December 3, 2022

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Remarks at a U.S.-German Futures Forum Moderated Discussion with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock – United States Department of State

37 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Munster, Germany

Atlantic Hotel

MR ZAMPERONI:  So impressions from day one, a lot of thoughts, a lot of talking, a lot of thinking going on in these hours yesterday and today.  And to delve right into it, welcome please Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much for being here, and we’ll have a few Q&As going back and forth, but we’ll open with a sort of an opening statement from both of you, opening remarks framed in the question, and I’ll start with you Minister Baerbock.  We talked about the future of democracy, of course.  What future do you see?  It’s a broad question but to cover the basis for our democracies in this emerging digital world?

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Well, good morning, good afternoon to everybody.  Thanks for this very important conference.  It’s a great pleasure to visiting here with my colleague, but already in 11 months and also friend, Tony Blinken, at this panel because we have met in the last ten months already ten times as G7 partners, which shows to answer your question that obviously the future is not as smooth and easy as we have thought maybe a couple of years ago.  However, I would say not despite but because of the Russian brutal war against Ukraine, the future is only together because we showed that in this difficult – and with regarding Ukraine, we have to say horrible current situation – we can stand only united.

So I believe that we are really standing at a transatlantic momentum that since February 24th Germany, Europe, and the United States have stood closer together than ever before since the end of the Cold War.  And we are firmly united not only in the support of Ukraine and the people and the freedom, but that this transatlantic moment besides all the horror comes with great opportunities.  Because I’ve been grown up here in Germany for 40 years of my life, living always in peace, and we had so many debates in Europe – and I know that you have this also in the U.S. – that everybody took peace just for granted, as if the European peace order just falls from the sky and that it was there and people were arguing so actually why do we need the European Union, why do we need the transatlantic relation.

And now we know why: because the European Union, the transatlantic partnership, the transatlantic friendship is our insurance for life in peace and in a more democracy where we can live freely as we want.  And therefore to build an even stronger transatlantic relationship for the 21st century is, I believe, the main task of the two of us as foreign ministers, the main task for our governments, and the main task for all of our citizens.  Because we can address the global challenges only together, but as we are talking about a digitalized world today, we always have to speak also that the European peace order, that the international peace order is not only being attacked by bombs and missiles, but obviously also being attacked by disinformation, fake news, a systematic rival or even war against our democracies.  And it has been shaped by attacks with SPITs and (inaudible), with bots, and the source of technical power.

So yes, the digital revolution has brought us more freedoms to millions of people.  We see this as we can see today in Iran with the brave women in Iran that the internet is a source not only of information but also spreading their fight for freedom around the world.  But even in our societies, we can see that the digitalization is also importing for people who do not have access – for example, if we’re talking to a total different field, bank accounts.  You have some regulation when you can open a bank account even in democracies, even in social welfare states, you have to have some certain account of income.  But if you have now a smart phone, you can transfer also money digital-wise without having a bank account.  So I think this shows how actually it has brought freedom to us.

And I came just back from Uzbekistan, and there wasn’t – it was with a group of people from 11th grade, and they were discussing about the positioning of their country with regard to Russia, complaining that in the official media there is so much Russian narrative going on.  But they inform themselves, they said, anyhow only via social media, via Telegram, via Facebook, via Twitter.  So we can see that the digital revolution has been also a moment for freedom and for strengthening our democracy.

But obviously this is no news.  Everybody knows that the digital world also comes with risk for security and threatens our freedom.  And to answer your question with three points – and I was asked for the input to go a bit into a detail – I think we have three points where we should – I’d intensive our cooperations, especially with regard to a digitalized world and the threat to our democracies.

First of all, we have to make sure that digital technologies are used for and not against people.  And that makes our democracies stronger and not weaker.  And this is also a message for democracies in progress or on the road to progress to underline to governments, like in Central Asia, of saying if you try to regulate or ban your internet, this doesn’t make your government and definitely not your societies stronger but weaker, because digital technologies have to be used for the peoples.

And the U.S. has put this very prominently in the recent U.S. National Security Strategy, and we will – as many of you know – write also a national security Germany for the first time in Germany history where we take on this point by three points.  First of all, we address the challenges in the digitalized world, underlining that with regard to using digitalized democracy for the people and not against the people to have an open and safe cyberspace.  In Germany, we have had the attacks in our election in 2016 very happily – heavily.  We have had the situation that emergency part of one of our hospitals had to close down because of a cyber attack.  You had in the U.S. most recently the largest airports being targeted.  And in Montenegro and Albania, while we were at the General Assembly in New York, hackers paralyzed their entire economies.  And we see – and again now in Russia – how much this attack on infrastructure has been using as a weapon of war.

