Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (23 February) on the first anniversary of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima’s arrest:
Philippine Senator Leila de Lima has worked to promote the cause of human rights with extraordinary determination and integrity for many years. I am very concerned that she was arrested a year ago and has been in custody since then. The allegations against her leave many questions unanswered and have yet to be examined in judicial proceedings.
As Chair of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, Leila de Lima conducted inquiries between 2008 and 2010 into a series of killings allegedly perpetrated by the so called Davao Death Squad in the city of Davao. When then Mayor of Davao Rodrigo Duterte started his term as President of the Philippines in June 2016 with what has been called his war on drugs, de Lima, in her capacity as Senator, spoke out strongly against the brutal approach taken in the fight against drug related crime.
Since voicing her criticism, Senator de Lima, like other human rights defenders in the Philippines, has been subjected to serious threats from the President, as well as to a targeted campaign to tarnish her reputation. Attempts of this kind to intimidate those who stand up for the principles enshrined in the constitution have no place in a democratic system and damage the Philippines’ international standing.
The charges against Senator de Lima must be investigated without delay by a court in a transparent manner respecting all rule of law principles. Furthermore, it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure Leila de Lima’s physical well being and that she is free to exercise her rights and duties as a Senator.
In July 2016, Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, who previously served as the Philippines’ Secretary of Justice and chaired the country’s Commission on Human Rights, launched a Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings associated with the war on drugs conducted by the Government of President Duterte. According to official figures, just under 4000 people were killed between June 2016 and October 2017 in police operations in what became known as the war on drugs; human rights organisations estimate the number of fatalities to be over 12,000.
On 24 February 2017, Senator de Lima was arrested on drug trafficking charges. For the past year, she has been held in custody at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame in Quezon city.
The Inter Parliamentary Union and international human rights organisations have criticised de Lima’s detention as politically motivated and have questioned the credibility of the accusations made against her.
A Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson issued the following statement today (22 February) on the situation in Syria:
It is almost impossible to understand that the members of the United Nations Security Council did not reach an agreement today. An agreement would have given those suffering in Syria, particularly the hundreds of thousands of besieged civilians in eastern Ghouta, at least a brief respite from the never-ending air raids and brutal violence.
Once again, whether it concerns the use of chemical weapons or humanitarian issues, Russia is protecting Assad’s regime, even when the most serious human rights abuses are involved. However, there is still some hope that an agreement can be reached after all. We call on the decision-makers in Moscow to agree to a temporary ceasefire.
Upholding fundamental principles of international humanitarian law is not something to be negotiated. These principles are a fundamental achievement of the civilised world. It is of the utmost importance that humanitarian access be facilitated. That goes for Syria as a whole and particularly for eastern Ghouta in view of the terrible situation there. We thus call on all parties to end the fighting, be it in Ghouta or Afrin.
Our stance on Afrin is also clear. We recognise that Turkey has legitimate security interests. It is equally clear that we are gravely concerned about the obvious risk of escalation. That is why we repeatedly make clear in our talks with Turkey that its security interests must be balanced and reflect requirements. However, the entire situation in and around Afrin primarily shows that we are facing an extremely complex political problem and therefore urgently need to return to a political process.
That applies to the negotiations in Geneva. And with regard to the role of international stakeholders in particular, it means that all powers, especially the Astana Process guarantors, must behave constructively. We will not stop urging this.”
In response to the sentencing of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, Dr Bärbel Kofler, issued the following statement today (21 February):
In the light of numerous reports expressing doubts as to whether rule-of-law standards were upheld during proceedings, I am greatly concerned by the sentencing of the Bahraini human rights activist and opposition politician Nabeel Rajab to five years in prison for statements made on Twitter.
Every government must face up to the criticism of its citizens and respond to it with objective arguments. Freedom of opinion and freedom of the press enjoy constitutional protection also in Bahrain. People must be able to draw public attention to injustices and undesirable developments also in social media. With this in mind, I call on the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to honour its commitments to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
I am also concerned about yesterday’s decision by the Bahraini Parliament to ban former members of dissolved political associations from exercising passive voting rights. There is a risk here that society will become further polarised. I therefore call on the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to refrain from passing this law.
Human rights activist and opposition politician Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in the first instance on 21 February 2018. The verdict was pronounced for “spreading false information about the war in Yemen” and “insulting the Ministry of Interior”. He has the right to appeal against the judgement. In July 2017, Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in another trial for interviews with foreign media.
