Chrystia, “SPIEGEL” news magazine, which one could say is pretty well known in Germany, once wrote that the two of us look like we have known each other forever and can finish each other’s sentences. It wrote that this was remarkable. And it is remarkable, particularly because we live in a world that is currently changing very rapidly. And yet it seems that there can still be closeness, esteem, reliability and friendship in international politics. That is an exceptionally valuable gift, admittedly one that is unfortunately given far too rarely these days, so I am truly delighted to have the great honour of presenting the Atlantik-Brücke’s Eric. M. Warburg Award to you today as my colleague, but also my friend.
If I had to describe you in a single word, something that is always risky, not least when one sees your wide range of talents and great energy, then I would choose an English word we now use in German and say that you are an influencer. I am aware of the negative connotations of this word and that it usually refers to people who talk a lot but don’t have much to say. That is why I would like this word to mean what it used to – a person who genuinely has a message.
Chrystia, not only do you bring a refreshing style to international politics, you also influence the world through policies based on clear convictions. Furthermore, you have had an impact on transatlantic relations in recent years in this way. It is thus no coincidence that you are the first Canadian to receive the Eric M. Warburg Award.
When we talk about transatlantic relations here in Germany, we usually mean our relationship with the US.
Many of the Eric M. Warburg Award laureates were instrumental in shaping the partnership between Germany and the US in particular through their political foresight and decisive actions.
They include former US President George Herbert Walker Bush, whose death we are mourning on both sides of the Atlantic, especially here in Germany, where we will never forget his staunch support for German unity.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud of and grateful for our transatlantic relations with both partners, the US and Canada, as these relations have had a lasting impact on the fate of the Federal Republic of Germany. Admittedly, this is a long-distance relationship.
But as the saying goes, distance means so little, when someone means so much!
And we are close despite the distance thanks to friendships, very close economic and civil society ties, contacts between policymakers, academic exchange, and not least the decades-long presence of US soldiers and members of the Canadian armed forces here in Germany to this day. These people-to-people encounters continue to form the backbone of transatlantic relations.
And yet, ladies and gentlemen, we sense that the Atlantic has become wider as regards politics. Our relationship status on Facebook would now describe our long-distance relationship with the US as “it’s complicated”.
We thus face the challenge of adjusting the transatlantic partnership – regardless of who is President in Washington. This means that we Europeans will have to take on our share of responsibility for this partnership and do more to foster it. We will need to be more active in areas where the US has decided to play a lesser role.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not doing this in order to play down the importance of the transatlantic relationship – that would be a fatal mistake – but rather to make the transatlantic relationship resilient to future challenges and crises in view of the current upheavals and shifts in the international order.
Chrystia, as Minister of International Trade and then as Minister of Foreign Affairs, you – as a real influencer – recognised these upheavals and the need for an even closer transatlantic partnership at a very early stage, much sooner than other people. Be it as a determined negotiator or prudent foreign policymaker, your aim is to have close relations between Canada and the European Union based on respect and shared values.
And almost as an aside, you have made Canadian foreign policy into a “brand” that clearly and recognisably goes beyond the usual diplomatic chitchat.
You did so by focusing on clearly defined priorities, especially during Canada’s Presidency of the G7, when you also boosted the Group’s already strong multilateral ties. Going against the trend towards isolationism and protectionism, you courageously called for more international cooperation – not less.
You have repeatedly proved your powers of persuasion in the G7.
Just a few days ago, for example, you achieved agreement among the G7 Foreign Ministers on an unambiguous declaration on the situation in the Sea of Azov. And anyone who has ever been a member of the G7 will know that this is no easy task.
Chrystia, I am aware that the situation there is very close to your heart for personal reasons. After all, your mother’s family comes from Ukraine.
That is also why I particularly value your advice on this conflict, and I can assure you that we are also very concerned about the situation.
It was right that the G7 took a united stance on the latest escalation. This was largely your achievement.
You are always guided by Canada’s firm commitment to multilateralism and to our shared transatlantic values.
And you stand by your convictions. That is the most important thing right now in politics. You are also an activist in the best sense of the word. You are both principled and realistic – not an easy combination these days. And you remain optimistic in your work. Otherwise, you would probably not have been able to conduct the NAFTA negotiations with such aplomb. You travelled to Washington wearing a T-shirt your children made for you with the slogan “Keep calm and negotiate NAFTA”.
You stuck to this motto even under severe pressure and a new agreement was reached in the end. That also came as a relief to us Europeans. And somehow this story is typical of you.
Of course, it only took one day before these T-shirts were available on Amazon – as I said, you’re an influencer.
Chrystia, ladies and gentlemen,
I still remember one of our first meetings very vividly. It was at the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Toronto, a meeting you chaired. I arrived earlier than the others and had the chance to watch their arrival. That is always something of a performance because G7 Foreign Ministers are by definition important figures on the world stage and tend to arrive with a certain amount of fanfare. And then you arrived by bike, wearing a leather jacket.
I tried wearing a leather jacket myself a few weeks ago. However, things turned out differently. First of all, it led to a very emotional discussion about whether you can wear a leather jacket as German Foreign Minister. I found that somewhat strange. But then I said to myself, “Guys, if that’s all you’ve got to worry about, then we’re doing pretty well here in Germany”.