Europe and the U.S. are responding to threats on all levels.  We go after cyber criminals, for example, by blocking cryptocurrency payments.  But also – and this is a new momentum in this difficult time of war – we are working on a virtual rapid response teams within NATO to ensure that our infrastructure, which is obviously connected virtually with trains, airports, or hospitals, can be better protected with regard to hackers and other attacks.

Second, we are fighting intensively with regards to the spread of disinformation.  This is also not the big news, but in this critical moment of the last eight months we have been showing, I believe quite successfully, what a difference it makes if we are working together.  In the beginning of the war, we knew in theory that fake news is a form of instrument of this war method.  But then when you remember the situation of the sanctions and the grain, we didn’t have it – I have to say we have to be so frank and open also in our debates and when we’re at G7 meeting back in Schleswig-Holstein, we were faced with a situation where suddenly the whole world was speaking about sanctions and that this would be hitting also the prices of food.  So obviously, while we were passing the sanction, we didn’t think ahead enough of underlining what could be the fake news counterattack by Russia – not fighting the sanctions, but fighting the narrative of the sanction.

And so we had to speed up, and I think this G7 meeting – it was so successful because at this meeting we made very clear because we spoke openly about it that this is a method of warfare using fake news also as an instrument of war, and that food has been using by Russia as an instrument war.  We’re speaking about the war of food.  Immediately afterwards, there came the counterattack from the Russians, and this is why I go so much into depth, because it’s not only about what say at G7 meetings; it’s a question for all our open society.  There was a back attack from the Russians saying how whatever I am, and at this critical moment there was some headlines in German media just taking over this quote.  But in a headline you don’t know what the quote is from – was it from me, was it Tony Blinken saying, well, this young lady is obviously not well informed, or if it’s the Russian spokesperson.

And I think this is very important that we must be speaking about countering fake narratives.  Everybody says yes.  But in a time of war, what is the responsibility also of the media itself with regards to these fake news?  Because obviously, media reports what people are saying.  So that is our second point with regard to fighting the spread of disinformation and undermining obviously democracies in these kind of times.

And also with this point, I think we shouldn’t be shy of our strongest tools as democracy.  One of our strongest tool is the rule of law, so we should use the rule of law.  And this is not to fight freedom, also not in the internet a regulated platform with rights and rules is something normal in societies because every freedom has also limits when you counter the freedom or hurt the freedom of another person.  So by regulating social media platforms to counter criminal content and hate speech on a regulated, normative base, and working together in this regard, the – you will do so with the Digital Services Act, and this is also one of the parts where we can work closely together.

And my third point is investing in key technologies in the digital age.  Obviously, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and semiconductors, and 6G, this is the future.  And the technology leadership will be crucial for security.  In the EU we are investing in standard setting and the development of key technologies with the EU Data Act, with the European Chips Acts.  We are making sure that new technology work in a way reflecting our values.  But obviously, again, the power comes only if we are working together, because in this part this is not only Russia but also other players in the world which go with heavy, heavy weight but also money in this question.

Yes, the U.S. and the EU, we are also competitors – also competitors in the digitalized world.  And I think we have to speak openly about this that we are competitors, but with regard to this crucial key technologies where we are also in competition with countries worldwide which challenge our democracy, we have to talk about how we can work closer together, bringing together our intelligence.  And I think the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council will be one of the most powerful instruments if we use it jointly together to join hands across the Atlantic with regard to key technologies.  The council has already led us to coordinate more closely on standards, on supply chains, on export control and investment screening, and now we have to get even closer in daily reality with this regard.

I have to say very frank and open the work program on this is so ambitious that we cannot do it alone, definitely not the two of us.  Well, obviously I’m not the most experienced expert on future technologies.  I don’t know about you, but I tried programming some technology path at some university. It was better that others were doing it.  But also with regard to our governments, with regard to our democracies, we can face this and I would say digital attack on our democracies only together.  This is not only a job for ministers and politicians and not only a job for digital companies.  We can be successful only if we work together with researchers, with entrepreneurs, with young people who do have an incredible expertise and innovative ideas.  And this is also why we are here today not only with those who come always together at this transatlantic momentum, but with young peoples together.  This is why we have the U.S.‑German Future Forum bringing together people, closely listening to your ideas in the forum but also afterwards when you present your proposals with strengthening our democracies and to show that also you, societies, are standing united together with facing this harsh winter.

Because in the end, coming back to where we are standing in November 2022, Putin is bombing Ukraine – not only cities, not only power plants, but infrastructure.  We have been just coming out of a bilateral.  We have been talking of what the winter will mean.  It means electricity in the country being blocked at the moment about 30, 40 percent, but if this keeps going on children will not only hide under their table because they hear the bomb attacks, but they are in danger of being frozen to death because they don’t have any electricity and any heating anymore.

