The goal of international dialogue promoted by the Körber Foundation for over 50 years is to learn to understand one another and then to come to agreement, emphasised Klaus Wehmeier, Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of the Körber Foundation in his speech welcoming the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Berlin. Within the space of a generation many Asian states have developed from poor houses to global economic powers. As a result of the shift in the economic, political and cultural epicentre from Europe and America to Asia, the phrase “the Asian century” has long been in circulation. Today, Asian countries generate almost one third of the world’s value creation. It is also for this reason that a number of years ago the Körber Foundation decided to place a special focus on Asia within its international affairs work, whereby Asia here refers to the entire Asian region. Asia is not just the “powerhouse” of the world economy, it is also a complex international security policy “hotspot”, full of tensions. However, Vietnam plays an independent role in this context. The UN Human Rights Council has attested to the advances made in fighting poverty and improving education in the country, however it has also criticised the restrictions on the freedom of the press and opinion. According to Wehmeier there have been numerous territorial conflicts between the states bordering the South China Sea. We need ideas and concepts for the peaceful resolution of theses conflicts.
Peace, cooperation and development are still the dominant tendencies globally, stated Nguyen Tan Dung in his speech. However, the world is confronted with many challenges, such as military-territorial conflicts, the increase in international terrorism and dangers such as climate change and epidemics. As a new centre of power Asia plays an important role in the process of forming the future world order. However, there have also been numerous territorial conflicts in this region, which Nguyen Tan Dung primarily attributes to a lack of trust. No single state is in the position to solve these problems on its own. Every one of them must take responsibility and not just pursue their own interests. Instead they must consider the interests of all the other countries on the basis of international law. This will enable the deepening of bilateral relations, the promotion of cooperation, the solving of conflicts and trust building.
After 30 years of renewal policy, Vietnam has transformed its planned economy into an active market economy within a socialist order with growth rates averaging seven percent. Efforts are also being made to extend the rule of law and the democratic rights of the population. Vietnam has signed numerous free trade agreements and pushed forward international integration through the membership of many institutions. Vietnam is also making efforts to promote trustful cooperation with neighbouring countries and partners on the basis of the UN charter and international law. One welcomes all the foreign policy initiatives of the major powers which are based on equitable cooperation. In order to solve the conflicts in the South China Sea, international law and the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea must be observed. With respect to relations between Europe and Asia, the forthcoming 10th ASEM summit in Milan will provide an opportunity for joint consultation on strategic content, which will also contribute to peace, stability and prosperity on the two continents.
Prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung also addressed the issue of German-Vietnamese relations. The bilateral relations are built on a solid foundation and in 2015 we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The depth of the strategic partnership is characterised by substantial cooperation in the areas of the economy, trade, investment, politics, culture and education. With a trade balance of almost eight billion dollars, Germany is currently Vietnam’s largest European trade partner. More than 4,000 Vietnamese students study in Germany and more than 100,000 Vietnamese live in Germany. On the other side, German culture can be experienced at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi, and soon at the German House in Ho Chi Minh City.
In the subsequent question round, Thomas Paulsen, Head of the Department of International Affairs at the Körber Foundation, asked Nguyen Tan Dung how he intends to meet his promise to increase democracy and state transparency - within a political system characterised by party rule - made in his New Year’s speech. Human rights, freedom and democracy are incontrovertible human needs, and Vietnam is no exception, stated the Prime Minister. During the process of constitutional reform the principle that democracy should be the driving force and goal of the whole of society will be enshrined. Work is underway on completing the rule of law and the market institutions in order to allow people to enjoy civil liberties in all areas. However, democracy is also linked to the law and the social order and must not violate the freedom of others.
In order to resolve territorial conflicts in the South China Sea Vietnam refers to international law, continued Paulsen. However, China does not accept the authority of the international courts. How can Vietnam convince China? For Vietnam, jurisdiction based on international law is a peaceful measure for resolving conflicts, stated Nguyen Tan Dung. “I would ask you to convince China of this too.” Paulsen asked whether the former wartime enemy, the USA, had now become a new security partner following the lifting of the arms embargo. The Prime minister replied that the two countries are now working together for peace and development and that the lifting of the embargo does not damage the interests of other countries. This is all perfectly normal.