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Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the New Year Reception for the Diplomatic Corps at the Federal Chancellery

Redner:
Angela Merkel
Datum:
Mittwoch, 30. Januar 2013

in Berlin

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the entire German Government – including notably Deputy Chancellor and Economic Affairs Minister Philipp Rösler as well as the Cabinet members present here today – I would like to welcome you all very warmly to the Federal Chancellery and thank you for joining us once again for this annual event.

The first weeks of the year have been highly work-intensive. During the receiving line I remarked to quite a few of you that we’d certainly met on one occasion or other. And at the EU-Latin America Summit last weekend I of course saw many of your heads of state and government. So on behalf of the Federal Government let me wish you once again a good and successful year 2013 in the best of health, I hope.

As you’re certainly all well aware, last week France and Germany celebrated here in Berlin a very special anniversary, namely the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty. For us in Germany this Treaty is of enormous significance, for it sealed an enduring friendship between two nations that over the centuries had often been at war and had viewed each other as arch enemies. Against this background, it’s clear what a tremendous boon it is that today our nations look upon each other as friends.

The Élysée Treaty shows what becomes possible if people truly want change. It shows that bridges can be built across even the deepest divides. It shows that change is possible and that if the right decisions are taken at the political level, friendship can be forged between people of different nations. That’s something I want to emphasize in this company, as you represent a great many countries, after all, and in many parts of the world there are tensions that could well give rise to conflicts. That’s why it’s so important to believe in change and have the courage to make it happen, to work and strive for our belief that the world can change for the better.

The celebrations of Franco-German friendship we’ve had here in Berlin weren’t intended to be any kind of exclusive affair. We see Franco-German friendship as an integral part of the European Union. We know that when Germany and France see eye to eye, this doesn’t automatically mean all problems in Europe are solved. But one thing can be said with certainty: if Germany and France have no shared understanding of how to solve a given problem, solving it will undoubtedly be an uphill struggle.

Seeing where the European Union stands today is a source of some satisfaction – and here I’d like to welcome the representatives of the member states of the European Union as well, of course, as the representative of the European Commission. We can rightly say that it’s been a work-intensive year in which a good deal of progress has been achieved. Thanks to joint efforts, we’ve made significant headway in getting the debt crisis under control and most importantly, we’ve also overcome the European Union’s crisis of confidence. Let me mention here just the fiscal compact, the permanent European Stability Mechanism and the new European banking supervision system. I also know, however, that in many EU countries the necessary reforms have been very tough on a good many people. So 2013 will be yet another year when we’ll need to stand by each other firmly and squarely.

There’s any number of nitty-gritty problems to be solved in Europe and we’re clearly determined to work together more closely and progressively to cede also national sovereignty. Yet this battle for Europe we’ve been waging over the past years has also taught us that Europe is about far more than a single market and a common currency. It’s above all about peace and shared values. These shared values we take so much for granted – democracy, freedom of opinion, freedom of religion, freedom to travel, freedom of the media – can’t be taken for granted everywhere, of course. So we can be rightly proud of our values and should work for them to be respected also in other parts of the world.

As we know, Europe – the European Union, that is – has only about seven per cent of the world population. As I often point out, the EU currently accounts for some 25% of global GDP – a figure that, like our share of the world population, will continue to decline – yet at the same time it still accounts for nearly 50% of global social spending. That shows the immensity of the challenge we face. For new and very strong players have entered the stage – China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and others – and they all want prosperity for their people. With all these countries we have close economic and also political ties – and here I’m speaking both for the Federal Republic of Germany and for the European Union.

Allow me one last remark on the European Union. We were delighted and rather proud, too, when the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Many people wondered of course what the point of the whole exercise was. Speaking for myself, however, I felt this award at what was clearly a critical juncture for Europe was intended as both a special tribute and an encouragement to us.

One of the cornerstones of Germany’s foreign policy is the transatlantic relationship. For the European Union, too, the relationship with the United States is a crucial one. So I’m very much looking forward to welcoming the Vice President of the United States here on Friday before he goes on to the Munich Security Conference. We firmly intend – and I’m very glad this is something that also David Cameron as G8 President plans to take forward – to work on making a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States reality. When I was reading up recently on the Élysée Treaty, I discovered that this project was first mooted 50 years ago. At some point, however, even the most difficult projects acquire concrete substance. It would be good news indeed if we could take this step towards more intensive cooperation. In numerous forums we already act jointly on foreign and security policy issues. This dimension of the transatlantic relationship is one we also intend to develop further over the years ahead.

