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Germany's foreign minister reaches Australia — finally

May 2, 2024

Annalena Baerbock has arrived in Australia — eight and a half months later than initially planned. She traveled aboard a new plane after Berlin's breakdown-prone old fleet became a focus of derision.

Baerbock is welcomed by German Ambassador to Australia Beate Grzeski and Chris Cannan, head of the European Department of the Australian Foreign Ministry
Germany's ambassador to Australia, Beate Grzeski, and Australian Foreign Ministry official Chris Cannan greeted Baerbock in AdelaideImage: Sina Schuldt/dpa/picture alliance

A plane carrying German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock landed in the southern Australian city of Adelaide on Thursday for a trip that had to be abandoned last August.

Baerbock made the journey on one of Berlin's new VIP planes named Konrad Adenauer — the predecessor of which was dogged with frequent breakdowns.

Why was the previous trip postponed?

The aircraft was being closely watched after last year's trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji had to be abandoned because of repeated mechanical malfunctions.

Technical issues with German government planes had begun to make the Berlin fleet an object of ridicule.

The technical problems on Baerbock's last Australia trip were with an older government aircraft — an Airbus A340 also named after Germany's first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer — which has since been taken out of service.

Baerbock only made it as far as Abu Dhabi that time around.

The aircraft was used by former Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor Olaf Scholz, and suffered repeated problems

Merkel missed the start of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires when the jet experienced a "serious malfunction" in the air and had to turn back to land in Cologne. She finally arrived in the Argentine capital aboard a commercial flight.

A week before that, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was delayed during a trip to several African countries when the government's "Theodor Heuss" jet — also an Airbus A340 — experienced problems.

The previous Konrad Adenauer also suffered breakdowns in New York and Beijing.

What's planned on the trip?

Baerbock was welcomed by German Ambassador to Australia Beate Grzeski and Chris Cannan, the head of the European Department of Australia's Foreign Ministry.

She was set to meet Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Friday and visit a cybersecurity center and an Australian Navy post in Adelaide.

From Adelaide, provided there are no technical hitches, Baerbock is set to travel on to New Zealand before moving to become the first German foreign minister to visit the South Pacific island state of Fiji.

In total, the Green Party politician will cover about 43,000 kilometers (some 26,700 miles), spending more than 50 hours on the plane.

Ahead of her visit, Baerbock noted that the region is becoming increasingly important to Germany for strategic and economic reasons.

In particular, she noted rising tensions with China over espionage allegations, trade, Taiwan, and the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

This article was written using material provided by the DPA news agency

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Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.