Digital Ambassadors Conference focuses on German EU Presidency and COVID‑19

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, © Auswärtiges Amt

25.05.2020 - Article

The 18th Ambassadors Conference is being held on 25 and 26 May – this year, as a digital event. Germany’s EU Presidency and addressing the COVID‑19 pandemic are at the top of the Agenda.

Europe and COVID‑19: How can we successfully tackle this crisis?

This May, the Heads of Germany’s 230 missions abroad will be holding their 18th annual conference and, this year, their meeting is digital. One top priority is the Presidency of the Council of the European Union that Germany will be assuming in July. What can Europe contribute to the fight against the COVID‑19 crisis? What will the post-pandemic world look like? And how can Europe be strengthened?

In Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ opening address, which he, too, delivered via a videoconference link, he emphasised: “Europe will need to be a driving force for worldwide, multilateral solutions. Everything we can do in the first, truly global crisis of our century can only be done at European level.”

What we must do is set a course for the post-coronavirus world with a stronger Europe, Maas went on to say. The EU must pursue joint efforts, ranging from acute crisis management, a programme for rebuilding the economy, and promoting efforts to make a vaccine available on a global scale to re‑establishing the single market and freedom of travel.

Foreign Minister Maas made clear that

This European imperative demands that all member states, including ours, see European interests as being national interests, and view our national interests through a European lense.

Germany’s EU Presidency: Thinking beyond the crisis

“Let us also use our meeting to think beyond the domain of health,” Maas continued. “What the COVID pandemic is today could be a devastating cyberattack tomorrow, or a major ecological disaster or even a conflict with new high-tech weapons.”

This, he argued, is why Germany is campaigning for the development of clear international rules for cooperating and for jointly addressing crises, among other things in the framework of the Alliance for Multilateralism.

A digital conference that includes panel discussions, video streams and messages

Normally, the Heads of Germany’s missions abroad meet every August in Berlin. This year, two things are different: the conference is already taking place in May, so that it precedes Germany’s EU Presidency. And, due to restrictions that have been imposed because of COVID‑19, it for the first time is being held as a digital event. German Ambassadors around the world are engaging with one another through video conferences, participating in digital panel discussions and debating strategic issues. 20 events are being streamed from three studios, sometimes as parallel streams.

Foreign Minister Maas is participating in the conference. It also includes video messages from Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Joining the panel discussion will be, among others, Helga Schmid, the German Secretary General of the European External Action Service, and Ilze Juhansone, Secretary-General of the European Commission. The artist Ólafur Elíasson will also present Earth Speaker, his interactive artwork for the German EU Presidency.

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