The Federal Government has repeatedly expressed its concern about the increasing use of penal law to suppress public criticism in Bahrain.
A Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson issued the following statement today (20 February) on the situation in Ghouta and northern Syria:
Terrible pictures are reaching us from Ghouta. The horror of Aleppo now threatens to repeat itself a few kilometres away from Damascus. Once again, innocent civilians, including many children, are the victims of the destructive violence of the Syrian regime and its supporters. We call on the regime to cease its attacks immediately and finally grant humanitarian access.
At the same time, reports from Afrin in northern Syria give us cause for great concern. Irrespective of Turkey’s legitimate security interests, we believe that the threat of a blockade will lead to further suffering among the civilian population.
Many in the international community, like us, have repeatedly warned of the consequences of military confrontation, which entails incalculable risks. The danger of a further escalation now appears acute, which is why we call on all those involved to put an end to the fighting.
Dr Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (20 February) on the suspension of the death penalty in the Gambia:
“I warmly welcome the decision by Gambian President Adama Barrow to suspend the use of the death penalty in his country as a first step towards abolition. The moratorium also sends a positive message by President Barrow as regards furthering reforms and fostering political change in the Gambia.
The death penalty is an inhuman and cruel form of punishment. The German Government rejects the death penalty under all circumstances and will continue to work with its partners in the European Union to actively campaign for its worldwide abolition.”
Following more than 20 years of autocratic rule in the Gambia, the new Gambian Government is demonstrating the political will to create a democratic state governed by the rule of law. In September 2017, President Barrow signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. During his speech on Gambian Independence Day on Sunday (18 February), President Barrow announced a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
The German Government is working with its partners in the European Union to actively push for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. For example, the European Union presents diplomatic démarches and makes public declarations on the basis of the Guidelines to EU Policy towards Third Countries on the Death Penalty. These démarches and declarations can be about individual countries’ general practices or the use of the death penalty in specific cases.
With regard to the United Nations, the 62nd General Assembly in 2007 adopted a UN resolution (A/RES/62/149) for the first time on suspension of the death penalty at the initiative of the EU Member States, with a majority of UN members voting in favour of the resolution. Later resolutions were supported by a higher number of countries, thus showing a global trend towards abolition of the death penalty.
Information on the Federal Republic of Germany’s endeavours against the death penalty can also be found on page 155 of the Federal Government’s Twelfth Annual Human Rights Report, which can be downloaded here.
A Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson issued the following statement today (20 February) on the situation in Ethiopia:
We are concerned about the latest domestic developments in Ethiopia. The declaration of a state of emergency allows a massive curtailment of civil rights. We hope that the Government will show great restraint in exercising its powers.
The Federal Foreign Office calls on the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, a country with which it enjoys friendly ties, to continue its recent endeavours to create greater scope for political dialogue. Since the start of the year, Ethiopia has released a large number of members of the opposition from prison, a step we very much welcomed. We believe that an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue with all relevant political stakeholders is the only way to achieve peaceful change and the necessary reforms that can bring lasting peace and stability to Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Government declared a state of emergency on the evening of 16 February, citing as the reason the mass protests, particularly in the most populous region of the country, Oromia, which had led to the resignation of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on 15 February. At the start of the year, the Ethiopian Government announced an amnesty for a large number of members of the opposition who had been detained or charged with a crime. Since then, several thousand prisoners have been released, including the well‑known opposition leader Dr Merera Gudina. However, the protests have continued.
Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler issued the following statement today (19 February) on Teodora del Carmen Vásquez’s release:
I welcome the release of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, who, after more than ten years behind bars, has finally been able to leave the Ilogango women’s prison.
The commutation decreed by the Salvadorian Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice, which led to Teodora del Carmen Vásquez’s release, is an important albeit late victory for the rule of law and human rights in El Salvador.
I hope that the cases of the remaining “Las 17” women will also soon be subject to critical rule of law scrutiny in which the human right to a fair trial, the principle of presumption of innocence and the proportionality of the penalties imposed are taken into account.
The Federal Government will continue its efforts to strengthen the rule of law and human rights in El Salvador and is promoting a human rights project supporting the “Las 17” women. In so doing, it intends to support those social forces that are committed to an unbiased discussion on women’s rights.
I wish Teodora del Carmen a happy reunion with her family and every success for her future.