Chrystia, I also remember our CETA negotiations very well. I have not forgotten how much passion you brought to this debate, not only in Canada, but also here in Europe. I also remember very clearly – and I think this was the first time we met – that you even attended an SPD party convention to fight for CETA. And I noticed you at the time because you were the only person in a good mood!
Chrystia, your powers of persuasion are extremely impressive. And you are able to convince people in all parts of our society.
CETA is the most ambitious and comprehensive free-trade agreement that the EU has ever negotiated. It sets global standards because it shows that trade promotion, environmental protection, the rights of workers and consumers, and the protection of our shared values are not in fact contradictions in terms. On the contrary, they are interdependent. Political support and international credibility only come about if these things go hand in hand.
CETA’s success cannot only be measured in economic terms. At a time when the rules-based world order is being ever more loudly called into question from an unusual direction, Canada, Germany and the European Union stand for open-mindedness, networks, exchange and free trade.
We will discuss and vote on the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan in the German Bundestag next week. You all know how discussion on free trade agreements went in Germany in the past, and I can’t say that everyone in the political arena got everything right. But I am optimistic that this debate will now be conducted in a very pro-active and determined way, as I think something has changed in recent times. There are two different models. The first one is based on isolationism and protectionism. The other is the model of the free world, namely free trade. And that is why I am sure that our future discussions on free trade agreements will be different to those we had in Germany in the past – and that is a good thing, ladies and gentlemen.
The debate on CETA, but even more so the current campaign on the migration pact, have also shown us that when people feel left behind by globalisation, disinformation campaigns fall on particularly fertile ground. Then you can play on people’s fears.
The impact of that is something we are experiencing in the rise of populist movements, not only in Germany or Europe.
That is one of the greatest challenges to our democratic societies.
Naturally, populists do not provide answers to migration or security issues or to how we can halt climate change. The mere notion that global challenges can be shut out and solved at the national level is dangerously naive.
It sometimes seems that it is no longer about the right answers, but rather about easy answers. The greatest challenges we face are all international issues. Globalisation, digital transformation, migration and climate change are all international issues. That is why it is important, Chrystia, that we work together to ensure that multilateralism has a future.
Chrystia, since our first meeting as Foreign Ministers, we have agreed – and luckily we were not alone in this – that we need to offer an alternative to this growing trend of thinking only as far as one’s own backyard, that is, only as far as one’s own national borders.
After all, our two countries’ success is based on exchange, collaboration, division of labour and international cooperation. We believe in the power of open societies, particularly at a time of global upheavals. We believe that more can be achieved by openness rather than isolation, not only in business, but also in politics.
That is how we differ from those who focus on a purely national frame of reference.
That is why, as Friedrich Merz mentioned, we support an alliance of multilateralists. We want to work with like-minded partners all over the world. Our aim is to create a network to defend existing rules and organisations, but also to reform and develop them further. We also want to create rules for areas not yet subject to regulation. There is certainly plenty of scope here – one example is the joint initiative for disarmament and arms control, which is urgently needed at a time when Russia is clearly in breach of the INF Treaty and arms control architecture is being increasingly undermined.
We also want to work more closely with you and other staunch supporters of multilateralism on other issues, such as reforming international organisations like the WTO.
Our partnership is based on clear values, and that unites us. Closeness is not a matter of distance. If it weren’t for the Atlantic, Chrystia, Canada would be the perfect candidate for EU membership. And a slot will soon become free. But we would prefer to have an extra member, rather than to fill an empty space.
Ladies and gentlemen, Chrystia, we work together worldwide to ensure that human rights are upheld. We may not always follow the same path in this – and that is understandable for a range of reasons – but we are pursuing the same goal. We do not tolerate any violations of human rights. We fight for their universal applicability and for equality. And you have an extraordinarily positive impact in this field, too.
And what many people – and I am also referring to our colleagues – value so highly is that even when your support for human rights is opposed in some parts of the world, you do not allow yourself to be intimidated.
You also stand for equality and a feminist foreign policy because you know that diplomacy must represent the whole spectrum of our societies – and that includes women!
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai once said: “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” We couldn’t put it better ourselves.
Every democrat must stand up for absolute equality. I know that this is one of your priorities.
Without equality, there can be no democracy. Without women, we lose our credibility and betray a part of our values. And without women – as we repeatedly see around the world – it is far more difficult to ensure lasting peace.
That is why we will also use our membership of the United Nations Security Council from next January to strengthen and enhance the role of women in conflict management and peace processes.
And I am thankful to be able to count on the support of someone like you, Chrystia, who is not only an ally, but a real trailblazer.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At a time when the rules-based order is in danger, transatlantic relations need to be closer than ever. We will only have the strength to defend this order if we stand arm in arm.
There is no one I would rather stand arm in arm with than you, Chrystia. We want to join forces with you and fight for multilateralism and the future of the transatlantic project.
You truly deserve the Eric M. Warburg Award. And I am certain that as the influencer you are, you will certainly not be the last Canadian to win this award.
And keep on rocking in a free world!