And therefore our mandate is so crystal clear.  We have to seize this transatlantic moment together.  United as democracies we are stronger than this war, and I think this is actually the most important message we have to send today from this panel.  So thank you for this day and the work you did yesterday.  (Applause.)

MR ZAMPERONI:  Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Baerbock, outlining, stressing the importance of the transatlantic relationship in this day and age.  Secretary Blinken, I would assume that you concur with a lot of points that Foreign Minister Baerbock made, but the future of democracy in the digital world – does America, does the United States, have a different take and a different approach?  Or how do you see it?  And what are your concrete steps that the U.S. is undertaking in achieving that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first let me say it’s wonderful to be here with each and every one of you, and Ingo, thank you for moderating.  I will want to thank Bertelsmann also for supporting this and bringing us together.  But it’s especially good to be with my colleague and my friend, Annalena.  We have been working incredibly closely together, as befits representatives of two countries that are and have to be working even more closely together precisely if we’re going to meet the challenges.

I have to say I am in violent agreement with everything that Annalena said.  (Laughter.)  Which is not unusual at all.  On the contrary.  But let me just put it this way, and I’ll add quickly a couple of thoughts that are totally coincident with what Annalena said.

We’re at an inflection point in history.  The post Cold War era is over.  There is a competition on now to shape what comes next, and technology is at the heart of that competition.  One way or another it is going to retool our economies, it’s going to reform our militaries, it’s going to quite literally reshape our lives, as we know every day from the phones that we carry in our – the computers that we carry in our pockets.  And we know the profound effects that’s having on our lives.

Germany and the United States together have a very positive, affirmative vision for what that reshaping looks like.  It’s about finding new ways to cure diseases.  It’s about using technology to make sure that we can actually deal with climate change.  It’s about using technology to make sure that we can have our societies and economies powered in ways that don’t rely on fossil fuels.  It’s about making sure that we have sustainable, healthy supplies of food around the world.  It’s about finding ways to have truly resilient supply chains.  And ultimately, it’s also about making sure that we have good jobs for our people for the future.  And there are challenges inherent in each of those.

But as Annalena said, and as you all know and as you’ve been talking about not just today but over many days, we also know that technology can be profoundly misused.  And I thought the way that Annalena put it is exactly right.  It has to be for people, not used against them.  But it is being used against them.  It’s being used against them in different ways to undermine their privacy, to repress their human rights, to quite literally harass people online, particularly women and minorities, as we see around the world.  It’s used profoundly for misinformation and disinformation, which is, along with corruption, I think the two most corrosive things of any democracy.  And of course, there are profound questions of security that we’re responsible for and others are responsible for where technology can be used for ill, including cyber attacks on infrastructure.

The fundamental point that Annalena made that I strongly, strongly agree with is that in order both to capture the upsides of technology but also to deal with the downsides there is a number one imperative in working together.  No single country – whether it’s the United States, whether it’s Germany – can actually effectively meet these challenges alone.  There’s a premium, more than at any time since I’ve been engaged in these issues – and it’s now coming on 30 years – for finding ways to cooperate, to coordinate.  And that is no more true than when it comes to technology, when it comes to the digital world we’re living in.

Annalena talked about the work that we’re doing together to try to set standards, to put in place the rules for how technology is used.  That is more important than ever.  To the extent that values infuse technology, we want to make sure that the values that we stand for together, the United States and Germany, carry the day.  And that means doing the hard work, the day-in, day-out work of being at the table and making sure that we’re there in the first place and that we’re coordinated in doing so, in shaping those rules.

It also means together trying to establish a race to the top, not to the bottom, when it comes to the way technology is deployed, the way it’s used.  And if we’re successful in doing that, then those countries that may now be engaged in a race to the bottom will have a choice to make, whether actually to join us in this race to the top or probably over time fail, if we get it right.

But all of this starts with the coordination.  All of this starts with the work that we do together.  And there I have to say one of the things that I’ve been most grateful for, the United States has been most grateful for, is this partnership with Germany and in particular in my case the partnership with and the leadership of the German foreign minister.

Over the past year, this has been quite extraordinary.  We’ve, as you’ve heard, met many times through the work of the G7 but also together on a bilateral basis, in other groupings that we’re a part of.  And so much of this is about the leadership that she’s bringing to these issues every single day.  It’s made a huge difference in our ability to tackle these problems.

But fundamentally, we have all of these tensions between what we stand for as democracies and how technology fits into that.  It either advances our democracies or undermines them.  We’re each living that every single day.