When I talk of joint action in the realm of foreign and security policy, Afghanistan, I may point out, is a subject that’s going to be particularly high on our agenda this year. The time is drawing closer when the Afghan authorities will assume full responsibility for security. Tomorrow we vote on the new Afghanistan mandate for the Bundeswehr and we’ll continue of course to actively support the handover process. Germany has shouldered responsibility in Afghanistan. But what we want above all else is progress there towards peace and to see the Afghans make headway in overcoming their problems. Just like any other country, Afghanistan doesn’t want its path dictated by others. It wants, as we know, to take its future into its own hands.

Since the start of the year we’ve seen an increase in the scale and severity of terrorist and extremist attacks in Mali. We support what the French forces are doing there in response to a call for assistance. Acting fully in accordance with international law, they’re helping to create the conditions for a peace process – indeed a political process of any kind – to take place in Mali. We know just how important this is for the whole of West Africa. Germany is assisting with transporting ECOWAS forces to Bamako. We also plan to help train the Malian army. What we’re doing there is a contribution to closer cooperation with our neighbouring continent of Africa.

One of the big issues at the EU-Latin America Summit I’ve just attended was narcotics trafficking and the revenues it generates. This is an issue that’s extremely important not only for relations between the United States and Latin America but also for us here in Europe. For a glance at what’s going on in the Sahel is enough to see what a huge problem narcotics trafficking is also in the triangle Latin America, Africa and Europe.

We’re following developments in the Arab world with keen attention – today we had a visit from Egypt’s President Morsi. There are clearly grounds for concern, we feel, but there are hopeful signs as well. We’re eager to offer economic assistance. In the Mixed Commission our Economic Affairs Minister discussed with the Egyptian President what Germany could do to help. We’ve established reform partnerships with Tunisia and other countries, which we hope will be successful.

Of course we realize there’ll be all kinds of problems. In Syria we see the appalling sacrifices people there are having to make. I can only appeal yet again to President Assad to spare his people further suffering. Germany’s deployment of Patriot missiles in this connection is intended to help Turkey, our NATO partner, protect its borders. We hope the bloodshed in Syria will be over very soon and the Syrians can, as in Libya, take their destiny into their own hands. We hope, for the sake of people on the ground, that these transition processes will be successful, despite the many difficulties along the way. What we want to see are – wherever feasible – political solutions, political dialogue. I can only encourage all concerned to reach out also to those whose political agendas differ from their own. Our experience of this here in Germany has been definitely positive. Of course it’s not easy sometimes to understand why other people hold different views from our own. But without tolerance democracy stands no chance.

Since I’m on this subject, let me say also that we’re obviously concerned about the continued lack of progress in resolving the Middle East conflict. Germany will clearly do its share – as far as lies in our power and whenever requested – to settle this conflict, a settlement that provides for a Jewish State of Israel and a Palestinian state. We believe lasting economic and democratic progress in the region is possible only if there is headway on this score.

We hope the talks with Iran will be successful. Iran’s nuclear programme – and this is something I’m afraid I’ve been repeating for several years now – remains a cause for grave concern, as it poses a serious threat to regional stability. So let me renew my appeal for full transparency here. It must be clear beyond all doubt that Iran’s nuclear programme serves no military purpose. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the needed proof.

Ladies and gentlemen, here in Germany we believe that foreign and security policy is also closely bound up with development policy. Stability and security are, as we know, both necessary and mutually interdependent. True development, development that’s worthy of the name, needs a secure environment. In all kinds of ways Germany is promoting the kind of development we want to see. Our Development Minister has a very clear agenda, which means that much of what we do in many countries is basically geared to helping them help themselves. That’s something I say candidly and very much in tune with his thinking, I believe. This is not because we’re reluctant to make still more funds available. We do sometimes wish, however, that our engagement would produce even better results. In the long run there’s simply no other way but for every country really to take charge of their own destiny. And for that, help should be forthcoming; that’s our share of the responsibility. But it’s also extremely important that people on the ground reap the benefit and actually see their lives getting better.

This year will bring the 40th anniversary of Germany’s membership of the United Nations. Our two year term on the Security Council has just ended. During this time we sought in many different ways to contribute to resolving conflicts around the world. Over the years ahead we will of course continue to support the Security Council’s work.

We’re very pleased that Germany’s once again represented on the UN Human Rights Council. We will obviously be doing everything possible – also in the context of our development policy – to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals are developed further and that especially those where implementation is lagging behind will at least be achieved in the foreseeable future. Germany is at any rate actively participating – in the person of former Federal President Köhler, for example – in the discussions on a new framework for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This is something we care about deeply.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us today. I look forward now to what the Apostolic Nuncio has to say. Let me wish you all once again a good, successful, happy and healthy 2013.

Mittwoch, 30. Januar 2013