Economic diplomacy

Last week was a very big one for Australia and for the Embassy

As you’ll recall, Prime Minister Abbott and Chancellor Merkel announced earlier in the month the details of the Advisory Group they’d decided to establish to recommend to them ways of strengthening our bilateral relationship into the future. Following that announcement, both the German and Australian sides of the Advisory group held their first meetings on 20 and 22 April respectively to begin consideration of this very significant task. The two Co-Chairs, Staatsministerin Maria Böhmer from the Foreign Office and the Australian Finance Minister, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, led the discussion at both events and have been in touch to compare notes since. As earlier also announced, we expect the first joint meeting of the Advisory Group to take place in July in Berlin. I can’t wait: these are very exciting times for Australian-German relations!

And two very senior Australian Ministers visited Germany last week too. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in Berlin on 21-22 April and held discussions with her counterpart, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, with Professor Böhmer and with Interior Ministry State Secretary Emily Haber. It was Ms Bishop’s first visit to Berlin as Foreign Minister. Then, shortly after she left, the Australian Defence Minister, the Hon Kevin Andrews, arrived for discussions on 22 April with German Defence Minister von der Leyen. His visit, the first by an Australian Defence Minister for some time, and the visit by Foreign Minister Bishop covered a range of issues which showed just how close our views are in the foreign policy, strategic and defence areas and how much we have to offer each other as partners. Defence Minister Andrews also visited Kiel on 23 April during his time in Germany.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the joint press conference. They are standing in front of the Australian, European and German flag.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Foreign Minister Steinmeier at a joint press conference in Berlin

German Defence Minister Ursula Von der Leyen and Australian Defence Minister Andrews passing by the guard battalion at the Ministry of Defence

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Australian Defence Minister Andrews

The week culminated in a massively important event for Australia, the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the landing of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli in Turkey on 25 April 1915. We chose to hold the service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery at Stahnsdorf near Berlin, where 20 young Australians and three young New Zealanders are buried. These include three original ANZACs, Albert Elliott, Benjamin Gannaway and Otto Siefken. So it was a very significant way of paying our personal respects to each of them and to their friends and colleagues buried at Stahnsdorf. There are, we think, 21 Australian ANZACs buried in Germany and I’ll publish the list of these and where their graves are located shortly. Please do remember them in this very special year, as did the over 200 people who attended the Stahnsdorf service. Lest we forget.

(See names of Gallipoli Veterans buried in Germany below)

Ambassador Ritchie giving a speech at theCommonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery at Stahnsdorf. The Ambassador stands while guests are seated in fron of him an listining to him speaking.

At the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery in Stahnsdorf

A picture of many wreath laying at a memorial at the cemetry.

Wreath ceremony

Finally, I wanted to mention the concert played in Berlin on the night of ANZAC Day by the World Doctors Orchestra, which I also attended. An excellent Australian company, Sonic Healthcare, very active in Germany, sponsored the orchestra, meaning that the proceeds of the concert could go to needy people in Africa. Just another way in which Australians are playing their part in helping others in the world less well off than we are. A wonderful initiative and, in addition to being terrific doctors, the members of the orchestra proved to an almost sell-out crowd in Berlin that they are also superb musicians.

GALLIPOLI VETERANS BURIED IN GERMANY

Albert ELLIOTT 1131 – BERLIN SOUTH-WESTERN CEMETERY
Benjamin Joseph GANNAWAY 903 – BERLIN SOUTH-WESTERN CEMETERY
Otto John SIEFKEN 354 – BERLIN SOUTH-WESTERN CEMETERY
Algar Hampton ALTHORP 1301 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
John Hosking ARGALL 1719 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Reginald Henry DABB 393 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Thomas HENSON 3172 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
John James HINDLEY 2747 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
James Clarence O’NEILL 140 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Edwin Albert PEDGRIFT 1727 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Thomas James HANN 1951 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Terence SWEENEY 1615 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Daniel Thomas TUDOR 1365 – COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
Andrew Carnegie Booth FAIRWEATHER  1291 – HAMBURG CEMETERY (Hauptfriedhof Ohlsdorf)
Ernest Septimus HURMAN 3351 – HAMBURG CEMETERY (Hauptfriedhof Ohlsdorf)
Alexander George McARTHUR 1984 – HAMBURG CEMETERY (Hauptfriedhof Ohlsdorf)
William Henry HURRELL 1961* – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL
Henry Hans PETERSEN 142 – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL – Is showing on the CWGC site as coming from the United Kingdom.
Frederick William Adolphus RAMSEYER 486 – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL
William John SMITH 233 – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL
Arthur Herbert KENNEDY (officer; no service no.) – NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, KASSEL

An exciting month ahead!

