Bilateral relationship in renewed focus

With the European summer holidays now in full swing, I wanted to look back at a very exciting series of important events in the bilateral relationship that took place during July.  We have rarely had so much serious and welcome attention in Germany on ways in which we can strengthen and expand the already very good linkages between our two countries.  It’s a great time for Australian-German relations!

Before July, however, I should just note the excellent seminar that took place on 16 June here in Berlin on the Australia-Germany relationship.  The seminar was arranged by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and brought together experts from both countries and other friends of Australia.  I, of course, greatly appreciate the Stiftung’s hosting of this extremely interesting event and hope that we can continue the process initiated by the seminar in the future.  I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in that very useful discussion (www.kas.de).

From 30 June to 2 July a very high level Australian delegation from the Europe Australia Business Council visited Munich.  The Australian Finance Minister, Senator the Honourable Mathias Cormann, accompanied that delegation.  Their program included calls on a wide range of German businesses and organisations based in Bavaria, including Siemens, Allianz, BMW and the Fraunhofer Institute, and Senator Cormann and the delegation also met the Bavarian Deputy Ministerpräsident and Minister for Economic Affairs, Media, Energy and Technology, Ilse Aigner.

The following week, from 7 July, the focus shifted to Berlin, where, in the lead-up to the first joint meeting on 10 July of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group set up by Prime Minister Abbott and Chancellor Merkel, a substantial Australian business delegation, led by Senator Cormann, undertook a very intensive business program with German companies, ministries and organisations to discuss ways of further expanding our trade and investment relationship.  Members of that delegation also participated in a very interesting business program throughout Germany arranged by the Australian Trade Commission, focusing on specific sectors with really good prospects for future business between us.  In addition,  during his time in Berlin Senator Cormann met Deputy Chancellor Gabriel and his Parliamentary Secretary, Dr Beckmeyer, Finance Minister Schäuble and the Minister for Education and Research, Professor Wanka, to exchange ideas on further cooperation between our two countries and to discuss current international economic issues.

Senator Cormann also made a major speech at a very well-attended event organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on 9 July on “The Australian-German relationship and Opportunities Moving Forward” (for full text, see www.financeminister.gov.au/speeches/2015/0709-konrad.html).  This was followed, that evening, by a large reception co-hosted by the two Co-Chairs of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, Senator Cormann and Minister of State Professor Maria Böhmer, at the Reichstag, at which we had the privilege of listening to some wonderful Australian musicians playing in that superb and historic building, including guitarists Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, who made a stop in Berlin on their way to a concert in Saarbrücken and presented some of their exciting duo pieces, and violinist Stanley Dodds and pianist Kathryn Bolitho, who performed a mixed German-Australian program with works by Johannes Brahms and Peter Sculthorpe.

As mentioned earlier, the Australia-Germany Advisory Group held its first joint meeting in Berlin on 10 July.  The meeting, which I attended, saw a considerable meeting of minds on ways forward for our relationship and there was a substantial exchange of ideas on ways in which to do this.  It was incredibly stimulating to be there!  Prior to the meeting, the members of the Group had been able to meet very briefly with Chancellor Merkel and to have a lengthy discussion with the Head of the Federal Chancellor’s Office, Minister Peter Altmaier.  This very high-level attention to the work of the Group just underlines how important an initiative it is and sets the scene for a very interesting and substantive report to the two leaders later this year.  The next joint meeting of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group will take place in Australia in the next few months, probably in October.

It was a seriously interesting series of events and a tremendous privilege to have been there!

And here are a number of images from our various events, showing Senator Cormann speaking at the Embassy; meeting German Federal Economics Minister Sigmar Gabrial along with members of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group; at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, along with German MP Volkmar Klein, KAS Deputy Secretary General Dr Gerhard Wählers, and myself; Slava and Leonard Grigoryan performing at the Reichstag; Stanley Dodds and Kathryn Bolitho; Senator Cormann meeting Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, along with State Minister Professor Maria Böhmer; and the Advisory Group at the Chancellery and at the Foreign Office.

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