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, 34, was released from the Ilopango women’s prison in San Salvador on 15 February 2018 after over ten years behind bars. She belongs to the “Las 17” women, who were arrested by the Salvadorian judiciary for alleged abortions and subsequently handed long sentences of imprisonment of up to 30 years for charges of infanticide.
Human rights organisations believe that 28 women are currently in jail for this reason. Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was handed a 30 year sentence in 2007 for the alleged murder of her newborn child. Witness statements, medical reports and further evidence documenting that Teodora del Carmen Vásquez had suffered a miscarriage were not considered by the Salvadorian judiciary at the time. A Salvadorian court of appeal confirmed the ruling in December last year. Her recent release was made possible by a commutation decreed by the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice, which drew attention to numerous shortcomings in criminal proceedings against Teodora del Carmen Vásquez at the time.
Whether it be Brexit, policy on Eastern Europe, or reactions to acute crises: foreign policy is garnering lots of attention these days. More than one million followers of the Federal Foreign Office on Twitter are proof of this, along with 300,000 friends on Facebook and 35,000 followers on Instagram, the most recent of our social media accounts. Controversial issues addressed in our posts prompt hundreds, and sometimes more than one thousand, user comments every day.
It is important to note, however, that the Federal Foreign Office is active in so many areas that only a fraction of our work is actually reflected by these accounts. To make foreign policy even more transparent and let those who take an interest in what we do engage in open discussions on specialised topics, the Federal Foreign Office is now expanding its social media communication activities.
Twelve top diplomats at the Ministry are therefore launching their own Twitter accounts. Some have a regional focus – for example our policy on Asia, Africa, or Eastern Europe. Others cover specific issues, such as Brexit, stabilisation and humanitarian aid, the energy transition, strategic communication, economic affairs and sustainable development, the United Nations and cultural relations and education policy. The Crisis Response Centre is launching a Twitter account to supplement its previously released Sicher Reisen app. The Policy Planning Staff, too, will maintain a Twitter feed that will give users an impression of its daily activities.
Links to the accounts
At the same time, the German missions abroad are expanding their social media footprint. They already today reach more than six million followers and friends around the world through more than 300 social media accounts. Everyone who has not already connected with us is more than welcome to do so – we look forward to the conversation!
•@AA_Kultur: Cultural relations and education policy
•@AA_SicherReisen: Travel and security advice from our Crisis Response Centre
•@AA_stabilisiert: Crisis prevention, stabilisation, post-conflict peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance
•@GermanyonBrexit: Germany’s view on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (English)
•@GermanyonUN: Germany’s views on international order, the United Nations and arms control (English)
•@GERClimatEnergy: German energy policy and climate diplomacy (English)
•@GERonEconomy: Foreign trade and investment policy and sustainable development (English)
•@GERonAfrica: German policy on Africa (English)
•@GERonAsia: German policy on Asia (English)
•@GERonOstpolitik: German policy on Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (English)
•@GERonStratCom: Strategic communication of the Federal Foreign Office (English)
•@Planungsstab: Federal Foreign Office Policy Planning Staff (English)
Federal Foreign Office on the appointment of Martin Griffiths as Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Yemen
On 19 February, a Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson issued the following statement on the appointment of Martin Griffiths as Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Yemen:
We welcome the appointment of Martin Griffiths and thank the outgoing Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed for his tireless engagement since April 2015.
With the appointment of the new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, it is more crucial than ever to set the political process in motion once again. In view of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, it is vital that no more time be wasted. We urgently appeal to the parties to the conflict to rejoin negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations.
Germany will continue to work to bring about a political solution in Yemen and is willing to provide the Special Envoy with every support and good offices. The critical situation in Yemen and Germany’s role in supporting the efforts of the United Nations were the focus of an initial meeting with Martin Griffiths at the Federal Foreign Office last Thursday.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fundamental assumption of this year’s Security Conference is that we were on the brink of collapse in 2017. Unfortunately, recent news from around the world gives us no cause to relativise this assessment. Predictability and reliability currently seem to be the rarest commodities in international politics.
The Olympic Truce – as welcome as it is – can only slow down the highly dangerous escalation surrounding North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. In the Middle East, the conflict in Syria, after six bloody years as a civil and proxy war, is moving in a direction that poses an acute threat of war even for our close partners.
China’s increasing leadership aspirations, Russia’s claims to power, and the renaissance of nationalism and protectionism – all of these phenomena are resulting in massive shifts in our world order that have unforeseeable consequences.
Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht from the University of Stanford recently had the following to say about this: “Instead of turning out to be something that we can shape, the future appears above all to be a question of fate today.”
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m sure that all of us here agree that we mustn’t make do with a development driven by fate. I, for one, want to ensure that we shape our future and not just have to endure it. To my mind, the two most important responses to the challenges of our age here in Germany are as follows:
1. Helping to make Europe stronger and better able to act,
2. strengthening and improving cooperation between the two Western actors, the US and Europe, in the world once again.
It must be clear to us Europeans that we need to stand together if we are to defend our values, prosperity and security in tomorrow’s world.
Anyone who claims that Europe is about forfeiting national sovereignty doesn’t understand that we wouldn’t enjoy sovereignty in many areas at all by ourselves in the future – not even as a strong Germany – but that the European path is about winning back, and not relinquishing, national sovereignty.
If we intend to bring our influence to bear in this world, then we must also realise that our own power in Europe will not suffice. Neither we nor the US can do this by ourselves. We can only do this together with our partners.
However, it should also be clear to our American partners and friends that close cooperation with Europe is not only in Europe’s interests, but also in America’s own interests. The US has achieved many great things in its history, but its greatest accomplishment of all is and remains the dissemination of the concept of freedom around the world.
The liberal order that reorganised our world after the devastation of two world wars was and is certainly not perfect. But it is the best thing we can come up with nowadays.
Today, freedom is at stake once again. Not only freedom from oppression and hardship, but also the freedom to lead a self-determined life. We will only be able to prevent the law of the strong from holding sway by strengthening the rule of law at the international level.
Safeguarding the architecture of a free world was never a selfless gift from the US to the world, but has always been in its own national interest. This is all the more so when the United States is no longer clearly the world’s strongest power. Where the architecture of the liberal order begins to crumble, others will start to erect their pillars in the building. The entire construction will change in the long term. I am certain that, at the end of the day, neither Americans nor Europeans will feel comfortable in this new building that is emerging.
China’s rise will result in a massive shift in the balance of power. The initiative for a new Silk Road is not what some people in Germany believe it to be – it is not a sentimental nod to Marco Polo, but rather stands for an attempt to establish a comprehensive system to shape the world according to China’s interests. This has long since ceased to be merely a question of economics. China is developing a comprehensive systemic alternative to the Western model that, in contrast to our own, is not founded on freedom, democracy and individual human rights.
China currently seems to be the only country in the world with any sort of genuinely global, geostrategic concept, one that it is pursuing to the letter. I’m not in favour of blaming China for having this concept and this desire. China is entitled to develop such a concept.
But what we can blame ourselves for is the fact that we, as the “West”, do not have our own strategy for finding a new balance between worldwide interests, one that is based on conciliation and common added value and not on the zero-sum game that is the unilateral pursuit of interests.
I therefore believe that cooperation between the US, Europe and other nations is, ultimately, the only promising way to preserve the architecture of freedom – for us in Europe, and also in the interests of the US.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The ties between Germany and America go back a long way, and they continue to be strong to this day. Scarcely any other country has benefited more from America’s friendship and protection in recent decades than we have in Germany, or in West Germany at any rate. I grew up just west of the intra-German border and I was always sure that there would be no war because I knew we were part of a strong protective system led by the United States.
No other country in Europe has placed its security in the hands of the Americans to such an extent as we have done in Germany. And no other country has done as well out of this as we have.
Since the Second World War, we Germans have been eager to learn from our American friends about the domestic advantages of democracy, the rule of law and the market economy, as well as the value of multiculturalism, multilateralism, international law and free trade in intergovernmental affairs.
Perhaps that explains why we Germans in particular have had occasion to look across the Atlantic with concern in recent times. We’re not sure whether we still recognise our America of old. Is it deeds, words or tweets that we have to measure America against?
Fortunately, however, we are able to look back on a plethora of joint successes that can help to enhance security. Cooperation between the US and European states in NATO has proved its worth and continues to be the foundation of our security and freedom. Our common response to destabilisation and aggression from without – such as the conflict in Ukraine – is only one of many examples of our strength that emerges when we act together.
And there are many more. Together, we have blocked Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb, incidentally in cooperation with Russia and China. With the JCPoA agreement, we achieved a significant milestone that has created greater and not less security in the region. We negotiated this agreement in partnership. And we don’t want to and we won’t give it up. On the contrary, we have advised our American friends not to let this agreement fail, but to work with us at the same time to develop and launch strategies that will help us to limit and reduce the destabilising influence of Iran’s policy in the region to a considerable degree.
