May Latin Americans like their Caribbean neighbors

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29 states from Latin America and the Caribbean are here today. And so one state has more than the EU member states. That is extremely encouraging for what we have set out to do with our Latin America initiative. The fact that we are already a little late on the schedule has to do with the fact that we started with a ministerial breakfast and we already had so much to talk about that we were unable to meet the German punctuality.

Ladies and gentlemen, geography is destiny. Something like that, geopoliticians from Henry Kissinger to Robert Kaplan have taught us this over the past few decades.

And yes, experience shows them to be quite right. Natural resources, energy resources, climate, topography - all of this shapes who and what we are. And of course the location of a country plays a central role, also in foreign policy.

We Europeans look at our neighbor Russia differently than an American does. And for Latin America, of course, the USA has a completely different meaning than it does for Africa or India.

And yet geography is far from everything. Nowhere is this more evident than in Latin America. From the deserts of Mexico, Peru or Chile, to the rainforests of the Amazon to the snow-covered 6,000 peaks of the Andes - the geographical differences could hardly be greater. And yet history, culture, political and economic framework conditions have ensured that special connections have emerged between your countries.

Close not because of, but rather despite the circumstances.

We are not prisoners of geography. If that were the case, we could actually end this conference right here.

Because geographically there is a lot that separates us. To find out, just take a look at Lufthansa's flight plan: by far the longest direct flight is the one from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires. And that's why: It's nice that you are here anyway, dear Jorge [Faurie, Argentine Foreign Minister], after I visited you at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last year and I still fondly remember it, and also of the cooperation with us Handed over the presidency of the G20 to you. I am very pleased.

Geography is not everything, and I also venture to say that its importance, the importance of geography, will decrease significantly in the digital age.

This becomes particularly clear when it comes to distances.

  • Digitization has reduced the distances between countries and continents to the transmission time of an email.
  • A post can reach millions of users in seconds, and a hashtag can trigger global debates.
  • Flows of goods and data ensure unimagined networking.
  • And people have also become more mobile.

So if our digital world turns more and more into a virtual big city, as the British historian Timothy Garton Ash writes, - what does that mean for our foreign policy here and now? And for our relationships with one another? We want to discuss this intensively with one another tomorrow, above all, at the “Future Affairs” conference.

But to stay in the picture: who the neighbors are in this global city is no longer solely determined by the distance between the front doors. In the digital age, those who network with each other are moving closer together. Who are open to learn from each other. Share the values ​​and interests.

That is exactly why I invited you to Berlin today. I am sure that Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe can be neighbors in the world of
21st century. And I take it as a good omen that so many of you have accepted our invitation and support this initiative, as has already been shown this morning.

The Atlantic lies between us.

  • But we share a lot of values ​​and interests.
  • We live in the most democratized regions in the world.
  • We are closely connected culturally.
  • We are committed to international rules, human rights, economic openness, and fair social and environmental standards.

In short, ladies and gentlemen, we are nothing but natural allies.

And we need allies in a world in which insecurity has increased dramatically:

  • China is using its economic power more and more aggressively as a means of political pressure - also in our and your regions.
  • Russia uses military force to create political facts.
  • And the USA, actually a mainstay of the international order, has at least become somewhat more unpredictable. Let us only think of the exit from the Paris Climate Agreement or the protectionist trade policy that we are currently dealing with.

What Gabriel García Márquez described in his Nobel Prize speech as the "loneliness of Latin America" ​​- namely a world in which the weaker are marginalized by the strong - is no longer just a Latin American concern.

To be the subject or object of world politics - that has meanwhile become the decisive question of the future for us Europeans too.

In a world in which the law of the stronger replaces the strength of law, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean can only lose. We are all not superpowers.

For us, if we want to have a say, then we need allies. This applies all the more to major global phenomena such as climate change, digitization and migration. None of us solves these challenges on our own.

That is why we have to move closer together. We have to become neighbors in this new world.

This thought was the starting point for our decision to put Latin America and the Caribbean higher on the agenda of German foreign policy. And, by the way, also higher on the agenda of the European Union.

The Venezuela crisis has shown what close, resilient relationships between us are worth. And by that I am not just referring to the fact that since the beginning of the crisis Germany has made 19 million euros available for the care of Venezuelan refugees and particularly needy migrants, whom many of your countries have received so generously. We also coordinated closely politically right from the start. And we are ready to continue to work together on a diplomatic solution that focuses on the wishes of the citizens of Venezuela.

But one thing is particularly important to me: We must not reduce our relationships to crisis diplomacy alone. We can't just meet to talk about crises.

In dealing with flight and migration, for example, we Europeans can make good use of the advice and experience of Latin America.

We are also interested in Mexico's approach to making migration more humane. And we are already working closely with Ecuador on the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

I would be happy if we could develop a permanent dialogue format between Latin America and Germany from this, one that deals with the issues of flight and migration. The subject will remain with us.

This topic also shows what it's all about today: learning from each other, deepening common ground and thereby revitalizing our relationships. That is the aim of this conference. And that will be the goal of a German foreign policy that will make us neighbors.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Gabriel García-Márquez reproached us Europeans that solidarity is not only shown through fine words, but above all through concrete cooperation for the good of the people.

