations at present.

You know that we’re working with our French and British partners to uphold the nuclear agreement with Iran. For we’re convinced that this is better than not having any agreement at all and driving Iran in a direction no-one wants. That could possibly prompt a momentum in the completely wrong direction in those issues we already find problematic – Iran’s role in the region and its ballistic missile programme. We will therefore do everything we can to ensure that Iran sticks to this deal.

For this agreement ensures that there will be no nuclear development for military purposes in that country. The same goes for the Syria conflict. After a long break from the negotiating table, we’re now negotiating with our partners in the Small Group.

You’re shouting, “What’s the point?” I don’t have an answer to that. But honestly, if I were to sit down at every negotiating table thinking “what’s the point?”, then I would probably be better off staying at home.

And if you conduct foreign policy with a “what’s the point?” attitude, then perhaps it would be better to choose another field.

You can’t afford to behave like that in the sphere of foreign policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m glad that during these deliberations a not inconsiderable sum has been injected into the Government’s draft budget – and in the right places. For that I would like to thank you all most sincerely. You have thus enabled us to rise to the ever greater challenges facing the diplomatic service. Once again, thank you!

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