When I was growing up, the thinkers that I was influenced by were many of the classic social thinkers of centuries past, like John Stuart Mill.  And the basic concept that John Stuart Mill had was that we’re engaged in a marketplace of ideas, and if we have a marketplace that functions properly the best ideas will compete against each other and ultimately the best idea will prevail.  It’s a wonderful vision.  It’s not the reality that we’re living, precisely because technology, when its misused, is distorting the marketplace.

We have to find ways together – and by together I mean exactly what Annalena said.  It’s not just between governments.  It can’t be.  Civil society, NGOs, the private sector, academia – all of us actually have to join hands and be on the same team.  One of the things that’s changed most profoundly in the time that I’ve been working in government is in the information and digital space.  And again, we’ve – the way we’re thinking about this has evolved dramatically.

When I started out in government 30 years ago, two things happened every day.  The same two things happened every day in the White House, where I was working.  People would get up in the morning, they would open the front door of their apartment or their house, and they’d pick up a hard copy of the newspaper – in our case The New York Times, or The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal.  And then if you had a television in your office, in our – at 6:30 at night you would turn on the national news.  And that was it.  That was the common denominator for everyone.

Now we’ve had a vast democratization of information technology, which again we think is probably for the good.  Except we know that it’s also created an absolute free-for-all, an almost – an information jungle in which sometimes, unfortunately, might makes right; the loudest voices prevail, even if what they’re saying is not – does not reflect reality.  None of us are going to be able to get a grip on that problem if we’re acting alone, whether – governments can’t do it alone; the private sector is unlikely to do it alone; NGOs may have the right ideas, but all of this needs to be brought to bear.

So one of the reasons I’m so glad that you’re all together, that we’re all together, is to see if we can find new ways to work across our different enterprises.  That’s the only way we’re going to get to it.

Finally, I’ll say this.  It’s really fitting that we’re here, and I thank Annalena for inviting us here to Münster for the G7, but also for this meeting.  Of course, the Peace of Westphalia put in place fundamental principles of international relations that are the very principles that are being challenged today by Russia when it comes to Ukraine, and that is the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of nations.  If we let that be challenged with impunity, then the foundations of the international order, they’ll start to erode and eventually crumble.  And none of us can afford to let that happen.

The other thing that’s striking about this place is it was part of something called the Hanseatic  League back in the 14th and 15th century, an effort to literally create trading routes in what is now Germany and throughout the – throughout Europe, connecting people, connecting products, connecting ideas.  And at its best, that’s also what the digital world is about.  Our challenge is to somehow make sure that it lives up to its best, not its worst.

Technology is neither inherently good nor bad.  What we make of it is, and that’s our challenge together.

MR ZAMPERONI:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  (Applause.)  Both of you actually touched upon a couple of questions that I already had and covered already, so let’s go into a little more detail on some of these fields.

But you both outlined the perils and the advantages, of course, that technology has, but also the danger, the tools it gives authoritarian governments and regimes and also the opportunities for fake news that exist.  Would you say that there’s been a bit of a disenchantment with social media, with digital opportunities, and that if you sum it up the negative somehow outweigh the benefits?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Please.  (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Well —

MR ZAMPERONI:  Because it seems to me that so many challenges –

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  No.  My short answer is no.  Well, and this counts actually for everything.  I think if you’re in politics and think the glass is half empty, you shouldn’t be there.  I mean, then you’ve given up anyhow.  And this counts for me and also for the digitalized world, but I think all of the facts are on this side, and not only because I want to believe in a better future.  Because yes, obviously we have the fake news, we have everything we were mentioning, and Tony was outlining perfectly what the challenges are there.

But if you look around the world, well unfortunately, with regard to our sustainable goal, the SDGs from the United Nations, we are not there where we wanted to be.  With poverty, we were on a good track, and then the Russian war came.

But with regard to education for example, when you travel around the world – thanks God also to other countries and not only to the countries you know anyhow – when I’ve been in Niger, for example, the president said, which I didn’t hear before from a male president, my most important topic is education and reproductive rights.  So because he couldn’t counter the explosion of the birth rate, he didn’t have so many schools, teachers, whatsoever, and he knew that if he cannot handle this kind of situation, the radicalization, the whole security, threat of terrorists will just explode.

So while he didn’t have any school building, while obviously Niger is like on this part of the development track from all countries in the world, even there the question of digitalization – yeah – in those parts where they do have electricity, where they do have digital platforms, he even was speaking about okay, if I don’t have a school building, I don’t have teachers, but I have the opportunity of the internet.

