Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera concludes first official visit to Berlin
At the invitation of his counterpart, the Federal Foreign Minister of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited Berlin from 21st – 23rd May 2015.
The visit, which was his first as Foreign Minister, was focused on renewing relations with Germany, Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner in Europe, and resetting ties through greater cooperation in diverse fields including technical and vocational training for Sri Lanka’s youth, and expanding trade and investment.
Minister Samaraweera’s meetings included detailed discussions with Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Vice President of the Bundestag Edelgard Bulmahn, Head of the German South Asian Group of Parliamentarians Niels Annen, the Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development of the German Bundestag chaired by Dagmar Gabriele Wöhrl and the Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Cooperation and Development Hans-Joachim Fuchtel.
Welcoming Minister Samaraweera to Berlin as one of the architects of change in Sri Lanka, Minister Steinmeier recalled their last meeting in March 2015, in Geneva, and reiterated the German Government’s commitment to support the Government and people of Sri Lanka in the ongoing efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, political and economic consolidation and reconciliation in the country.
Minister Samaraweera briefed Foreign Minister Steinmeier as well as the dignitaries that he met during his visit, regarding the Government’s achievements related to the ‘100-day Reform Programme’ in establishing good governance, the rule of law, strong democratic institutions, reconciliation, sustainable economic development, and in creating a new political culture devoid of divisive politics.
He explained that the objective of the Government is to work together with the opposition even after the general election to shed divisive politics and unite in addressing issues of national importance including framing national policies that are necessary for the nation’s stable and sustainable development in the long-term, with prosperity for all. He emphasized the priority accorded by the Government to the achievement of the twin objectives of ‘reconciliation and development’ and the preservation of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual nature of society including ending impunity and corruption as articulated by the President on 19 May.
Stating that the Government recognizes the importance of engaging with the diaspora, the Minister said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to take the lead in organizing a diapora festival where persons of Sri Lankan origin from around the world in all possible fields – business, the arts, literature, culture, academia and sports – could participate and explore means to work closely with Sri Lanka including in reconciliation and development efforts.
Minister Samaraweera noted that the new Government’s policy is to create sustainable growth by unlocking Sri Lanka’s long untapped economic potential through foreign direct investment, trade and tourism and rule-based systems. Highlighting Sri Lanka’s free trade agreements with India and Pakistan, he encouraged German businesses to explore the possibility of using Sri Lanka as a gateway to South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Speaking of people-to-people contact, and the large number of tourists from Germany who visit Sri Lanka every year, the Minister stated that “Sri Lanka has long been a paradise for German tourists and that we want Sri Lanka to now be a paradise for German investors”.
Emphasizing that Sri Lanka is an important partner for Germany in the region, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, assured Minister Samaraweera that steps would be taken to explore trade and investment opportunities. He also expressed Germany’s commitment to support projects for social cohesion and small and medium enterprises.
Minister Samaraweera appreciated the continued German bilateral assistance for projects in Sri Lanka, including the German Technical Training Institute in Kilinochchi and other development projects in the country.
Foreign Minister Samaraweera also held discussions with officials from the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftun and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and addressed the German Council on Foreign Relations on the topic, ‘Contours of a New Sri Lanka’. He also discussed possible future cooperation between the German Council on Foreign Relations and the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
24th May 2015