This also means that we must work together to achieve lasting political solutions in Syria and Yemen. This is the only way we can help people ravaged by civil war. This is the only way for us to successfully oppose Iran’s hegemony in the region.
We agree that the Korean nuclear programme must be terminated and that the global threat posed by the regime in Pyongyang must be brought to an end.
And we are very concerned about infringements or indeed breaches of the INF Treaty, which prohibits medium-range missiles and cruise missiles in Europe to this day. We are still beneficiaries of the era of détente and the arms control treaties that the US and the former Soviet Union and subsequently Russia negotiated in the 1980s and 1990s.
We Germans do not want to go back to an era dominated by the nuclear arms race because, ultimately, we at the heart of Europe would once again be directly in the sights of nuclear conflict.
We are seeking close dialogue and understanding with our American allies on all of these issues. How successful we will be depends not least on the way we interact with each other.
Powers such as China and Russia are constantly trying to test and undermine the unity of the European Union. Individual states or groups are tested with sticks and carrots to see whether they want to remain in the community that is the European Union or whether they can be detached from it. It is one thing, however, when possible rivals and competitors, sometimes even opponents, try to do this. But we expect our friends and partners to respect or, better still, support the common ground that the European Union represents.
No one should attempt to divide the EU – not Russia, not China, not even the US. The European Union is a self-confident partner that wants to cooperate with the US on an equal footing and in a spirit of trust, and not simply be at the Americans' beck and call.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Naturally, the European Union is not an easy partner. I can understand that well. After all, it has never had to learn to be geopolitically active. The truth is that we left that to France and the UK, and when in doubt, the US. And it is also true that if things went wrong or became difficult, we always had someone to blame. It was a comfortable world for us. Europe was never supposed to be a global power. Instead, it was a project aimed at internal reconciliation. After centuries of war, the goal was to finally bring peace to Europe’s nation states. Achieving that was and remains an enormous feat. In no other region of the world have erstwhile enemies that waged war against each other – including a country like Germany, which committed genocide – succeeded in first becoming partners and then friends. What an incredible example in today’s world to see that it is possible for enemies to become partners and subsequently friends within the space of a generation! This is what the European Union stands for.
But now the European Union is facing a task of a similar dimension because in the world of the 21st century, peace can only be achieved in our continent through joint endeavours to foster peace, security and stability externally.
This involves three tasks. Firstly, the European Union needs to create internal cohesion by resolving the internal conflicts that have arisen in the past ten years.
Secondly, the Member States must develop a common understanding of their interests in the European Union’s foreign relations.
And thirdly, we Europeans need to develop strategies and instruments to assert our interests together. Everyone should do what they can, but we do all need to have the same agenda.
This last task in particular, that of developing strategies and instruments for the world, will be very challenging for us – and particularly for us Germans.
But Europe also needs to project its power in the world as a united entity. This power must never focus on military might alone, but at the same time, cannot completely bypass it. As the only vegetarian, so to speak, we will have a damned tough time of it in a carnivore’s world.
There is no shortage of work ahead of us – of tasks that need to be done to safeguard the future of a free, secure, prosperous and socially just Europe.
For example, the European Union should launch its own initiative to further infrastructure development from eastern Europe to Central Asia, as well as in Africa, using European funding to do so, but also upholding European standards.
We are needed in Africa in particular and there are concrete ways for us to get involved there. We ourselves need to define our interests in a wide-ranging partnership with African countries. And this partnership should not simply involve development aid.
We also need to stop constantly perceiving Africa first and foremost as a problem region. China, for example, has been investing in Africa for years, without having to worry that a single African refugee will reach its shores. It seems that the Chinese view Africa as a continent of opportunities, whereas we define it far too often as a problem continent.
We also need to tackle the contentious issues with Russia with new vigour. We are currently in an escalation situation, one we thought had been overcome with the end of the Cold War.
Naturally, these notions have a certain appeal and it is tempting to go back to talking about the return of confrontation between superpowers in our speeches and doctrines. But we really should not just shrug our shoulders and accept this state of affairs.
The suffering and deaths of so many people in Ukraine are reason enough not to simply continue reiterating our indignation and viewpoint.
The idea of a robust UN peacekeeping mission in the Donbass region is extremely challenging. I am aware that Russia and Germany see the implementation of such a mission very differently. But it is still worth a try. We should persevere in our dialogue with the Russian and Ukrainian Governments and continue pursuing this idea resolutely.