Then all the situation where the media is oppressed in all these kind of countries, how young people inform themselves, how you give a platform for those who are not being employed in different parts.  So I think the opportunities are way bigger than the threat.  However, this is – the difficult part of the story, as Tony was saying, it’s not the best argument which sometimes come through but the one who’s the loudest person.  So we have to join forces to fight the bad side of the digitalization.  And if we are getting better in this, because obviously we are not there yet, I think this will be – give even more chances to all the societies worldwide.

MR ZAMPERONI:  How does that shape your policy-making?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.  Well, first, let me I say I very much agree.  Despite all of these challenges, I remain fundamentally optimistic, including optimistic about technology writ large but also the digital space more specifically.  And I think if you do the balance, I still think it comes out with the glass half full.

The progress that we’ve been able to achieve and actually achieve in people’s lives is dramatic.  It’s easy to take for granted; it’s easy to lose sight of.  But it’s real and I think it’ll continue, including in the social media space, in terms of our ability to connect people, to connect ideas, to connect products.  All of that is real.

But one of the hallmarks that we know of every major transformation, technological transformation throughout our history, is that there are all sorts of unintended consequences, and they often race forward much more quickly than governments or other regulators of one kind or another are able to capture them.

MR ZAMPERONI:  So the question is:  Can we be fast enough?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So this is a big part of our challenge.  It’s – and again, this comes back to the point that we were both making about the imperative of finding ways to work together not just between governments, but among the different stakeholders.  Because we don’t have – in our case, we often don’t have the resident expertise or knowledge we need to be closely aligned with business, with civil society, with academia.  The more we find ways to do that, I think the quicker we’ll actually be in managing to deal with – first of all, not only deal with; the whole idea – and Annalena mentioned this – is to get ahead of it.  We have to be able to better imagine what the unintended consequences may be, and try to factor that in.

I think if you were talking to those who were at the founding, present at the creation of social media, they had an extraordinary vision of all the good and positive that can flow from that.  I’m not sure how much time they spent thinking about “but what if.”  So part of our challenge is actually to imagine “what if” and to try to build in some guardrails against that.  Now the problem is we’re doing that while the plane is flying at 60,000 feet.  That’s hard.

MR ZAMPERONI:  That’s the harder part.  Which leads me, actually, to a question – to an idea I just had.  When you recruit future diplomats for the (inaudible) under the State Department, do you actually make that a requirement, a certain tech savviness, or a certain – that you can hit the ground running in this fight?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Laughter.)  So I’m happy to start on this because it’s something that’s actually a bit fascinating.

MR ZAMPERONI:  Or recruit here in this audience.  I mean, I’m sure there – (laughter).

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Actually, please, there’s a table – (laughter).

MR ZAMPERONI:  Just drop your business card.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So let me – I got to the point when I last served in government in the Obama administration, where I’d be in these rooms that we’re so familiar with, without windows, where we’re having policy deliberations with our teams, and I became convinced that virtually all of the things we were working on, somewhere as part of the answer had technology, science, innovation.  Maybe not the totality of the answer, but a part of it.  And the problem for many of us in these jobs – at least I’ll speak for myself – is we’re not trained in these disciplines.  Most of us come up through the humanities.  And as a result, I got to the point where I thought that I needed a scientist or technologist at the table just to tell me whether I needed a scientist or technologist at the table to understand, oh, this problem may have a solution that’s grounded in science and technology.

So fast forward.  We are making a major effort right now at the State Department to do just that, to make sure that we have that talent in the department, both in terms of who we recruit, who we bring in to advise us, and how we grow that talent from within the department.  We established just a few months ago a new bureau.  The bureaus are the founding, are basically the building blocks of our entire department.  We now have a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy to make sure that we’re able to not only understand but lead around the world in the efforts that we’re engaged in together when it comes to how cyberspace is regulated, what digital policy should be.  And a big part of that is making sure that we have the people to do it.

So the short answer is we want to make sure that everyone is at least basically literate in technology, hopefully fluent, and eventually truly expert.

MR ZAMPERONI:  Ideally, yeah.  Do you want to add something?  Or otherwise I would ask you, if you have the people that implement those policies, there’s also the aspect of the technology that you need, for example.  We see what’s happening in Iran or in other countries, where it’s –or Uzbekistan, you mentioned the example as being limited.  What’s happening on that field, on that level?  Have we reached those?

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Well, if I may, can I go back to the people?

MR ZAMPERONI:  Yeah.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Because again, here we have to be frank and open.  No, we don’t have the capabilities, especially with regard to the people.  I was talking about birth rate.  I mean, if we are looking anyhow with regard to people in the working space, we have big challenges, and then especially in this field.  And I think this is something – because we talk about leadership, U.S., Germany – in many fields, yes, we do have the leadership.  In other fields, at least for my country, I have to say we have to learn from other countries.  And this is a great job of foreign ministers; you don’t go there, at least this is my understanding, and to preach how great your own country is.  I mean, you can say, well, we tried this and it worked quite well.

