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Howard Meets With Germany’s Chancellor Schroeder

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has met with Germany’s Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, in Berlin.

The two men held a joint press conference at which they discussed relations between Australia and Germany, the Kyoto Protocol, trade, illegal immigration and the International Criminal Court.

Transcript of joint press conference with Prime Minister John Howard and Germany’s Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

SchroederCHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

Well ladies and gentlemen, allow me first of all to say how very pleased I am to be able to welcome the Australian Prime Minister here to Berlin. I have been able to welcome here a very reliable friend indeed and I can also say that the relationship between Australia and Germany is free of any kind of problems. And we were also able to discuss very welcome news.

First and foremost for thousands of pensioners in our two countries, there has been an agreement on the social security agreement now between our two countries and I understand that as of October of this year, our pensioners in both countries can actually receive pensions without any hindrance or problems in the respective countries in which they reside.

There were other examples of the very positive development between our two countries, primarily economic issues. First and foremost, tourism has developed again tremendously. Obviously also because we’re talking about a very attractive destination when we talk about Australia. But what we also noted with gratification was the fact that particularly exchanges of young people and more specifically students, have increased significantly between our two countries.

And the third point that I wanted to mention on the bilateral front is that the two of us were in agreement that we want to do a little bit more in order to push officials on both sides towards speeding up negotiations that are currently underway on the double taxation agreement between our two countries. We’d like to see that completed as speedily as possible so as to facilitate direct investments in both countries.

We also talked obviously about any number of international issues that were of mutual interest. I gave a briefing, a report, to the Prime Minister on the result of the summit meeting in Canada and I must say I was very pleased to note that he paid tribute to the great efforts that Germany made in order to forge a strategic partnership with Russia. And he paid tribute to these efforts. He also paid tribute to what we have been able to achieve during the summit meeting in trying to cope with the problem of nuclear waste and that too was again noted with gratification.

Among the other areas that we were debating, there was one area and that is also a common thing among friends. We do not always agree. We sometimes may also find areas where we are perhaps not of one mind. And as with the Kyoto Protocol, here we have a somewhat different assessment of the matter if I may say so than the Australian Government.

Also as regard the strategy for the upcoming Johannesburg summit meeting. And that is something that I did not want to hide from you ladies and gentlemen, and indeed why should I? But generally around I think we can safely say that there is very great understanding and agreement in almost all of the international issues and certainly complete agreement on the bilateral front.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Mr Chancellor, I would like to thank you and your Government for the opportunity to come here. Can I express my great personal pleasure at again being in Berlin, a city I first visited back in 1965. Certainly in an entirely different set of circumstances for myself. And I do admire the progress that has been made by the reunified Germany since 1990 and I do want to say publicly what I said to you privately, that the role that Germany has played in forging a strong partnership with Russia and the commitment that was made against the background of skepticism from others at the time is something that history will judge very kindly in relation to the role of your country.

I agree totally with the Chancellor in saying that the bilateral relationship between Australia and Germany is very strong. There are no outstanding negative issues in that relationship. The growth of people to people contact is very encouraging. The investment links increase. Last night a partnership involving a major German company and an Australian paper company was signed in Dusseldorf, which involved the investment of 2.8 billion Australian dollars in Germany. And I want to say to all of you as I did to the Chancellor, that I see a great future in the strength of the bilateral relationship and we certainly in Australia see Germany as a major interlocutor for ourselves in Europe in her own right, and not just as part of the European Union.

I welcome the coming to force of the social security agreement. There are some 750,000 Australians who owe their heritage to Germany, making Germany third only after Italy and Greece of the non-English speaking countries that have contributed to the modern Australia.

There is one other thing. The Chancellor was quite right. We did discuss our different perspectives to the Kyoto Protocol. Our goal of reducing emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, is common. I indicated why Australia did not believe it is currently in our national interest to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and I think we agreed to understand each other’s different perspectives on that.

I think also the Chancellor will agree with me that in the interests of full and frank disclosure, I also raised one other matter with him. And that is the importance of trade reform and the impact in particular of the common agricultural policy on developing countries and also on countries such as Australia. I raised it in the context of understanding, as I do very much, the history of the development of that policy but also against the background of Australia’s very strong belief that unless some tangible progress is made at the next World Trade Organisation series of discussions in this area, there will develop a sense of despair in many countries about the possibility of any progress in the longer term towards a freer trading environment.

CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

My dear friend and colleague, if I may add to that that while we were talking about the subject, I explained to you that I completely understand the line of argument that you were taking in trying to strive for a reform of the common agricultural policy, but that I felt that perhaps this message ought to be addressed less to me, rather than to perhaps others in other capitals. Okay, any questions?

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] subject of illegal immigration. Europe in recent months appears to be toughening its stand on illegal arrivals. Is there anything you think that Germany can learn from the Australian experience where a harder line, including mandatory detention of asylum seekers, does appear to have stemmed the flow of illegal arrivals in the last year?

CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

Well right now we have been able to actually put through legislation in this specific field on immigration. The Federal President after careful examination of the letter of this law, has agreed to sign it and we do think that this law ensures a very careful balance between on the one hand humanitarian issues that are related to this particular question, and on the other hand ensures the possibility of control and where necessary limitation of the flow of immigration. Because we have just now approved this law and we think that it is actually one that is quite a useful one, and we are quite satisfied with this piece of legislation as it stands.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister [inaudible] from the German television, I have a question on international politics as conflict arisen at the United Nations between the UN and the United States about the question whether US soldiers should stand trial in an international court of justice. And the US is threatening to blockade all UN missions. I’m wondering, what is your position on this? And also the same question to the Chancellor.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’ve been following what has been happening at the United Nations closely. It is a difficult issue. And the American attitude as I understand it flows from an attitude about the behaviour of some international organisations towards the United States. Our position on the International Criminal Court is different from that of the United States. We in the end decided to ratify, subject to certain declarations and stipulations, not reservations in a treaty sense, but declarations that have the force of law in Australia. Let me say this, that I can understand the attitude being taken by the United States given the background of the behaviour on occasions of some international bodies towards the United States. I also understand the dilemma that it creates for other countries that participate in peacekeeping operations.

And let me interpolate here my gratitude on behalf of Australia for Germany’s contribution to the peacekeeping operation in East Timor which represented a very important gesture by Germany in an area for which Australia assumed the major level of responsibility. I hope that the issue can be resolved. It will not be easily resolved though given the strength of feeling the Americans have and the background to that strength of feeling.

CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

While I know this is truly a difficult issue and we do hope that within the Security Council one will arrive at a compromise. The German Foreign Office is currently examining the matter as to the legal ramifications and actually the factual consequences that need to be drawn from this and the conclusions that need to be drawn from this if for example one does not arrive at a compromise. But I think what will be essential now will simply to work both on a bilateral and multilateral level for trying to come to some kind of compromise and solution on this issue, which will then enable us to continue what we consider after all to be a very necessary thing indeed and we need to participate in these kinds of peacekeeping operations in keeping up our force level within the S4 contingent. And we do hope that this is going to be possible. It is for us, as you know, necessary from a constitutional point of view if we want to continue to do, as I said, what is necessary and participate in these operations.

Thank you very much.

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