I hope everyone had a very happy Easter. In addition, of course, to it being a very important religious festival, Australians also enjoy the Easter break and Aussie children can’t wait until the Easter Bunny – or, sometimes in Australia, the Easter Bilby (have a look on the internet to see a Bilby) – turns up on Easter Sunday after a very long journey. This year the Easter Bunny/Bilby even gave me a chocolate koala!

I just wanted to mention three more serious things!

Firstly, when Chancellor Merkel visited Australia in November 2014 for the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane, she also made a short but highly successful bilateral visit to Sydney, where she held talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other senior ministers. During those discussions, the two leaders agreed to establish a joint Advisory Group to look at ways of strengthening, in all areas, the already warm relationship between Australia and Germany. Today (8 April), both leaders announced, in Canberra and Berlin, the co-Chairs and members of that group. You can see the full text of the Australian announcement here. Both the Australian and German members of the group are very distinguished and will bring a lot of expertise to the group’s work. On the Australian side, the co-Chair of the group will be the Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann, and on the German side, the co-Chair will be the Minister of State in the Foreign Office, Professor Maria Böhmer. The group will start its work immediately and will report to both leaders by the end of this year. The first full joint meeting of the group is expected to take place in July in Berlin. I’m delighted to have been included among the Australian members, as has my counterpart in Canberra, Christoph Müller, on the German side.

Chancellor Merkel petting a koala on the Australian Prime Minister's arms during the G 20 leaders meeting in Brisbane in November 2014.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chancellor Merkel during the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane in November 2014

Secondly, I am truly delighted to have the chance to see the world famous Sydney Dance Company at the Movimentos festival in Wolfsburg this coming weekend, from 10-12 April, performing their much-awarded work, “2 One Another”. This is, in fact, the European premiere of “2 One Another”. The company is a special favourite of mine and my wife and I used to be regular subscribers to their performances when we lived in Australia. If you get the chance, don’t miss them! See you there!

Finally, I know that many Australians – and New Zealanders – will be thinking about how to mark the forthcoming very special centenary commemoration of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The landings at what is now known as ANZAC Cove are, of course, a fundamentally important part of Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) path to nationhood and marking appropriately the 100 years since the landings will be a very significant occasion for us all. The Australian Embassy website contains details of this year’s ANZAC Day service in Berlin, which will be held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s First World War cemetery at Stahnsdorf, just on the outskirts of the city, beginning at 0900 on 25 April. Both Australian and New Zealand servicemen from the First World War have found their final rest at the cemetery in Stahnsdorf and, yes, this includes three original ANZACs. Please do come along to help us remember them and to honour their sacrifice. If you are planning to come – and I hope you all do – please do register your likely attendance at RSVP-Berlin@dfat.gov.au well before the service. In a forthcoming blog post, I’ll try to provide a list of Australian First World War soldiers who we know are buried in Germany, including other original ANZACs (and my apologies if we miss any). If you can’t make it to the service in Berlin, perhaps a really worthy thing to do would be to remember those others too, at any time during the year and in the places where they are buried in Germany.

Ambassador Ritchie at the wreath ceremony at the Anzac Day service in 2014

The ANZAC Day service in 2014

ITB, ESC und Ostasiatisches Liebesmahl – Rückblick auf eine spannende Arbeitswoche

Reisen bildet und erweitert den Horizont! Dies ist nur ein Grund dafür, dass ich ein großer Fan der internationalen Tourismusmesse ITB bin. Ein weiterer ist, dass man sich auf der ITB wunderbar inspirieren lassen kann. Es gibt viele spannende Länder und Orte auf der Welt und bei der ITB kommen sie an fünf Tagen alle in Berlin zusammen – in diesem Jahr war es vom 4.-8. März.

Gruppen bild von Mats Dahl fernström von Quantas, Eva Seller von Tourism Australia und Botschafter Ritchie (links nach rechts) vor dem Tourism Australia Messestand

Hier bin ich mit Eva Seller (Tourism Australia) und Mats Dahl Fernström (Qantas) bei der traditionellen Happy Hour auf der ITB (R-L)

Mein Lieblingsstand bei der ITB ist – wie sollte es auch anders sein – der Stand von Tourism Australia, bei dem sich die Messebesucher über die vielseitigen Tourismusziele in Australien informieren konnten. Meinen Besuch bei der ITB nutzte ich auch dazu, um mich mit Eva Seller (Regional General Manager Continental Europe bei Tourism Australia), ihren Kollegen und zahlreichen anderen Fachgästen über die neuen Entwicklungen in der Tourismusbranche auszutauschen. Es freut mich sehr, dass die ITB ein so großer Erfolg in diesem Jahr war und zahlreiche Besucher ein großes Interesse an Australien als Reiseland gezeigt haben.

