German Ambassadors’ Conference
Berlin, Tuesday 28 August 2018
Remarks by Simon Coveney T.D.,
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
Minister, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the warm welcome this morning.
I am very grateful to you, Heiko, for the kind invitation.
I see it as an expression of Germany’s long-standing commitment to working with all member states of the European Union, big and small.
It is also testament to the very close working relationship between Dublin and Berlin, led by our respective Ambassadors: Deike Potzel and Michael Collins.
Heiko, I want to assure you that Ireland looks to Germany as an indispensable partner. So much so that earlier this year, I published a review of Irish-German relations – the first I have commissioned and published for any European partner. It contains ambitious recommendations to widen and deepen Ireland’s footprint across your country. And implementation is already underway.
Germany is our fourth largest trading partner; our third largest tourism market and our second largest inward investor.
Ireland and Germany are also like-minded in our values.
Heiko and I first met in Dublin in April, very soon after his appointment as Federal Foreign Minister. The day before he went to London, as it happens.
Our note of that meeting quotes Heiko as saying:
“He fell in love with Ireland as a backpacker in Dingle in his younger days and he spent his youth listening to U2.”
What a well-spent youth!
U2 have allowed us to use their song ‘One’ as the anthem of our campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2021 to 2022.
We believe there is an onus on all States, large and small, to take on the responsibilities of membership and play their part on the Council in the maintenance of international peace and security.
We wish Germany every success for its term, starting next January.
Multilateralism is the best way to deliver the world we want.
Might is not right.
Small states understand that. Many large states get it too – above all Germany. Heiko, I know you have been giving a lot of thought to these issues and I am looking forward to discussing your ideas.
But not all States get it.
The world needs rules.
Germany was among the first to recognise this.
You live by the principles of “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit” – unity, justice and freedom.
Let’s take ‘unity.’
And let me mention U2 once again. But this time it’s the U-Bahn number 2 that runs from Ruhleben to Pankow, joining east and west. You know what that means. Since 1993, trains have run along the line again, back and forth in each direction. A symbol of how history need not be destiny.
The European Union exemplifies unity in diversity.
That unity is more essential than ever.
To our east, we are threatened by a revanchism which seeks to undermine liberal democracy.
To our west, there is a United States which seems to be unsure about the values, commitments and institutions which have underpinned the free world for over seventy years.
Is there a fundamental realignment in EU-US relations taking place?
In my view, what we see today is more than a passing phenomenon.
And we should certainly work on the assumption that there is nothing to be gained in just waiting for it to pass.
Our best defence is to stay united. Heiko, you talk about “Europe United” and you are right.
Each of us Europeans needs to tap into the bilateral relationships we have with the US and turn them into a collective, European effort.
Ireland’s links with the United States are strong and historic. Everyone knows about our human and cultural ties. But in business, there are 700 US companies in Ireland employing 155,000 people.
However, 400 Irish companies in the US employ 100,000 Americans. The Irish company CRH is North America’s biggest producer of building products and materials – and we have heard a lot recently about how BMW is the top exporter of cars from the US.
Trade between Europe and the United states is worth one trillion dollars each year. That is nearly one third of global trade. In relative terms, Ireland’s trade relationship with the US is more than double that of Germany’s, and three times the EU average.
We all therefore have a vested interest in a healthy trans-Atlantic relationship.
Each Member State has its own, distinct entry points into America.
We need to come together now to use them to best advantage.
We need to engage with the White House; President Juncker’s visit in July demonstrated the value of this.
But power in the United States is shared: shared with the U.S. Congress, shared between Democrats and Republicans, and shared between Washington and the States.
As Europeans we need to work together, reminding legislators, policy-makers and the wider public in the US of the role the European Union has played in ending division on our continent.
We need to remind them of the stability that a united Europe, at peace with itself, has brought to the rest of the world.
You have Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. So do we. Next year we will open in Los Angeles where you already have a Consulate. We need to work together in each of these cities, putting our case forward.
We can extend our reach by working with the business community on key, agreed messages.
So what is the message?
You might call it Recht; I would call it the rule of law.
In Ireland we have a small, open, trading economy.
Our domestic market is small. So we export most of what we produce.
We need robust international trade frameworks.
We have to counter protectionism and promote open, free and fair trade.
Ireland, like Germany, works within the European Union to ensure that markets remain open and that new market opportunities are created.
We want the Union, building on its run of recent trade successes, to conclude more “new generation” trade and investment partnerships, covering rules and standards as well as tariffs. They make the trade and investment environment in third countries easier and more predictable.
We understand the value business puts on predictability.
Attempts to use tariffs as leverage to obtain trade concessions make business unpredictable.
“Tariffs imposed by the United States are nothing more than a tax increase on American consumers and businesses – including manufacturers, farmers, and technology companies – who will all pay more for commonly used products and materials.”
These are not my words. These are the words of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which represents the interests of 3 million businesses.
We welcome the agreement one month ago between President Juncker and President Trump. But, of course, the devil will be in the detail.
Both sides said they “want to resolve the steel and aluminium tariff issues.” Like you, we want to see early progress on this issue.
Heiko, in June you spoke about the need for greater courage in Europe.