And he's right. So let's talk about collaboration and how we can deepen it.

I would like to start with a topic that will determine the future of our planet like no other: the fight against climate change.

It is no coincidence that Alexander von Humboldt discovered how humans influence the climate on his travels to Latin America. And that he then became, so to speak, the first environmentalist on our planet.

Latin America is the world's green lung and is therefore irreplaceable as a partner in the fight against climate change. At the same time, global warming is already hitting your region particularly hard. It is not only our colleagues from the Caribbean who know from their own experience what I am talking about.

That is why it was important to me that we put the topic of “climate and security” on the agenda together with the Dominican Republic in the first month of our time together in the United Nations Security Council.

We will continue to push this topic forward. To this end, we have set up a group of friends in the United Nations, to which many of you are already a member. And I would be just as happy about every new member!

Our international climate protection initiative also brings us together. We are currently jointly implementing projects worth almost 400 million euros. Further projects with a volume of 150 million euros are planned.

In Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Honduras, for example, we want to promote reforestation, erosion control and climate-friendly agriculture. It should be about specific projects. And with you in Costa Rica, dear colleague Ventura, we support the introduction of climate-friendly electromobility.

Such examples are concrete. There are also concrete examples of solidarity in action, and they also exist in other areas. During my trip to Brazil, Colombia and Mexico last month, we also talked a lot about the rule of law and the fight against impunity.

And Germany is ready to make additional funds available for this this year as well and to help where it is desired.

  • In Mexico, for example, dear Marcelo [Ebrard, Mexican Foreign Minister], we have agreed to work more closely together in the fight against enforced disappearances.
  • I also see this as an important element of a rule of law initiative in Central America, to which our support in the fight against impunity and corruption in Guatemala and Honduras also contributes.
  • And in Colombia we will continue to support the long road to peace and reconciliation - through the United Nations Trust Fund and the German-Colombian Peace Institute CAPAZ. Because we are convinced: This path is and will remain the right one.

At the global level, too, we are relying on Latin America on these issues. Because we need strong supporters to take action against impunity worldwide.

Ideally in an alliance of like-minded states that supports the International Criminal Court and advocates the more rigorous prosecution of crimes against humanity in particular.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The rule of law also plays a role in another context. When I talk to representatives of German companies about how we can bring even more momentum to our economic relations with Latin America, the language often also refers to the rule of law, security and the fight against corruption.

And as important as these framework conditions are - they do not explain why trade with Latin America and the Caribbean only
2.6 percent of Germany's export volume. And why German exports to the region are stagnating, while China and others are recording rapid growth.

But, I have three good news in this regard:

  • First: the trend is clearly pointing upwards. According to forecasts by the DIHK, exports to Latin America will increase by 5 percent this year. Investments are also increasing. And the number of employees in German companies in the region is expected to rise to 600,000 by the end of the year.
  • The second good news: We have Joe Kaeser, Andreas Renschler and many other business leaders here today. I am very grateful that you take the time, because you can help us to better exploit the potential of our economic relationships. And I would be delighted if we can go into this question in greater depth at an economic policy forum with representatives from politics and business.
  • And thirdly: We as the federal government also want to provide a tailwind. We are committed to a positive trade agenda. We fully support the efforts of the EU Commission.

The aim is to press ahead with the negotiations on trade agreements with Mercosur, Chile and Mexico as quickly as possible so that they can be concluded during our trio presidency of the EU.

It is not just about a commitment to free trade - as necessary as it has now become. Together we can also set global standards for sustainable production, high environmental standards and fair working conditions. And strengthen a partnership that is not based on dependency, but on friendship and trust.

Ladies and gentlemen,

how enriching it is - an exchange among friends - I also felt it on my trip to the region. In Salvador da Bahia and Mexico City I took part in workshops for the women's network Unidas. We will launch that here today.

The participants from Latin America in particular had very specific suggestions:

  • Closer cooperation in the fight against feminicides and sexualised violence in conflicts - a topic that we are also promoting together with Peru in the United Nations Security Council.
  • Or better networking among peace activists and human rights defenders in our countries.

The traditional diplomatic channels are sometimes no longer sufficient for networking in the digital age. We also need civil society.

That is why we want to ensure through the Goethe Institute that women can network more closely with each other at all locations in the region.

And that's why we have decided to further strengthen the positive trend in the exchange of female scientists and students. For example through new DAAD funding programs with Paraguay and Ecuador.

Every year around 10,000 scholarship holders, and the trend is rising, and 35,000 alumni - that's 45,000 guarantees of good neighborliness in the global city.

45,000 guarantees that we will succeed in what Michelle Bachelet recently asked us to do: "We need to push back the push-back!"

And this sentence does not only apply to human rights. It also applies to the open, rule-based world order as a whole.

  • It needs our commitment and our ideas.
  • It needs living civil societies.
  • It needs staunch multilateralists.

In short: she needs us.

And if we feel in the future that it will be lonely around us in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean - then we should reflect on what we are: neighbors. Not in terms of geography. But in everything we stand for and what we do together.

With this in mind: Welcome to Berlin! Welcome to the neighbors!