Bild des gemeinsamen Messestandes von Australien und Neuseeland

Auch in diesem Jahr hatten Australien und Neuseeland wieder einen gemeinsamen Stand bei der ITB

Im Anschluss an die ITB war ich noch am selben Abend zusammen mit dem Britischen Botschafter Sir Simon McDonald Gastgeber einer sehr aufschlussreichen Podiumsdiskussion anlässlich des Internationalen Frauentages bei uns in der Botschaft. Meinen aktuellen Beitrag dazu gibt es hier zu lesen.

Ambassador Ritchie in front of the panel welcoming the guests

Hier begrüße ich die Gäste zur Podiumsdiskussion anlässlich des Internationalen Frauentages 2015

Am Freitag ging es dann für mich nach Hamburg, wo ich zu Gast beim traditionellen Ostasiatischen Liebesmahl des Wirtschaftsverbandes OAV war. Jedes Jahr treffen sich bei dieser Veranstaltung Vertreter aus Politik, Wirtschaft und Diplomatie zum internationalen Erfahrungsaustausch zu verschiedenen Themen im Hinblick auf die asiatisch-pazifische Region.

Ein weiteres Highlight vergangene Woche war die Ankündigung, dass der australische Sänger Guy Sebastian am Eurovision Song Contest teilnehmen wird. Für einige Leute ist es sicher verwunderlich, dass ein Australier bei einem europäischen Gesangswettbewerb auftritt. Tatsächlich ist der ESC aber auch in Australien sehr bekannt und beliebt. Ich freue mich in jedem Fall sehr darüber, dass Australien in diesem Jahr vertreten ist und bin gespannt auf den Auftritt von Guy Sebastian in Wien.

Auch die nächsten Wochen versprechen aufregend zu werden. Ich freue mich darauf, hier davon zu berichten.

A conversation about women, peace and security to mark International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I co-hosted a panel discussion with British Ambassador Sir Simon McDonald entitled “Empowering Women on the International Stage” at the Australian Embassy on 5 March.  As this year marks the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security, panellists – former Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Penny Williams, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director for Multilateral Policy Paul Arkwright and Associate Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations Magdalena Kirchner – spoke about how far UN member states had come in implementing the resolution and steps to be taken in the future.

Australian Ambassador David Ritchie (right) and British Ambassador Sir Simon McDonald (left) co-hosting the panel discussion entitled “Empowering Women on the International Stage” at the Australian Embassy in Berlin

Australian Ambassador David Ritchie (right) and British Ambassador Sir Simon McDonald (left) co-hosted the panel discussion entitled “Empowering Women on the International Stage” at the Australian Embassy in Berlin

15 years after UNSCR 1325 was adopted, the statistics remain staggering.  As Paul Arkwright pointed out, ninety percent of casualties of conflict are women, but women only represent eight percent of peace negotiators.  More needs to be done to increase women’s participation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peacekeeping, humanitarian responses and in post-conflict reconstruction.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director for Multilateral Policy Paul Arkwright, Associate Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) Magdalena Kirchner and former Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Penny Williams sitting on the panel

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director for Multilateral Policy Paul Arkwright, Associate Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) Magdalena Kirchner and former Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Penny Williams (left-right)

Our panellist suggested that improvements could start at the UN level.  For example, a high-level role, such as that of a Special Representative, could be created to ensure the women, peace and security agenda is consistently applied throughout UN departments.

Improvements could also be made at the national level.  Only 48 out of 193 UN member states have released national action plans as called for by the UN Secretary General.  Panellists agreed that more needs to be done to encourage states to develop strategies to implement the resolution.

Penny William’s insights about her former role as Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for Women and Girls shone light on Australia’s work in our region.  The role was created as a “boots in the Pacific” not Geneva or New York role.  Penny and current Ambassador Natascha Stott Despoja have spent much time working with Pacific Island governments and communities to promote gender equality and raise issues of concern.  Here, there are good stories to tell on women in policing in the Solomon Islands and women’s participation in the Bougainville Peace Process.

former Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Penny Williams speaking on the panel

Former Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Penny Williams

Panellists also discussed ways of institutionalising the protection of women and increasing women’s participation in this context.  For example, mandatory gender advisor and sex discrimination officer roles could be created for defence and police forces.  But beyond embedding positions and procedures in institutions, the issue needs to be mainstreamed.  As reflected in the Q&A session with the audience, there are creative ways to achieve this, including with civil society and social media.

In a year full of anniversaries – the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the 105th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (a visionary roadmap for advancing women’s rights and equality) and the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 – it is important we don’t get lost in all the celebrations and commemorations.  Our panel discussion was a stark reminder that we still have work ahead of us on gender equality and women’s empowerment in peace and security and more broadly.

Kein diplomatischer Alltag in Berlin

Zwischen Stuttgart, Zürich und Berlin waren ich und meine Kollegen in dieser Woche unterwegs, um Australien zu vertreten und die australische Präsenz bei hochkarätigen Ereignissen zu unterstützen – weit über den diplomatischen Alltag hinaus.

