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Germany: Foreign minister puts climate high up on agenda

December 9, 2021

New German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has begun her inaugural trip to some of Germany's neighbors. First stop: Paris. She has pledged to put international climate policies front and center.

Annalena Baerbock (left) and Jean-Yves Le Drian (right) meeting in Paris
German foreign ministers and chancellors typically travel to Paris for a first visit after taking officeImage: Gonzalo Fuentes/REUTERS

Newly instated German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressed the importance of tackling the climate crisis on her diplomatic agenda before kicking off her first official trip to Paris and Brussels on Thursday.

"I'm going to give international climate policies the space they deserve on the diplomatic agenda from day one," the foreign minister, a member of the Green Party, said in a statement.

"The most important task in diplomacy is preventing, containing and preferably solving crises," Baerbock added. "And no crisis is a greater threat to the future of humanity than the climate crisis."

Baerbock headed to Brussels next and will visit Germany's eastern neighbor Poland on Friday.

What did Baerbock say in Paris?

Like previous German foreign ministers, Baerbock made Paris the first destination on her inaugural tour of European capitals. Baerbock called this not only a favored tradition, but also important due to the fact that "Germany has no closer friend than France."

She met with her French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and said in a press conference afterward that they had discussed the two countries' shared goals as well as climate policy, the crisis at the Poland-Belarus border and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. 

She also called for a common response to the case of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and the possibility of diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

What did Baerbock discuss in Brussels?

EU foreign policy chief Josep Fontelles welcomed Baerbock as the new foreign minister in Brussels.

"It's not by coincidence that I came here to Brussels on my first day in office," she told reporters during a press conference, speaking in English, unusually for a leading German politician, and calling herself a true European at heart.

As with her previous stop, Baerbock discussed several pressing issues facing the bloc.

With regards to the situation at the Poland-Belarus border, she said: "We agreed that the EU must maintain pressure on the regime in Minsk."

"And we also underlined our common solidarity towards Ukraine," the foreign minister added.

Following her meeting with Borrell, Baerbock also met with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

She said in a joint press conference that the new German government supports NATO's commitments in Eastern Europe, but added that "the tensions show how necessary it would be to revive the NATO-Russian council, and we are ready to do so." 

What is the aim of the inaugural trip?

The new foreign minister said in her statement that the aim of the inaugural trip was also to reaffirm trust with Germany's neighbors.

"The most important thing for me during this inaugural visit is to listen to our closest partners. We won't pursue our own ideas and interests over the heads of our neighbors, and definitely not at their cost," she said.

She went on to stress the importance of the European Union's "basic values," adding, "We cannot allow Europe's foundations to crumble away, in particular with the rule of law and human rights."

Germany's new government: Dawn of a modern age?

Baerbock will visit Warsaw on Thursday, where the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has been at loggerheads with the EU over the independence of the Polish judiciary.

Who is Annalena Baerbock?

Baerbock had run as the chancellor candidate for the Green Party in September's general election in Germany. While surfing a brief wave of popularity after the announcement of her candidacy, she later fell in the polls partly owing to claims of plagiarism in a book launched to coincide with the campaign.

Nevertheless, the Green Party achieved its highest ever share of the vote, coming in third behind the Social Democrats and former Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

After several months of negotiations, the Greens, the SPD and the Free Democrats (FDP) formed a three-way coalition that was voted in on Wednesday.

ab/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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