But so many things I’ve learned, now also in the time of war from Ukraine, I went there to there.  Ministry of Information – and it has a different name, and I forgot, because when I entered the building I always ask my team, “Are you’re sure we’re in the right building,” yeah?  Because it looked like a start-up company.  Then we entered a room where the average age was way lower than here, even though we invited here our young people, and we think we’re really advanced that we invited young people to a conference.  (Laughter.)  But there they not only invited, but employed people which were, I would guess, 18 years old, directly obviously from the street.

Now, they were well educated people, but I mean, if I would go to my ministry and even suggest we should employ maybe not only diplomats and not only lawyers, and what Tony was mentioning, we should think also about IT expert.  This is kind of a revolution already, because in our bureaucracy, then it’s really difficult to say that they don’t have to rotate and all these kind of things.  But if I would come up and say you know what, forget about education, university, diploma; I have heard from a great guy in the Chaos Computer Club and I think he’s the best answer to our fake news strategy, while the challenges and feminist foreign policy is an easy pass I would say if I compare it to this.

So without any joke, I think this is what other countries are well in advance, especially those countries now with Ukraine fighting a war of disinformation, but also Baltic states, other countries around the world, where they just jumped over some centuries between the phone and the iPhone, and they are directly now in the digitalized world.  And this is really something where we have to work on with people, but also with technologies.

And therefore I would like to take up one of the proposals which we just heard in the video: your proposal of an establishment of an intergovernmental standardization body to ensure the interoperability between public and private software.  I wrote it down to don’t do any mistakes and have another fake news video somewhere.  In the U.S. and Germany, this was a proposal from you, but we in our national security strategy – which is not published yet, but – our first point is to have interoperability between our ministries, yeah, in the government and between the local, federal, and then the European level.  Because this is already the challenge, that we use different software.

So now we all know it, so I think we are very quick on this, so we can take this proposal just onboard to also have this possibility between the U.S. and the European Union.  And this would answer also your question.  We are not there yet, but we know the way how we can go together to join forces again, and to understand standard-setting.  This was a great example, I think, you were giving.  We have learned that obviously through (in German) —

MR ZAMPERONI:  Trade, yeah.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  — so trade; it sounds nice in the German language – trade doesn’t bring automatically change, so we have learned this now.  But you have mentioned, I think, very perfectly also that not only the ideas are there, but we have to all support standardization.  And this is also new thinking maybe even more for the U.S. than in Germany, because we love regulation.  (Laughter.)  But anyhow, to understand that this is a good thing for democracies, because you can also counter fake news.  But also if we are thinking about the – about a satellite, yeah, so if we don’t have regulated the aerospace in this regard and if we don’t have the standardization – and then it come also, thanks God, back to diplomats, lawyers in foreign ministries, because drafting these kinds of treaties is crucial in the end and will be, I think, the way forward.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And despite Shakespeare, there’ll always be room for lawyers.  (Laughter.)

MR ZAMPERONI:  All right, and there’s not much room for questions left.  So I would like to actually pitch it to the audience, and we gathered a few questions.  And the first one is from Heather Thompson, if you would please stand up and just – we don’t have a lot of time because we also want to take a picture with all of you —

QUESTION:  Sure.

MR ZAMPERONI:  — so if you could keep it brief.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.  My name is Heather Thompson.  I am an American, but I work in German civil society now for a nonprofit called Democracy Reporting International.  My question is about digital foreign policy.  I believe it’s a vital part of our response to disinformation, digital inclusion, and online human rights.  I’m wondering, how can the U.S. and Germany work better together to strengthen our digital foreign policy and combat these threats online?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, just very quickly, I think one of the things that we’ve both been spending a lot of time on is building the structures, the organizations to do exactly that, precisely because, like you, we’ve identified this as a critical necessity and a critical challenge. Annalena mentioned something that was established between the United States and the European Union, the Trade and Technology Council.  A big part of the work of the council is exactly what you just described, to actually have an aligned – to the greatest extent possible – approach to digital policy.

Annalena said as well we’re competing in ways, too; we have to recognize that and also not be shy about that.  Competition is good as long as it is pursuant to agreed rules, and ideally as long as, as I said, it’s a race to the top, not the bottom.  But what we’re doing with the TTC is exactly that.  We’re trying to align our digital policies in a whole variety of ways, particularly when it comes to trying to establish the norms, the rules, the standards by which all sorts of critical technology is used, whether it’s AI, whether it’s quantum – lots of discussions, of course, about 5G and what comes next – et cetera.

