Event Reports

“Fundamental values define our foreign interests"

Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel speaks at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Day

Federal Chancellor Merkel has declared that fundamental values and human rights define Germany's foreign interests. During the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Day in Berlin, the Chancellor stated that ”interest-driven foreign policy must also be value-driven foreign policy". She simultaneously emphasised that these values are universal and must be respected by all states. “We cannot accept specific living circumstances as an excuse for the fact that human rights are not taken into account”.

Human rights are the focus of this year’s Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Day, which also celebrated the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights“, a declaration adopted 60 years ago by the United Nations. During her speech on value-oriented foreign policy in a globalised world, the Chancellor commented that ”those who dismiss this declaration violate our entire value base”. At the same time, she warned her audience not to forget the long path trodden by Europe before a confederation of states based on human rights was reached, reminding listeners that “Germany is celebrating a mere 90 years of female suffrage this year”.

She drew attention to the fact that Europeans constitute a relatively small proportion of the world population, and stressed that it is the EU itself which is in a position to arouse international awareness of its fundamental values most effectively. Additionally, she demanded a consensus regarding the criteria surrounding legitimate military interventions against states in which terror and human rights abuses reign. The Chancellor commented that, “in order to achieve this, we must press forward with the UNO reforms as a matter of urgency” for no other body is in a position to make decisions related to violations of human rights. Here, an adjustment of the Security Council in line with 21st century structures is of particular importance.

However, Merkel stated that dialogue is the most important tool in the propagation of human rights. This must be conducted with a fixed value basis and incorporate the ability to handle conflict, although a one-to-one rendition of German structures is not an objective here. ”This thus requires - and that is one of the pleasures of globalisation – a true engagement with other cultures”, said the Chancellor. At the same time, she does not wish to accept other living circumstances as an excuse for human rights violations. ”The circumstances can never justify disregarding human rights“.

In her speech, the Chancellor thanked Aleksander Milinkevic, leader of the Belarusian “Movement for Freedom”. He opened the event with a midday speech on the meaning of human rights, which dealt predominantly with social change in the post-Soviet states. Milinkevic stated that “the idea of human rights becomes a beacon to which changing societies look for guidance". However, these values are also discredited by dictatorial systems. There, the propaganda machines seize on every minor inconsistency by “model states” in Europe and America in order to deride the idea of human rights.

Milinkevic called on these states to become real role models once more, and to refrain from seeking trade benefits with dictatorial regimes in the process. Here, the voice of the EU is extremely significant, particularly for post-Soviet states. “We are battling for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens” commented Milinkevic in a reference to his native country. He was hopeful that an active, democratic minority could bring about change there, but still requested support, commenting that the obstacles caused by a reluctance to issue visas was chiefly responsible for hampering an exchange between Belorussian democrats and Europe. At the end of his speech, Milinkevic stressed that “solidarity and support for all persecuted individuals and civil activists is an obligation, and breaks down fear of dictatorship”.

During his opening address on the occasion of the KAS Day, Prof. Bernhard Vogel, Chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, widened the focus of the event. In addition to Belarus, he also identified Darfur, Burma, Tibet, Iran and Georgia as places in which human rights were being violated at that very moment. Vogel stated that ”we need to make it clear that suppression and arbitrariness, the intimidation of dissenters and interference with the press are not abstract concepts, but a concrete reality". This is why the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is active in over one hundred countries around the world, in order to live up to its mission statement “Safeguarding Human Rights Worldwide!“. The KAS Chairman also referred to the promotion of foreign students and domestic political education as important lynchpins in the propagation of human rights.

In Germany, it is important above all to flight against the glorification of the GDR as a “social dictatorship”. Vogel commented that ”the main benchmark for a humane political system is the handling of elementary freedom and human rights, which were trampled underfoot in the GDR". He went on to emphasise the task of continuing to endorse human rights from a spiritual perspective. He echoed the Chancellor's statements with the comment that “Christian-Democratic politics must always contain a human rights policy, be it convenient or not".

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About this series

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, its educational institutions, centres and foreign offices, offer several thousand events on various subjects each year. We provide up to date and exclusive reports on selected conferences, events and symposia at www.kas.de. In addition to a summary of the contents, you can also find additional material such as pictures, speeches, videos or audio clips.

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