In Berlin waren die Tage geprägt durch den beeindruckenden Abschied von dem früheren Bundespräsidenten Richard von Weizsäcker. Führende Vertreter vieler Länder waren bei der Trauerfeier dabei, um dieses großen Staatsmanns zu gedenken, auch der australische Generalgouverneur Sir Peter Cosgrove hat ein Kondolenzschreiben gesandt. Ich hatte die Ehre, mit unter den Gästen im Berliner Dom zu sein und konnte einen geschichtlichen Moment miterleben, der mir lange im Gedächtnis bleiben wird.

Aber Berlin war auch wieder Gastgeber eines großartigen Filmfestivals, der 65. Berlinale, und wir konnten bei einem gut besuchten Empfang einmal mehr die australische Filmbranche mit vielen internationalen Kontakten zusammenbringen. Gemeinsam mit Graeme Mason, dem CEO von Screen Australia, habe ich im historischen Silbersaal am Potsdamer Platz rund 200 Gäste begrüßt. Australien war in diesem Jahr wieder stark vertreten im Programm ‚Generation‘, und wir sind nun gespannt auf die Auszeichnungen, die vergeben werden.

Graeme Mason, der CEO von Screen Australia, steht neben Botschafter Ritchie und hält eine Ansprache

Graeme Mason, CEO Screen Australia, und Botschafter Ritchie

Graeme Mason steht neben Maryanne Redpath, der Leiterin der Berlinale-Sektion 'Generation' und Berlinale-Delegierte für Australien und Neuseeland

Graeme Mason mit Maryanne Redpath (Leiterin der Berlinale-Sektion ‘Generation’ und Berlinale-Delegierte für Australien und Neuseeland)

Zuvor aber hieß es für mich, in Stuttgart beim Federation Cup dem australischen Tennis-Team die Daumen zu drücken. Es hat nicht ganz geklappt, aber die Stimmung war großartig und die deutschen Spielerinnen waren würdige Gewinnerinnen.

Dafür hat mein Kollege Thomas Roth in der Schweiz einen historischen Rekord erlebt: Rohan Dennis hat am Sonntag im Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen in einer Stunde 52,491 km geschafft– unser herzlicher Glückwunsch zu einem neuen Weltrekord! Ein wunderbares Ergebnis eines perfekten Zusammenwirkens zwischen Australien und der Schweiz im Radsport!

Vom Australia Day zur Berlinale – eine ereignisreiche Woche

Auch dieses Jahr, 2015, beginnt für uns gleich wieder mit einer Reihe von Höhepunkten:

Unsere Australia Day-Party letzte Woche war ein rauschender Erfolg – wir haben von vielen Gästen begeisterte Rückmeldung bekommen zu dem bunten Programm, das wir mit australischen Musikern und Künstlern bieten konnten. Unterstützung hatten wir auch von unseren Kollegen bei Tourism Australia und anderen prominenten australischen Partnern.

Hier einige Impressionen, eingefangen von Kate Seabrook, mit Dyko, Sam Wareing und Tim McMillan auf der Bühne:

_DSC0464 _DSC0105  _DSC0394 _DSC0420

Wir haben damit auch schon früh das Jahr des 25. Jubiläums der deutschen Einheit gewürdigt, und der Berliner Tagesspiegel sprach bereits von einem „fulminanten Start“, den wir so geboten haben. Australier leisten jedenfalls einen lebhaften Beitrag zum Leben in Berlin – viele sind ja im kulturellen Bereich aktiv, und unsere expat community zählt inzwischen über 2200 ‚gemeldete Einwohner‘. Übrigens, if you are an Australian have YOU registered with the Australian Embassy? You can do so at https://www.orao.dfat.gov.au/orao/weborao.nsf/Homeform?Openform.

Nun geht es für uns fast nahtlos weiter mit einem Empfang zur Berlinale – gemeinsam mit Screen Australia werden wir die starke Präsenz der australischen Filmbranche feiern. Vielleicht schauen ja auch zwei besondere australische Stars des diesjährigen Festivals – Nicole Kidman und Cate Blanchett – mit vorbei.

Berlin zeigt sich nun in diesen Tagen von seiner besten Winterseite: Schnee und Sonne liegen über der Stadt. In Australien sind die Menschen unterdessen aus dem Sommerurlaub zurück und wieder mit ihrem Alltag befasst – Anlass auch für uns, mit neuem Elan die weiteren Aktivitäten des Jahres anzugehen.

Dazu zählt auch einmal mehr der Sport: Nächste Woche werde ich von der ersten großen bilateralen Begegnung des Jahres berichten können – am Samstag unterstütze ich das australische Team beim Tennis Federation Cup in Stuttgart. Freuen wir uns auf ein tolles gemeinsames Erlebnis!