Wales will do everything it can to continue its strong relationship with Germany – with trade links worth more than £3bn – as the next phase of negotiations with the EU continue.
That was the message from Eluned Morgan, the Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, during a visit to Wales by Dr Peter Wittig, Germany’s Ambassador to the UK.
Dr Wittig met the Minister and First Minister Mark in Cardiff Bay, toured Cardiff University and also attended trade talks with Welsh Government representatives - followed by a reception for the German diaspora in Wales at Cardiff Castle.
The following day, the Ambassador visited German businesses based in North Wales, including Innogy in Mostyn, and the Airbus factory at Broughton.
Germany is one of Wales’ strongest trading partners. 2018 saw just over 18 per cent of all Welsh goods exported outside the UK going to Germany, with a total value of more than £3billion.
Germany is also a strong contributor to the tourism industry in Wales. After Ireland, Germany supplies the joint second-greatest number of visitors to Wales – an annual total of 87,000 visitors, according to recent figures.
This accounts for eight per cent of all international visits, and about seven per cent of total tourism spend.
Eluned Morgan, the Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, said: “I was very pleased to meet Dr Wittig, and that we were able to discuss the ongoing and future relationship between Germany and Wales.
“Outside of the UK, Germany is our strongest trade partner, and as such talks such as these are all-important as we continue to look at ways to mutually enhance those links between us.”
The Minister added: “As the UK leaves the EU, our position is that Wales remains open to business with its European partners.
“We want to do everything we can to maintain the strong economic, cultural and trade links we have already built with a number of partner nations in the EU.
“As we recently set out in our International Strategy, we are working hard to ensure that we don’t lose any of those vital connections built up with European partners, such as Germany.”
The Minister added: “We have an incredibly strong base of German businesses working in Wales and employing Welsh workers, and I was very pleased to see that Dr Wittig had the opportunity to see the work being carried out by Innogy at its Flintshire base in the Port of Mostyn, through its work on the Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm project.”
With an installed capacity of 576 megawatts, Gwynt y Môr is among the largest commercial offshore wind farms worldwide.
A total of 160 wind turbines produce enough electricity to supply approximately 400,000 households annually with renewable energy
Dr Wittig said: “I would like to thank the Welsh Government very much for this kind invitation.
“Wales and Germany already boast deep ties in many areas – business, culture, trade and people – ties we can trust and ties we can build upon.
“This should encourage us to overcome the uncertainty of the past three years – we can be bold in our ambitions and build a lasting future relationship.
“Germany is the most significant export destination for Wales – with one fifth of all Welsh exports going to Germany, while German exports to Wales amounted to 3.2 billion GBP in 2018.
“I can see more opportunities in many sectors – including in renewable energies, even closer academic ties, research on future industries and joint infrastructure projects.”
Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro
Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.
President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”
The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi.
European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.
Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.
European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case
The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.
In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.
The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.
The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.
Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.
For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.
The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.
Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.
A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.
Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation
On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.
At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.
The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.
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