Setting up this type of mission, enforcing a ceasefire and withdrawing heavy weapons can lead to a gradual lifting of sanctions. If this happens, we Germans and we Europeans should offer to invest in improving living conditions in the Donbass region. And Russia should see us as more than an opponent.
Where else will Russia find opportunities for lasting economic success and stability in its society if not in a common future and in cooperation with Europe?
By the way, in creating a Europe that is more capable of acting, we are likely to become painfully aware of what we will lose following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
For decades, the UK has contributed important skills, traditions and ways of thinking. And we need to try to keep our relations with the UK as close and productive as possible after a conceivable Brexit because even if the UK leaves the European Union, it will not leave Europe and it will certainly not leave the concept of a western liberal order.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Germany also needs to play its part in strengthening European foreign policy. That is why the coalition agreement that has been negotiated between the CDU/CSU and SPD here in Germany makes European cohesion a priority.
The future German Government’s foreign policy will thus focus on a wide-ranging definition of interconnected security, as security can never be achieved through military means alone.
Without a wide-ranging definition of security that also includes the fight against hunger, poverty, deprivation and social injustice, security is not possible.
And for this reason, the coalition agreement envisages massive investments in foreign, security and development policy by the new Government. Under the terms of the agreement, our expenditure on crisis prevention, humanitarian aid and development cooperation will increase in direct proportion to our defence spending.
One has to admit that it is often the other way around in the rest of the world, where defence spending is being increased at the cost of development aid budgets. We have made a conscious decision to try to do things differently.
With this direct proportion, we guarantee that the entire foreign policy toolbox will receive funding.
But more money alone is not enough. We need a European moment, not only because Europe is our best tool as regards asserting ourselves in this competitive world, but primarily because we firmly believe that we should focus on cooperation rather than confrontation.
To put it another way, Europe is not everything, but without Europe we have nothing. This is why Germany will make huge investments in Europe’s cohesion and ability to act and help to ensure that Europe can represent its interests as a strong pole.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In this new world, which is far more complex than that of the Cold War, we are witnessing rivalry between the systems of developed democracies and autocracies.
I am certain that liberal democracies will always ultimately prove to be superior because people inherently want to be free and freedom is the only way that the momentum needed for progress can develop. We are back to the old question of rivalry between systems based on freedom and democracy on the one hand and new autocratic types of government on the other.
And because we are at a military conference, this must also mean that democracies constantly need to maintain the balance between non-military and military resilience.
In the final analysis, peace cannot be ensured by relying on military rearmament and superiority alone. What is most important is finding the courage time and again to conduct negotiations and talks and to build confidence across borders, hostile stereotypes and ideologies.
In this regard, we Europeans are standing at a crossroads, the likes of which the world only experiences every few centuries.
The nature of this crossroads can be seen clearly by looking way back in world history. In the 1430s, Europeans set off to explore the world. Ships sponsored by Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator sailed further and further along the west coast of Africa, looking for a sea route to India and ultimately finding America. The crews were motivated by curiosity and a willingness to take risks, but also by greed.
In 1433, around the same time as Europeans were exploring the world, the Chinese emperor decided to halt his legendary treasure fleet, which had explored the Indo-Pacific region. China had far too much work with its own problems to want to deal with the rest of the world.
This decision would set the tone for the following centuries. Europe set out to conquer the world, while China gradually and quietly withdrew from it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What will historians say about our era in 600 years’ time? Will they note the start of a new Asian age and the voluntary surrender of what was then known as the West, using Europe as an example?
Or will they see a decision by our continent to find the courage not to withdraw from the world, but instead to face the challenges of a far more uncomfortable and risky world than the one we thought would be our lot?
It is up to us whether we see the future as our fate and wear ourselves out in the meantime focusing on minor internal differences of opinion.
Benjamin Franklin said something unforgettable on this type of situation. I quote: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Thank you very much!
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued the following statement today (16 February):
“I am very pleased with this decision by the Turkish judiciary. And I am even happier for Deniz Yücel and his family. This is a good day for all of us. I want to expressly thank the Turkish Government for what it has done to help speed up the procedure. During the past months, I have held many direct talks with the Turkish Government regarding the speeding up of this case. These included two meetings with Turkey’s President Erdogan. The Turkish Government has always emphasised that it will not exert any political influence on the court’s decision-making.
