Australia Germany - Close Friends and Global Citizens - Looking Beyond 60

Articles and op-ed

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

28 January 2012

Over 160,000 German visitors to Australia every year and thousands of Australian citizens living in Berlin alone cannot be wrong: there is something about Australia and Germany which goes beyond beautiful Australian beaches and a laidback attitude or the love for German classical composers and sophisticated cars. Australia and Germany — two countries with shared values, global interests and strong people-to-people links — have forged a modern partnership that is making a difference around the world.

In the aftermath of the earthquakes and tsunami that left Japan reeling last March, Germany and Australia were among the first to send search-and-rescue teams to pick through rubble and hunt for survivors amid unimaginable destruction.

For our two nations Afghanistan remains one of our most significant foreign policy challenges. Germany is the third largest military and civil contributor. Australia is the largest non-NATO and a top ten military and development contributor to Afghanistan. Both countries welcomed the outcomes of the Bonn International Afghanistan Conference in December 2011, which provided a crucial framework for a sustainable future for the Afghan people and for the region.

With our strong credentials in peacekeeping and other forms of multilateral engagement, we are both committed to reforming the United Nations and other international organisations to make them more representative and effective. And we share aspirations to make a difference — Germany as a current member of the UN Security Council and Australia seeking election for a seat in 2013-14.

On climate change, Australia and Germany are leading global efforts to transform our economies to a green future and are combining our efforts to devise creative solutions to overcome logjams in multilateral negotiations. We see great potential mutual benefit in closer collaboration on renewable energy and clean technology.

On arms control, Australia and Germany have developed, with others, practical ways of kick-starting talks on a treaty to ban the production of weapon-grade nuclear material — a crucial next step for capping nuclear arsenals around the world and preventing the emergence of new ones.

In Vietnam, we jointly support the Vietnamese government’s efforts to address climate change in the Mekong Delta. And on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao Australian-German cooperation is bringing education assistance, and a better future, to over 100,000 children.

Our universities and researchers have forged hundreds of linkages and are delivering cutting edge scientific outcomes. Our recently signed Joint Declaration on Resources and Energy Cooperation is facilitating connections between German business and the Australian raw materials and energy sectors. On the commercial front, over 750 German owned businesses generate more than 90,000 jobs for Australians and a growing number of Australian companies are making in-roads into the German market. Over 100,000 Australian residents were born in Germany and many more claim German ancestry. A new generation of young Germans and Australians are establishing connections through our working holiday programs.

On 28 January, we celebrate 60 years of formal diplomatic relations. German-Australian links date back to the 18th century and generations of Germans have contributed significantly to Australia, including by helping establish Australia’s wine industry. Amongst the Germans who helped write Australia’s national story was the early 19th century Prussian naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt, who explored vast areas of the continent and whose bicentenary we will commemorate in 2013. Apparently, these early German settlers left quite an impression on former Australian Prime Minister Sir George Reid, who in 1912, in a speech before the German Reichstag said that Australia had “amongst us many of your countrymen” and that Australia as a young country “would rejoice to increase the number of our German fellow colonists.”

We may be lands apart but the intrinsic importance of each country to the other is increasingly clear. Australia welcomes Germany's role in promoting prosperity and stability in Europe and beyond, and its significant investment footprint. For Germany, Australia is an important G20 partner with a robust and diverse economy — the fourth-largest in Asia — and a leader in promoting rules-based cooperation and sustainable development, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.

Australia and Germany are well placed to prosper from our research and technological links as the world’s economic focus turns to Asia. As knowledge-based societies with robust economies, we stand ready to tap into business opportunities that demand leadership in innovation and the services sector.

In a rapidly changing world, with all its uncertainties, challenges and opportunities, we need close partners and friends. On the occasion of our 60th anniversary and in an effort to tap the rich potential of our partnership, we are developing a joint road map to guide our cooperation into a strategic partnership. As good global citizens and close friends, we will continue to join efforts to actively shape global developments for the benefit of our peoples.

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