G20

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

Das Frühjahr liegt in der Luft

In Berlin macht sich bereits der Frühling ein wenig bemerkbar – jedenfalls erleben wir einige schöne sonnige Tage, die uns das Grau des Winters vergessen lassen.

Die Stadt bot damit also auch einen schönen Rahmen für den Besuch eines hochrangigen Kollegen aus dem australischen Außenministerium, der zu Gesprächen mit leitenden Beamten der deutschen Regierung hier war, um die guten Kontakte zwischen unseren Regierungen nach dem G20-Gipfel fortzusetzen. Die von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und Premierminister Abbott vereinbarte engere Zusammenarbeit erfüllen wir nun auf beiden Seiten mit Leben.

Auf anderer Ebene konnte ich mit der Leitung der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung die bereits inhaltsreichen Kontakte unserer Botschaft in einem guten Gespräch fortsetzen. Wir freuen uns immer wieder, hier im politischen Berlin so offene Partner für einen Austausch und auch gemeinsame Projekte zu finden, und mit ihrer starken internationalen Ausrichtung nimmt die Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung hier eine besondere Stellung ein.

Gelegenheit hatte ich diese Woche auch einmal wieder, der jüngeren deutschen Geschichte in unmittelbarer Weise zu begegnen: Ein Besuch der Gedenkstätte Hohenschönhausen hat mir eindrucksvoll vor Augen geführt, wie engagiert hier in Berlin die Auseinandersetzung mit den Formen und Folgen politischer Verfolgung und Unterdrückung in der kommunistischen Diktatur geführt wird.

Aber auch die australische Seite meiner Arbeit brachte in dieser Woche eine schöne Begegnung, nämlich mit einigen neuen australischen Bürgern, die bei uns in der Botschaft im Rahmen einer Citizenship Ceremony ihre Einbürgerungsurkunden erhielten.

Gruppenbild von Botschafter Ritchie mit sechs weiteren Personen bei einer Zeremonie in der Botschaft im Rahmen einer Citizenship Ceremony

Botschafter Ritchie mit sechs neuen Australiern, die im Rahmen einer Citizenship Ceremony in der Botschaft ihre Einbürgerungsurkunden erhielten

Inzwischen kündigen sich nun die ersten großen Veranstaltungen des März an, für die meine Mitarbeiter und ich noch einiges vorzubereiten haben – dazu aber mehr nächste Woche.