Fischer on nine-day South Asian trip
2 February 2005, BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer embarks on an extensive Asian trip Thursday, highlighting Berlin's renewed focus on the region. The nine-day trip, which includes stops in East Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia, comes as Berlin mounts a campaign for membership of a proposed expanded United Nations' Security Council. Apart from being one of the first European Union ministers to visit the world's newest nation, the recently independent East Timor, Fischer
2 February 2005
BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer embarks on an extensive Asian trip Thursday, highlighting Berlin's renewed focus on the region.
The nine-day trip, which includes stops in East Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia, comes as Berlin mounts a campaign for membership of a proposed expanded United Nations' Security Council.
Apart from being one of the first European Union ministers to visit the world's newest nation, the recently independent East Timor, Fischer also becomes the first German Foreign Minister to travel to Australia and New Zealand in almost 12 years.
Since then, German business interests in Asia have dramatically expanded and as a consequence have resulted in a deepening of Berlin's political ties with both Canberra and Wellington. Officials in Germany now see both Australia and New Zealand emerging as key regional players.
This has been underscored by the moves to rebuild tsunami-hit nations in Asia with Australia and Germany topping the global donor list to assist with aid and the rebuilding effort of devastated areas.
As part of his trip, Fischer is to visit the tsunami stricken Indonesian region of Aceh where he is due to meet officials coordinating relief efforts and German aid workers.
In Malaysia he is due to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak will brief him further on the post- tsunami rebuilding as well as the unrest among Moslems in southern Thailand.
Fischer begins the official part of his trip in East Timor where he will meet President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta on Saturday.
He will also meet United Nations officials based in East Timor.
With East Timor one of the region's poorest countries, Fischer's visit comes just as the small half-island state off Australia's northern tip has been growing concerned that it risked losing the world's attention as it battled to forge a sustainable economy.
As a mark of the significance that both Canberra and Wellington place on the Fischer visit, Fischer will have talks with both the Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
He is also to meet Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downing and his New Zealand counterpart Phil Goff.
With Germany lobbying for a seat on a new expanded UN Security Council, Australia, New Zealand as well as South-East Asia comprise a part of the world that Berlin needs to take seriously.
This is despite Howard's conservative government in Canberra and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat-led coalition in Berlin often finding themselves on opposite sides of big international political issues, notably Iraq, with Germany helping to spearhead European opposition to the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein.
Clark's Labour Government in Wellington also opposed the war.
Apart from being Germany's most popular politician, Fischer is a leading member of the country's Greens Party, the junior member of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democrat-led coalition.
But while Fischer is to meet Greens party leaders in New Zealand, there are no plans for him to have talks with members of Australia's Greens during his trip to Sydney and Canberra.
The Fischer trip comes as a new wave of German business investment hits South-East Asia with some of Germany's biggest companies, notably from the car sector, moving into the region.
After concentrating on China in recent years, leading German companies such as BMW, Audi and Volkswagen along with retailer Metro and chemical powerhouse BASF have been seeking to broaden their Asian strategies to take in other parts of Asia.
Apart from the sheer size of the South East Asian market, German business has been lured to the region by Asia's solid growth in economic rates.
Indeed, while the economies in many Asian nations bound ahead, Germany and its partners in the 12-member eurozone are battling to remain on an economic growth track as they attempt to shake off a prolonged period of economic stagnation.
Subject: German news