Opening statement by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during questions put to the Federal Government in the German Bundestag

09.06.2021 - Speech

Allow me to start with a few introductory remarks, because much will be happening on the international stage in the next few days that will be extremely important for us in Germany too.

Next week, for example, will be entirely dominated by President Biden’s first overseas trip. The fact that his first trip abroad since taking office is bringing him to Europe – first to Cornwall for the G7 Summit, then to Brussels to NATO and the European Union – is in our eyes a good and strong signal of transatlantic renewal.

Honesty requires me to add that we have waited a long time for this; for over the past few years, under the previous Administration, there were indeed a few developments that gave us grounds to fear that the international order really would suffer lasting damage. That is why we often leapt into the breach in that time. To give just a few examples: we have used our political clout, for instance, to preserve the nuclear agreement with Iran, with negotiations ongoing in Vienna since the beginning of April with the other parties, but also, indirectly, with the United States. But we have also exerted our influence on issues relating to climate policy and trade policy. During this time, we have filled major financial gaps in humanitarian assistance, the supply of vaccines and the financing of international organisations. I am extremely grateful to the Bundestag for having granted us sufficient funding for this every year in the budget negotiations.

Over the course of this difficult period, we have also tried to launch new forms of flexible international cooperation. I will just mention the Alliance for Multilateralism, which now comprises over 70 states from all continents. In this Alliance, we talk about many important issues, such as autonomous weapons systems, or how to counter disinformation campaigns, or protecting human rights in the digital age. We have not only exchanged views; we have developed common guidelines which the members of the Alliance then uphold in international organisations.

We can build on this, because these important events are taking place in the days ahead. The G7 Summit will focus on tackling the repercussions of the pandemic, with a clear commitment to the global provision of vaccines. It will, of course, also look at climate change mitigation, particularly with an eye to COP 26 in Glasgow.

When it comes down to it, though – and this is especially important to us – this Summit must also send a signal of support to our democratic partners around the world, partners who share our values – because to our mind there has been a real lack of any such signals in recent years.

At the NATO Summit on 14 June, the priority will be to make the Alliance fit for the future and to adapt it to a changed security environment. That’s what the NATO 2030 process is all about. In this context, we can build on a process of reflection that we initiated within NATO and that Thomas de Maizière, a member of this House, was instrumental in leading, along with an American colleague. This process of reflection produced many, many ideas that will keep us occupied for a long time within NATO.

The EU-US Summit will see, not least, negotiations on the establishment of a joint Trade and Technology Council; hopefully a solution will be found. That, too, is an issue we have consistently advocated for in the past.

Essentially, on these issues, and especially the trade questions, it will be a matter of moving away from mutual customs duties and sanctions and arriving at joint responses to the pressing question of how free trade can be better coupled with environmental and social standards. After all, that’s the debate that keeps popping up in society, too, when we talk about free trade agreements. Last week, indeed, the G7 Finance Ministers made a long-awaited breakthrough on global minimum tax.

Finally, we also welcome President Biden’s willingness to meet President Putin in Geneva on 16 June. Over the past few years, we have always taken a clear course on Russia, a course which aims for greater resilience but also – and I am gratified that this has repeatedly been said in debates here – for the continuation of open dialogue, even when relations hit the roughest waters. That will remain the case in future. I believe the meeting at this level can make a contribution here.

That there are apparently possibilities for the United States and Russia to reach agreement quickly has been shown, for example, by the fact that, just a few days after Joe Biden assumed office, the New START Treaty was extended on the basis of an understanding that was arrived at very quickly. We hope that further substantial agreements will be reached after Geneva. In this context, we expect to be closely involved, with other partners; because ultimately nuclear arms control is a matter of Europe’s security.

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow members of this House, the fact that, in all these issues, the US Administration sets particular store by cooperation with Germany – this has been our experience over the past few months – opens up new opportunities for us to shape policy, and we will use them, for instance by coordinating even more closely on strategic issues such as the approach to China. It will come as no surprise to anyone that we might not always be on exactly the same page.

The good and close cooperation – I am coming to the end, Mr President – is reflected not least in America’s decision to hold off on sanctions around Nord Stream 2, expressly – as the President himself said – so as not to further burden relations with Germany as a friend and ally.

Thank you very much.


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