You asked if we should stand idly by and accept that the technologies of the future are only developed in Silicon Valley or in Shenzhen in China?
I am glad to say that Irish and German researchers are already busy working together on the technologies of the future. There are 200 academic research relationships between Ireland and Germany. Nearly 10% of funding for Germany under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme is drawn down by you in collaboration with Irish partners.
Our future will depend on the exchange of ideas.
And in a regulated framework protecting investment and intellectual property, our competitors can also be collaborators.
Like the trains on the U2 line, it should be about East and West, rather than East or West, when the politics and terms of trade are sorted.
President Xi Jinping has said that a united Europe is in China’s interests.
All countries which wish to succeed in the new world have to look outwards, building new relationships while strengthening older ones. In that work, our Foreign Ministries and diplomatic missions are vital team members.
You have 227 diplomatic missions abroad; we have 80. Almost half are in Europe. So we are determined to expand our reach further afield.
As global economic power shifts east and south, we are committed to doubling Ireland’s global footprint by 2025. This will involve the opening of many new missions, but also the strengthening of existing ones.
But, as we innovate and diversify, we should never forget that our most important and lucrative market is on our doorstep: Europe’s single market.
Indeed, one of the first new missions we will open up next year will be a consulate in Frankfurt.
So after ‘Einigkeit’ and ‘Recht’, the single market brings me to ‘Freiheit’ or freedom.
The single market is built upon four freedoms: free movement of people, free movement of goods, free movement of services and free movement of capital.
It is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements. But it is not complete.
It is difficult to measure progress. Some say we have succeeded in completing 80% of the internal market for goods; but only 40% in services.
As you have pointed out yourself, Heiko, the Bertelsmann Stiftung reckons Germany’s economy grows by over €37 billion every year thanks to your membership of the internal market.
It is difficult to say for sure what non-completion costs. But the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, spoke about this in the European Parliament recently. He argued that if we completed the single market – in goods and services and in the Digital Single Market – we could gain one trillion euros a year.
As a big exporter, Ireland is a huge beneficiary of the single market.
And we want to work with Germany to achieve a single market that is future-proofed and fit for the digital age.
We want to deal now with all outstanding barriers experienced by entrepreneurs, not least in the services field.
So what are we waiting for? We have been at this since 1957. That’s over 60 years. Let’s just get on with it, name a date – I have said it should be 2022 – and just complete the market. Who in their right mind would say ‘no’ to one trillion euros?
It is a sad paradox of Brexit that no country has contributed more to the creation of the Single Market, and the promotion of free trade, than the United Kingdom.
It is our largest single economic partner, though our exports to the rest of the EU are more than double those to Britain.
Our relationship with Britain has many other facets: human, cultural, geographical, and, not least, historical.
The greatest Irish diplomatic and political achievement of the last fifty years has been to achieve peace in Northern Ireland and to advance reconciliation on our island. We did this working with the British Government and with the Northern Ireland political parties, with support from friends across Europe and America. And in the process we helped to transform the British-Irish relationship.
Ireland will undoubtedly be more affected by Brexit than any other Member State of the Union. It has been the number one issue in our country since the 2016 referendum, and occupies more of my time than any other part of my job.
In the Brexit negotiations, Ireland has two main objectives. The first is to ensure that the UK’s departure does not endanger what is still a fragile political settlement in Northern Ireland.
The gains of the peace process are symbolised, and reinforced, by the fact that the border between North and South has become invisible. This is of huge importance, not just economically but politically and psychologically. The reinstatement of a hard border must be avoided in all circumstances. I know that the British Government is committed to this too. But to achieve it requires it to make hard decisions over the next couple of months and to finally deliver on the commitments it has already made to the EU in December and in March.
The avoidance of a hard border in Ireland is – after all - also a priority for the Union as a whole. We are profoundly grateful for this unswerving support. Maintaining it has been and remains the overwhelming focus of our diplomatic efforts. But we could not succeed without the understanding and empathy of all our partners, not least Germany.
You know all about borders. And you were quick to grasp the problem. I understand that Chancellor Merkel spoke about it at this conference two years ago.
Ireland’s second objective is the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK. This is profoundly in the economic, political and security interests of both sides. But that relationship must respect the EU’s core principles and achievements, including the Single Market and Customs Union. If those essential elements can be safeguarded, then I think there is indeed scope for a unique future partnership.
I welcome the fact that the UK - at last - advanced detailed proposals last month. It’s clear that they require a great deal of work if they are to help lead to agreement. But at least there’s now a basis for serious negotiation. I hope that the British Government will be able to develop its position further. If it does, I am sure our Union can be imaginative in return.
These are demanding times. The manifold challenges of migration, which Germany understands well, require not only greater cooperation across our continent, but also a new political partnership with Africa – a subject on which I feel strongly, and I know Heiko does too. We have huge challenges in our relationship with Russia and we need a more active Europe in the Middle East Peace Process. But – not least due to time – these are topics for another day.
For today, suffice to say we know the Europe we want. A European economy united around one market and one currency, committed to common rules in Europe and globally. And a European Union which continues to promote unity, justice and freedom – as a family which shares both a history and a future.
Einigkeit, Recht und Freiheit.
Thank you for welcoming me here today.