News from Berlin

Foreign Minister Steinmeier and French Counterpart Fabius Discuss Franco-German Political Cooperation in Berlin

October 16th, 2014
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News from Berlin - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited his French counterpart Laurent Fabius to attend a cabinet meeting in Berlin during his visit yesterday, October 15th. In discussions, they made a special effort to reinforce close ties between their respective nations, praising their "cooperation accompanied by personal friendship”.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier similarly attended a cabinet session in Paris in May this year, in which he sat next to President Francois Hollande and spoke about the issue of the moment - supporting Ukraine in their presidential elections on May 26th.

This reciprocal gesture of attending cabinet meetings seems strongly symbolic of increasing effort between the major European powers to collaborate closely at a time when several key issues are threatening the continent.

Crucially the situation in Ukraine is, of course, still every bit as pertinent an issue as it was in May. During the discussions on Wednesday, both parties were keen to emphasise the common ground held by France and Germany over the crisis. Steinmeier and Fabius have both placed significant hope in the Minsk Agreement, the ceasefire pact for eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainian government and the separatists.

Nevertheless, they also both agreed on the necessity of a military component to their involvement due to the security situation on the ground. Specifically, they recently indicated willingness to provide drones as part of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Ukrainian ceasefire surveillance operation.

On the topic of global security concerns, Steinmeier and Fabius jointly reiterated the EU’s stance of opposition to direct military intervention against ISIS in Syria. They agreed the focus of European action ought to be on supporting the rebels with resources, and political strategy.

The current economic situation in France, where unemployment from September was 10.5% compared to 4.9% in Germany and deficit reduction targets remain unmet, was noticeably downplayed. While their economy was experiencing consistent growth in recent years, Germany had possessed significant influence to impose EU budget constraints in similar fiscal circumstances.

Steinmeier stressed the importance of focusing together with France on European foreign policy, rather than viewing them merely from a budget perspective. Germany is also having its own economic difficulties, having recently slashed their growth forecast, so strengthening cooperation is perhaps more important than ever.

News from Berlin - Berlin Global