The independence of the court decision was always a key concern during all of our talks. That makes today’s decision all the more pleasing. I wish to thank two people in particular. First, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavosoglu, who greatly facilitated the contacts and talks, as well as the accelerated procedure. Second, the German Federal Chancellor, for placing her trust in the efforts of the Federal Foreign Office regarding this difficult case. I personally am very pleased about the outcome.”
Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth issued the following statement today (15 February) on the Hungarian “Stop Soros” legislative package:
The draft laws introduced in Parliament by the Hungarian Government make the work of civil-society organisations looking after refugees and asylum-seekers more difficult or perhaps even impossible.
I have made our concerns abundantly clear to the Hungarian Government. Whether educational projects, aid for the socially disadvantaged, the concerns of refugees or national minorities, democracy depends on people who stand up for what they believe in. A common European Union requires us to respect and protect all four fundamental freedoms, also above and beyond borders. Only with a vibrant and critical civil society will we be able to preserve our common Europe of shared values.
Dietmar Woidke calls for a memorial to Poland in Berlin – “Germany recognises its historical responsibility”
Dietmar Woidke, Coordinator of German-Polish Intersocietal and Cross-Border Cooperation, issued the following statement today (14 February):
No one in Germany has any doubt that it was in German concentration camps where millions of terrible crimes were perpetrated by Germans. Germany will continue to do its utmost to live up to its responsibility and to keep memories of the past alive as a warning.
I support the current initiative by civil society to erect a memorial in the heart of our capital to the Polish victims of Germany’s occupation of Poland between 1939 and 1945
Dietmar Woidke will open the exhibition, Order and Annihilation – the Police and the Nazi Regime, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on 13 April. The exhibition depicts the role of German police officers in the genocide during Germany’s occupation of Poland between 1939 and 1945. During his visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in 2016, Woidke suggested that the exhibition, which was curated a few years ago, be shown in Poland for the first time. During his visit in April, he will meet Piotr Cywiński, Director of Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, as well as officials from the town of Oświęcim and the Lesser Poland Region.
Foreign Minister Gabriel issued the following statement today (14 February):
“In recent days and weeks, I have conducted intensive talks on Deniz Yücel’s case with my Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. We have also met in person several times.
In our talks, I asked that these court proceedings be speeded up by the Turkish judiciary. My hope is that ultimately a positive decision will soon be made by an independent Turkish court.”
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued the following statement today (13 February) on the Deniz Yücel case:
Deniz Yücel’s year spent in prison continues to be one of the major hurdles in bilateral relations between Germany and Turkey. In our talks, we are continuing to push for a swift trial in accordance with the rule of law. Only Deniz Yücel’s release can be the aim from our point of view.
It goes without saying that we are also standing up time and again and with great determination for the other Germans who have been imprisoned in Turkey for political reasons. We have already managed to achieve a number of breakthroughs in our talks – German citizens have since been released from prison on the basis of decisions by Turkish courts in accordance with the rule of law and have been able to leave the country. We will do everything in our power to ensure that this can also be achieved with respect to the court’s decision for Deniz Yücel.
Foreign Minister Gabriel on the fight against Daesh and German support for Iraq on the occasion of the ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition against Daesh and the reconstruction conference for Iraq in Kuwait
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued the following statement today (13 February):
With the end of the Daesh caliphate in Iraq, an important milestone has been reached. From now on, the focus will be on stabilisation, reconstruction and the strengthening of state institutions. The voluntary and safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees, reconciliation within Iraq, particularly between Baghdad and Erbil, and a united, stable and democratic society – all this must have priority to prevent terrorism gaining a foothold once again. Germany will continue to stand alongside Iraq as it pursues this path. To achieve these goals, private investment is urgently needed as well as international support. That has been the focus of the talks in Kuwait in the last few days, and it requires not least the implementation of important political reforms.
Creating stability, safeguarding the future and tackling the root causes of displacement remain the central goals of our Iraq policy. Providing training, advice and capacity-building for Iraqi security forces will be crucial. The destruction left by Daesh in Mosul and Raqqa shows that a massive effort is required from the civilian population. That is the only way to create prospects for people to return and live here. Only with a comprehensive foreign policy approach which strengthens civilian structures, encourages economic development and defends the state’s integrity, both internally and in the international arena, will it be possible to shape Iraq’s future. We need to ensure that our stabilisation efforts and our development assistance go hand in hand and do not remain just piecemeal. We will need staying power – and Germany is committed to this task.
