‘G20 can’t ignore Russia’s war’



In an interview,Germany’s G20 sherpa Jorg Kukies said that while G20 countries are willing to compromise on language relating to the Ukraine war, Germany does not agree with the position, as articulated by China, that Ukraine war discussion does not belong in an economic grouping like the G20.

NEW DELHI : Germany will not sign a joint statement that ignores Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, said Germany’s G20 sherpa Jorg Kukies. In an interview with Mint, Kukies said that while G20 countries are willing to compromise on language relating to the Ukraine war, Germany does not agree with the position, as articulated by China, that discussion of the Ukraine war does not belong in an economic grouping like the G20. Kukies, who also serves as Germany’s state secretary for finance, noted the need for reforming multilateral development banks and increasing their lending capacity. Kukies was optimistic that the Delhi G20 summit will see some movement on making this funding available.

Will leaders reach a consensus on a joint G20 communique?

This summit will not be business as usual, because of Russia’s war against Ukraine. This is a clear breach of international law and the territorial integrity of a sovereign country. This is something that we can’t simply ignore. Your prime minister, Narendra Modi, correctly said that this era should not be of war, and this made it almost verbatim into last year’s G20 declaration. The fact that two countries are now refusing to sign language which they were willing to sign up to last year, is of course highly concerning to us. All of those paragraphs were agreed to by Russia, joined by China. We showed in Bali that we’re willing to go to great lengths to accept consensual language. We accepted, for example, that the condemnation of Russia was clarified as being one that most countries share, not all. We certainly are willing and able to find a solution. But what we can’t do is say G20 has nothing to do with Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Simply because every single country that (German) Chancellor Olaf Scholz travels to is telling us about the massive adverse impact of this war on energy prices, on food prices, on global stability. Russia is now violating and withdrawing from the Istanbul agreement for the shipment of grain. This is another sign that you cannot separate the geopolitics of this war from the economic and day-to-day impact on the well-being of citizens in the entire world. We will do everything we can to work for a joint communique. But we can’t ignore that, as we speak, Russia is still waging an unjustified war against a sovereign country. And we will have to be very clear about the fact that this is a violation of all principles of the UN. We will not be willing to sign up to a statement that completely ignores this massively adverse impact of Russia’s aggression on the global economy.

Are G20 nations on board on measures needed to increase the lending capacity of MDBs?

I think this topic is very, very important to us. It was already important in Bali. We had several events just ahead of the summer break in Europe. We had the summit in Paris, where President (Emmanuel) Macron hosted a very fruitful discussion on these topics. We’ve been discussing it continuously over the summer within the group of sherpas and sous-sherpas. And there’s definitely a huge opportunity now to make the international financial system fit for the 21st century and for all of the challenges that we’re confronting. The World Bank, the MDBs are all in intense discussions on how we can actually implement this. On the one side, how we can better reflect the development needs of the low and middle income countries. On the other side, how we can tackle the challenges of climate change and how, for example, we deal with the vulnerabilities of some of these small-island countries. Many of these elements, I think, are lined up for good agreement. We all know that we need to mobilize additional resources. We need to think about what the governance and what the financial architecture needs in terms of reforms to actually make that implementable. And we’re optimistic that the Delhi Summit will be a big opportunity to agree on all of these things.

What are the gains that could accrue for India and Germany from the India-EU FTA?

There are just so many opportunities to cooperate. As you can imagine, our automotive sector would appreciate better access to the Indian market. On the other side, we heard of many technology companies in India that would like better access to the European sector and vice versa. So, I think the abundance of opportunities is huge.

What do you think of the UN Secretary General’s call for $500 billion a year in additional financing for developing countries for sustainable development goals?

This question of additional resources is a very important and very relevant one. I think there is, of course, a need to talk about specific numbers. That’s a work in progress, so I wouldn’t want to make a public statement around that before we have agreed on the numbers. We want to crowd in private sector investment. I think that’s an extremely important element of this, and India is a prime example of how well that can work. We are more than willing to contribute our share to this. We are one of the leading countries in terms of development assistance and contributions to development cooperation and to the international financial system. So, we are definitely in favour of broadening these discussions. I think the question of absorption capability on part of developing countries is a legitimate one that we need to discuss quite realistically.

Do you expect any progress at the Delhi summit on the G20 common framework on resolving the debt problems?

First of all, I would say the fact that the G20 Common Framework has been agreed by all is a big breakthrough. And I would say the fact that several specific examples are being implemented where the Common Framework is actually being used is something that shows its usefulness. So I would be quite positive on that. Just to name an example, Zambia is a concrete specific case where the Common Framework has shown what it’s capable of. As with every new framework, it’ll take time to make sure the implementation works well and that we make progress. But I think in general, we’re headed in the right direction.

Another of importance today is rising protectionism...

We will definitely do everything we can for this. We’ve had a discussion in Germany for many years on the ratification of the EU-Canadian trade agreement. And for the first time, this government in Germany has now approved the free trade agreement.

And we’ve taken a more positive general view towards free trade agreements, whether they’re with Latin America, Chile, Mexico, Mercosur or whether they’re with Africa, where we just made good progress in Kenya. This is true with your part of the world where we are now among the most proactive countries to push the EU’s trade agreements with Australia, with New Zealand, with India, with Indonesia. So we are really trying to do what we can, both in the practice of concluding free trade agreements, but also in putting in language in statements, whether it’s at the G7 or G20, that is critical of protectionism.

Germany has set a net zero emission goal by 2045. So in your journey towards net zero emission, is there anything that other countries can adopt as far as the measures that you would be putting in place in your country?

Yes, I would say we’ve had very good success with the build-out of renewable energy, which had stalled in Germany for the past five to six years. We’re now seeing a really, really substantial and noticeable acceleration. We have auctioned massive volumes of offshore wind capacity now -just over the past few weeks - over seven gigawatts, which will provide electricity to over eight million households. We are making fast strides in onshore wind, where the adoption rates and the implementation rates of projects has also increased by double digits. The fastest increase actually, and that’s no surprise because it’s the quickest to implement, is on solar. So, the percentages with which solar energy capacity has been adopted both by households for rooftop and professional investors in larger scale projects is really increasing very, very substantially relative to the slow growth rate that we’ve had for the past five or six years. So the fact that we’ve increased the planning and ‘permissioning’ speed in Germany and the fact that we’ve increased the incentives with several billions of support programs is really already, now a year into our project, starting to show. We want to have 80% renewable energy in our electricity grid by 2030 and 100% by 2035. So the country is striving to fulfil these goals.

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