‘Germany’s heart beats for Europe’

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Anke Reiffenstuel (The Philippine Star) - July 2, 2020 - 12:00am

Gemeinsam. Europa wieder stark machen” (“Together for Europe’s Recovery“) is Germany’s motto for its Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) that runs from July 1 to December 31, 2020. In the rotating system of presidencies among the 27 member states, it’s for the 13th time that Germany is heading the Council of the EU.

Usually, every EU country that heads the EU Council Presidency will independently decide and set the priorities for its 6-month term. But this time, things are different: the German presidency is taking place before the background of the Coronavirus Pandemic – a crisis that has hit Europe’s and the world’s economy harder than any crisis before. While social, private and public life have slowly normalized, with people able to enjoy their usual summer vacation and travel across Europe again as most travel restrictions have been removed, the economy is still heavily suffering from the crisis. Although the pandemic has hit some countries in the EU harder than others, its economic repercussions are affecting the whole of Europe. Germany is convinced that we can only succeed in overcoming the crisis through joint efforts. Germany therefore co-hosted the international COVID-19 pandemic pledging conference, and contributed substantially to the overall pledge of 7.4 billion Euros.

Finding solutions to this unprecedented global challenge will be the top priority for Germany’s presidency – thriving towards a Europe that emerges strengthened from this crisis. Germany wants to be a driving force and facilitator during its Presidency of the Council of the EU. A fast economic recovery is in our common European interest, and a comprehensive economic recovery program will be finalized soon (the proposal of the EU commission amounts to 750B Euros), which is closely related to the 2021-2027 EU budget, currently under its own finalization; both to take place during Germany’s presidency. We understand our task to build bridges and find solutions that ultimately benefit everyone in Europe.

Since the pandemic has become a global challenge, overcoming it requires that social cohesion is ensured and further strengthened, and the international community acts jointly and in solidarity. Over the past decades, in Germany we have learned by experience that cooperation and partnership are the best preconditions for success, prosperity and development. We are convinced that multilateral initiatives and organizations – like the UN, the EU or ASEAN – are able to deliver critical contributions to crisis management and solutions. Not least thanks to the German-initiated Alliance for Multilateralism, we have been able to ensure that a future vaccine will be a global public good. We also don’t want to lose sight of the ambition of the EU being fit for the future and prepared for its unfolding challenges. Therefore, another priority of our presidency is to finalize the negotiations with the United Kingdom (UK), focusing on their relationship with the EU and on the EU itself, post-Brexit.

In addition, climate change is a priority of our presidency and an important area we will remain committed into – aiming to reduce carbon emissions and ultimately achieve climate neutrality. In our cooperation with the Philippines, the importance of climate change-related issues, climate protection, biodiversity conservation and the renewable energy sector has considerably increased. A strong German-Philippine partnership has grown in this regard. Since the Philippines is heavily vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, it was chosen as a priority country in Germany’s International Climate Initiative where numerous projects have been identified and currently worth around 27 million Euros. Due to the increasing role of Asia in the world, Germany remains committed towards strengthening and expanding relations with Asia, including the ASEAN and its member states.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of digital communication has become obvious to everyone.  It therefore goes without saying that promoting digitalization is also a priority for Germany.

Since the end of the cold war, we increasingly find ourselves in a multi-polarized world where core values are constantly being challenged. We will therefore pay special attention to defending and strengthening these very pillars of the EU: democracy, human rights and rule of law. The expectations towards Germany – being a key global political and economic player – are immense. We are aware of our European and international responsibility, and will do our utmost to work towards successfully and sustainably overcoming the global COVID-19 crisis, and towards making Europe fit for the future.

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(Anke Reiffenstuel is the Ambassador of Germany.)

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