In 2017, the Federal Foreign Office provided a total of 290 million euros for the people in Iraq (200 million euros in humanitarian assistance, 90 million euros for stabilisation efforts). It has provided a total of 502 million euros since 2015. Germany is currently the second largest donor after the United States in the area of humanitarian assistance to Iraq. The main focus of humanitarian assistance is still to provide protection and secure accommodation and to meet the most urgent needs, which include basic healthcare as well as drinking water supply and waste water disposal. A particular concern are the people who are returning to their home regions and villages after being forced to flee by Daesh. Investment in humanitarian mine clearance is one important factor here. In 2018 the Federal Foreign Office has already earmarked 43.2 million euros for humanitarian assistance in Iraq.
The goal of the engagement to stabilise Iraq is to strengthen the capacity of government structures to act and to rebuild basic supply infrastructure (water, power, health), for example through the UNDP Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization, in order to enable internal refugees to return home. A 500 million euro financial loan to the Iraqi Government is also intended to drive forward the stabilisation of the country, e.g. by facilitating the rapid reconstruction of transformer stations.
Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (12 February) to mark the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers:
Children are not soldiers, they are the key to success of emerging societies. The illegal recruitment of children, as well as the deployment of child soldiers are therefore utterly despicable.
Even in 2018, the year in which the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) comes of age, conflicts are still having a disastrous impact on the development and lives of far too many children.
The ratification and rigorous implementation of the Optional Protocol and the vital protection it provides for children who already have to grow up under difficult conditions is therefore just as crucial today as it was 18 years ago.
I call on all states which have not yet signed or ratified the Optional Protocol to do so now, thus sending a key message about the importance of the rights and protection of children. The onus is on all countries to draw attention to this irresponsible conduct and to actively work to end the perfidious practice of using child soldiers.
We also expressly offer whatever help is necessary to free and reintegrate children into a normal life with a future.
Millions of children around the world are affected by conflict. That is why the UN Secretary-General appointed a Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Among other things, she works to prevent state armed forces from recruiting children. There are still seven countries on a UN blacklist for this crime. Other parties to conflicts are listed when they kill or maim children, engage in sexual violence or attack schools and hospitals. Schools and hospitals are mentioned separately thanks to a German initiative while it last had a seat on the Security Council (2011 2012).
The Federal Foreign Office, together with the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), is again organising an international workshop on children and armed conflict as well as women, peace and security on 12 and 13 February.
The Optional Protocol supplements the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has been ratified by 166 countries to date. Among other things, the Protocol stipulates that young people under the age of eighteen may not be compulsorily recruited into a country’s armed forces. Germany ratified the Optional Protocol in 2004 and has been working hard since then to ensure its implementation.
Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner, issued the following statement today (12 February) on the death of Asma Jahangir:
We mourn the loss of Asma Jahangir. The lawyer born in 1952 was Pakistan’s most prominent human rights activist. Since the 1980s, she had worked tirelessly to promote democracy and human rights in her country, Pakistan. She co founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan which is well known throughout the country. As leading representative of the Lawyers’ Movement, she worked with tremendous courage for the rule of law and democratisation.
Asma Jahangir also earned great respect on the international stage, for example, in her capacity as United Nations Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Asma Jahangir passed away on 11 February 2018 aged 66 in Lahore. Her death is a great loss to Pakistan and the human rights movement. She was one of its leading figures! We will sorely miss her.
A Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson issued the following statement today (12 February) to mark the third anniversary of the compilation of the package of measures to implement the Minsk agreements:
“Thanks to the Minsk agreements, it has been possible to contain the conflict in eastern Ukraine and prevent a conflagration in the region. Progress can still be made today where the political will exists – as the successful exchange of hundreds of prisoners in late December demonstrated. Nonetheless, the status of implementation three years on is far from satisfactory.
Far too little has been achieved with regard to resolving the conflict, which has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people to date. Time and again, the ceasefire is being violated; and the fighting has devastating consequences particularly during the winter months. People lack coal for heating, water and food.
We appeal to all parties to finally show the political will to implement the Minsk agreements. A first important step is to stabilise the security situation and to withdraw heavy weapons from the region. A potential United Nations peace mission could provide opportunities to achieve this if it served to drive forward the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Germany will continue to work intensively with France in the Normandy format to bring about a solution that will finally lead to peace.”