Federal President: Renewal of an old partnership – Steinmeier in Vietnam

Federal President: Renewal of an old partnership – Steinmeier in Vietnam

China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos and Vietnam – the list of communist countries is no longer long. Now Federal President Steinmeier is traveling to Vietnam.

Even for a Federal President who travels a lot around the world, a visit to a communist country is a rarity. After all, there are only a handful of them left. Frank-Walter Steinmeier is now visiting one of these countries: Vietnam. It is the fifth trip to Asia that the Federal President has made since the start of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine almost exactly two years ago.

The increased focus on Asia and what is happening in Ukraine have a lot to do with each other. After turning away from Russia due to the war, Germany is repositioning itself politically and economically. In addition, relations with China and their economic dependencies are now viewed much more critically than they were just a few years ago. The short formula could be more distance from China and more cooperation with its neighbors – such as Vietnam.

“The Federal President is convinced that Germany is a networked country and must remain so. Because networking is the basis of our success, both economically and politically,” says the Federal President’s Office. That’s why it’s now about reviving old partnerships and building new ones. In the case of Vietnam, the former is the case. The two countries have been linked in a “strategic partnership” since 2011.

Horst Köhler was the last German head of state in Vietnam

Over the years, however, this partnership has faded somewhat. Horst Köhler, for example, was the last German head of state to visit Vietnam. That was in 2007 and the first ever state visit by a federal president to the Southeast Asian country.

For Vietnam, Germany is now the most important trading partner in the EU. Conversely, Vietnam is one of Germany’s most important partners in the Asean group of states, the Southeast Asian community of states. However, the bilateral trade volume of 18 billion euros (2022) is relatively small. In order to increase this as much as possible, a business delegation with Steinmeier flew to the capital Hanoi.

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil was there

And someone else accompanies him: Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD). The German economy, which is suffering from a shortage of skilled workers, has an interest in attracting foreign workers – which seems possible in a country with a population as young as Vietnam’s. Especially since that wouldn’t be anything new in this case.

Since 1980, Vietnamese people have been coming to the GDR as so-called contract workers – the counterpart to guest workers in West Germany. When the Wall came down in 1989, around 60,000 of them lived there. In the Federal Republic, around 40,000 “boat people” found refuge – people who had fled the oppression and violence of the new communist rulers in boats across the South China Sea after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 207,000 people with a Vietnamese migration background lived in Germany in 2022. These could be a kind of bridgehead for other compatriots who want to come to Germany.

Freedom of expression and press freedom in Vietnam are severely restricted

In terms of area, Vietnam is almost as big as Germany, but with a good 98 million inhabitants, it has 15 million more people. The Communist Party claims leadership of the state and society for itself. Other parties are not permitted. Human rights organizations criticize that freedom of expression and the press are severely restricted, that the right to freedom of association is undermined and that there are arbitrary arrests as well as torture and ill-treatment of detainees. Vietnam is ranked 178th out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom rankings.

Essentially, Steinmeier can build directly on Köhler on these questions. During his visit in 2007, he was critical of the condemnation of opposition members and called on Vietnam’s leadership to allow more social diversity. Steinmeier will travel from Vietnam to Thailand on Wednesday evening.

Source: Stern

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