So we’re doing that.  We’re also doing that bilaterally between the United States and Germany.  There are other fora in which this is done.  This is actually an important part of the work of the OECD, increasingly, something that I think is being re-energized at a really important time.

MR ZAMPERONI:  I’ll just move ahead to the next question so we can cover a little more.  Martin van der Puetten has a question.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon. My name is Martin van der Puetten and I’m the director of international relations of the city of Dortmund, close to Münster.  It is a question that touches urban diplomacy, the subnational diplomacy topic.  So my question is how do you intend to involve the city level – I do not mean the civil society; I mean the civil administrations, the city administrations – more systematically in your policy strategies, e.g., the China’s strategy, the rebuild Ukraine strategy, and the climate foreign policy strategy?  So my request is please use the power of the cities as a strategic tool in foreign policy.  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Let me just say quickly to that I couldn’t agree with you more.  One of the things that we’ve done – I just had the joy of naming someone to be at the State Department our senior official for subnational relations, because increasingly we found that we’re working directly with cities, with municipalities, with regions, not just with our counterparts in national governments.

And for a whole variety of reasons that you know very well from what you’re doing every single day, cities are often the laboratories where all of these things are playing out and we get a chance to test out ideas and their application, including with things in the digital space.  So that’s incredibly powerful.  It’s also very powerful because at times when national governments, for one reason or another, as we would say colloquially, can’t get their act together, it may well be that city, states, regions do.  And so that’s increasingly vital, too.

MR ZAMPERONI:  Would you like to add to that or —

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Yeah, well, first of all, thanks for your question, but also thanks for participating in our national security strategy, because this was also for the first time why we are drafting it right now.  I did a tour in summer through Germany.  Many people asked why is the foreign minister doing a tour in Germany.  But because obviously security matters are also security matters touching – and we see it again with Ukraine – but touching the daily life, and in many cities – we were just discussing what you have been saying – with regard to our infrastructure, with regard to data protection.  Well, it doesn’t help if we have the great ideas in foreign ministry, but in the town hall of Düsseldorf or Dortmund or somewhere else, even smaller cities, we have the next cyber attack.

So therefore, we are integrating now in our national security strategy the cooperation with infrastructure.  And now we are discussing here – everybody knows this – about China investment, for example.  Again, they are not investing into our ministry in Berlin main town, but they are investing all over the countries.  Also the question of cooperation between universities in other countries.  So I think this is something which we are already on a good strike, but obviously we can intensify it even more.

And again, also on the other parts when we go outside, when I traveled to other countries, and my credo is always I don’t want to only meet foreign ministers, even though I like many of them a lot, but also go to school classes to hear what the people are saying, and to go to towns.  When I was in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I said, okay, I visit Sarajevo but I would like to have also meeting with the mayors of two other cities.  And it was not by coincidence that those mayors were way younger than those partners I met on the federal level, fighting for 30 years already the same fight.  The mayors of these three towns from different ethnic backgrounds met for the first time, because I said I can only meet all the three of you together, I don’t have enough time, so it would be great if you could all come together, otherwise I can meet nobody.

So this can be also like a small instrument of actually using foreign policy totally different if you go to a different level segment.  And again, also giving then power to different people, different age, different gender, different religion.  So this is why I would also play the ball back to you because you’re employed by a city.  We have had back in time, thanks to the U.S. and other allies after the Second World War, the understanding of (inaudible) partnership from cities and from sports clubs.  And we all traveled then to France and somewhere else to have this friendship.

I think, even in a digitalized world, this is something, again, which we should intensify, as Tony was saying, the cooperation between cities, between region.  When we saw in the U.S. that the federal level was withdrawing from the climate talks on the federal level, we had between Baden-Württemberg and California this under-two-degree coalition, and this is something we can build in every policy field.  So I would like to invite everybody here also in the different institution in the different organization to intensify the discussion you were just mentioning.

MR ZAMPERONI:  All right.  If we keep it brief, we have – because I know you have a tight schedule for the rest of the day – we have room for one more question.  Alexandrea Swanson, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Honored to be here.  My name is Alexandrea Swanson, also an – no, a U.S. citizen based in Berlin.  I work at the Federation of German Industry, digitalization innovation department, where I lead an initiative called SheTransformsIT.  And my question is – is going back to the topic of a feminist foreign policy.  So Minister Baerbock, you mentioned this briefly at the beginning, and I would be interested to know – so we know that you’ve implemented this in Germany for the first time.  What is that looking like since the implementation?  And Secretary Blinken, are there any discussions about implementing this at the U.S. Department of State?  Thank you.

