Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in the German Bundestag on foreign, European and human rights policy

12.01.2022 - Speech

First of all, I’d like to wish you all a happy, and above all peaceful, New Year, even though – unfortunately – it has got off to a very frosty start in terms of foreign policy. Russia has been moving troops to the border with Ukraine for some weeks now. We, the Federal Government, together with our partners, have reacted resolutely to this provocation. Ukraine’s sovereignty and the inviolability of borders in Europe are non-negotiable for us. Renewed military aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia dearly.

At the same time, despite Russia’s incredibly worrying actions there can be only one solution to easing the current tensions – and that is diplomacy. It’s therefore important and right that talks are being held in various forums this week, in the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Russia, in the NATO-Russia Council and in the OSCE. What’s more, France and Germany are working closely together to resume negotiations in the Normandy format. Because it’s clear that there can be no decision on security in Europe without Europe.


The current situation reflects the world in which European foreign policy has to prove itself anew: a world with growing geopolitical tensions where the East-West confrontation is luckily a thing of the past, but in which competition between authoritarian forces and liberal democracies is rife. A world in which our economies and technology are making us increasingly interconnected. That doesn’t automatically strengthen democracy and, above all, it doesn’t automatically strengthen human rights – and, at the same time, a world in which we can only tackle global challenges by working together.

I firmly believe that in this world, we’re representing Germany’s and Europe’s interests based on a clear set of values.

Yes, I want to reiterate categorically that values and interests are not opposite poles, but two sides of the same coin. If we allow other stakeholders to get away with ignoring rules and standards in our own European single market, the European economy will be at a serious competitive disadvantage.

I’m therefore all the more convinced today that diplomacy is a cornerstone of foreign policy. However, this is also about practical, and above all coherent, action in all political spheres, from trade to health and a joint global, international social policy. That’s why the guiding principle of this traffic light coalition is a coherent foreign policy in which individual spheres of policy, and above all the different ministries, work with rather than against one another. Because that’s the only way to address major global challenges.

I want to briefly illustrate what that means in concrete terms by touching on a few issues. Because they will determine the action taken by my ministry during this initial phase, even though, of course, I’ve spent most of my time in the last four weeks dealing with ongoing crises – and there have been quite a few of them.

First of all, in the heart of Europe, Germany needs our shared European Union. We have to work together to strengthen our Union from within so that it can be credible and, above all, more resilient in the world at large. As strong economic nations in Europe and, particularly, as a union of shared values, we as Europeans must strive – and this will also be the guiding principle of Germany’s G7 Presidency – to make it clear what we stand for and not just what we’re against. As Europeans, we stand for a rules-based international order and, above all, we stand for forward-looking, preventive action.

Yes, we know there is no glory in prevention, but the slower we are to act, the higher the cost will be. That’s nowhere more apparent than in the climate crisis: every tenth of a degree less in terms of global warming will contribute to human security. Extreme heat, droughts or rising sea levels can make regions uninhabitable. That’s why Indonesia is already planning to move its capital. That’s why our new government is now making climate diplomacy a priority.

The Federal Foreign Office will not only play a key role in and lead international climate negotiations. The Federal Foreign Office will – and this is the coherent approach of this new government – cooperate with the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, with the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and with the Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection to expand climate and energy partnerships.

And we’re tackling the security policy issue of our time, climate change mitigation, together with our partners around the world – here, too, with the aim of prevention. The good thing is that – this is the huge opportunity we have in an interconnected world – thanks to new technologies, we would actually be able to predict 20 per cent of disasters if we worked together, if we used the tools available to us together. For example, weather forecasts today allow us to evacuate people, as well as their belongings, days before a cyclone makes landfall. Preventive humanitarian assistance can prevent or mitigate emergencies and save resources. We have to work together to take advantage of this.

One of our main priorities will therefore be to further develop this principle of forward-looking multilateralism within the framework of the G7 and, beyond that, to invest together strategically. For the investments worth billions by others in technologies both in and outside Europe – whether it be in semiconductor technology, in medical technology or in major energy projects – are not necessarily always simple acts of charity but, rather, are part of a geostrategic ploy. The way in which vaccines have been distributed around the world has made this very evident. I want to say quite clearly that we as Europeans need to do better here, too.


In the coalition agreement, the new Federal Government stated – and this really goes without saying – that it wants to pursue policies that reflect the realities of our society. That also applies to foreign policy. That’s why we’re following the example of Canada and Sweden by drawing up a strategy for a feminist foreign policy. Yes, I know, some of you here find it difficult to utter this term. But it’s actually quite simple: this is about representation, about rights and about resources. After all, if half of the population are unable to participate as equals and do not have equal representation or pay, then democracies are not complete. On the other hand, around the world we’re seeing that the erosion of rights of women and girls is gauge of the growing strength of authoritarian forces.

That applies in particular, in a most terrible way, to Afghanistan. That’s why one of my first measures was to draw up an action plan for Afghanistan. Right now an appalling humanitarian disaster is unfolding before our eyes. We therefore have to do everything in our power to step up humanitarian assistance. Yes, we also have to review and evaluate the evacuation from Afghanistan and the Bundeswehr mission. We proposed this together with many members of this House and took a decision on it as a coalition. However, I want to state quite clearly here that, above all else, the Interior Minister and I as Foreign Minister are working hard to launch a new humanitarian admission programme to ensure now that those in particular need of protection – women and girls – are brought out of Afghanistan.

These are major challenges. They will require cooperation. The Federal Government cannot do this alone. It needs a partnership with you as members of the opposition in this House, as members of the German Bundestag.

I’m looking forward to working with you on this and would like to thank you for our cooperation in the coming years.

Thank you very much.


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