MR ZAMPERONI:  You each have a minute.  (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Well, the strategy is so long and then people always say, well, and she doesn’t explain the whole strategy.  Well, it’s about rights, resources, and representation.  And I just stick it to the point.  Representation here because I think it’s always totally underestimated.  It doesn’t make a difference only if, after 150 years, you have the first female foreign minister.  And Tony suffers under this question because we had a time at G7 while there are many elections in between where there was a majority of women.  Anyhow, I’ve been asked —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It was very hard.  (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:   — a couple of weeks – because he wasn’t allowed on the women’s picture, so – (laughter).  But anyhow, a couple of weeks ago I was asked whether I felt well in this group of men, and I said: well, just look at the picture; this is no group of men.  But it’s no coincident that they are two female ambassadors sitting here at the front row.  So behind our representation issues on different parts, it is something also which touches our own ministry, where we can make the biggest difference.  It’s my decision who I send as the most important ambassadors to the most important capitals in the world.  I can decide who I send there and who I don’t send there, so I think it’s many, many policy fields with regard to rights – Iran, women’s right; with regard to Afghanistan and all these kind of things.

But at the end, it come always back to yourself and your own ministry, and I think there we can do many things, and again, there’s room for improvement.  So Tony was doing the advertisement for the IT experts.  I do the advertisement for female future generation wanting to serve in the foreign ministry office.  You’re more than welcome.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And I can only applaud that and tell you that it’s very much part of our focus back home.  And actually I think where we’ve made the most progress at the State Department in recent years is having the senior ranks with women in leadership roles.  That’s the case right now, where the deputy secretary of state, our representatives to the United Nations are well known to everyone; under secretary for political affairs, who’s here with us as well, Toria Nuland, one of the leaders of our foreign policy.

But let me just broaden this out very, very quickly.  One of the things that I’m engaged in is trying to make sure that we have a State Department that actually reflects the country that we represent, and that, of course, starts with women, but it doesn’t end there.  One of the challenges that we’ve had is not having such a department over many, many decades.  And I won’t go into the details because time doesn’t allow it, but I’m determined that we get there in having a truly more representative department.

And this is not because it is simply the right thing to do.  It’s because it’s the smart and necessary thing to do.  One of the great strengths that the United States brings to anything it does is our diversity, and we’re operating when it comes to foreign policy by definition in a diverse world.  If we are not bringing everyone to the table in our own department, in our own deliberations – if we’re not bringing their different ideas, perspectives, experiences, knowledge to the table – we’re shortchanging everything we do, and we’re penalizing our ability to act effectively in a diverse world.  So, of course, it starts with women, but it also includes all of the groups that are part of our society who need to be represented in, and acting on, and leading our foreign policy.  Otherwise we’re actually not doing a service to our own country.

QUESTION:  Iran women – can you say just two words on what you guys are doing or talking about to support the women of Iran?

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Well, this is also one of the main topics at our G7 meeting.  This sounds, “well, this is just one of the topics,” but this is something special, because these kind of G7 meetings are normally having a long-time agenda and are targeting the issues with regard to economic development.  So this is really a moment saying we bring up a human rights issue, we bring up a issue of democracy and freedom at this G7 meeting to coordinate the different bilateral actions we are doing, because we are running out of time.  And German public knows this – I have been publishing last week a new proposal of four dimensions how we can support the women of Iran, and it’s not only – Tony was mentioning it – it’s not only women, it’s like the diversity of the Iran society is saying, well, this is enough and we want to live in freedom like every – many other countries.  So this is what we are doing here at G7, bringing together our support for the people of Iran with regard to sanctions, with regard to giving shelter for those who have high protection, but also with regard to bringing these atrocities to the UN system, to the UN bodies, because this is not automatically there.

Again, as democratic states, we need majorities not only in our own countries but we need also majorities in UN bodies on human rights violations.  And everybody in this room knows, I think, how hard it is, but if it’s not the leading democratic economic powers who are ready to also go into this fight saying we don’t have a majority automatically in a human rights body, but we fight for it, I think we shouldn’t speak about democracies.  And this is, again, why I’m so thankful that we are working so close also on the question of supporting the people in Iran.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And only one very quick footnote:  Also, with regard to technology, one of the things that we’re trying to do together is to make sure that Iranians have the ability to communicate with each other and with the outside world.  And technology is at the heart of that, making sure that there are no barriers to the extent we have anything to say about it to that technology getting to people who need it and want to use it.  That’s also part of the work we’re doing.

MR ZAMPERONI:  Great closing statements, and I’m happy to announce, Mr. Secretary, that you’ll be able to be in this picture that’s coming up now, so —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Very good.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

(A picture was taken.)

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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