Since the change of power in Brazil, the German side has been trying to improve relations with the South American country and to seek new forms of cooperation. This also becomes clear on the multi-day trip to Brazil by Federal Minister of Economics and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck. At the start of the German-Brazilian Business Days in Belo Horizonte, the Greens politician made it clear that German-Brazilian relations should be changing.
“After the election, Brazil made a clear commitment to putting sustainability, but also democracy, the rule of law and human rights at the top of the political agenda,” Habeck said at a press conference with Vice President Geraldo Alckmin. “For Germany and Europe, this is an obligation and an invitation to further intensify political and economic relations with Brazil at this level.”
Free trade agreement in view
Specifically, the Vice Chancellor spoke of a “green bridge” across the Atlantic. Brazil is already strong in renewable energies and has great potential for hydrogen production. In addition, Habeck said there was a chance of completing the EU’s planned free trade agreement with the South American confederation of states Mercosur. This has been discussed for a long time. Growth and prosperity as well as the protection of natural resources must go together in such an agreement, he said with regard to the protection of the rainforest. The agreement must not lead to increased trade leading to increased deforestation. The Brazilian government itself has an interest in the agreement being effective. “Now let’s look again at what concrete measures are already included in the agreement, how they can be further interpreted and whether further measures are necessary.”
Brazil’s Vice President Alckmin, on the other hand, said: “The agreement is already ripe.” According to him, the discussion should not be repeated, but individual questions should be analyzed. The Brazilian government has an obligation to sustainability and climate protection. “We do not want to allow illegal logging, land grabbing and gold prospecting in the Amazon.”
Visit to indigenous people in the Amazon
The German Economics and Climate Protection Minister will also form his own opinion on the situation in the rainforest. Together with the German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens), Habeck is visiting a community of the indigenous people of the Kambeba on Tuesday – almost 60 kilometers away from the Amazon metropolis of Manaus. The Kambeba represent one of the indigenous groups who stopped identifying themselves as indigenous due to discrimination and violence – and rediscovered their identity with the rise of the indigenous movement and the Brazilian constitution in the 1980s.
For Habeck it is a first in the rainforest. You can also do video conferences, he said. But: “It does make a difference whether you’ve ever stood in a wind farm when you’re talking about wind energy.” And of course it makes a difference to have seen a rainforest when talking about the protection of the rainforest. It will certainly be a detour on the trip, which will then also have “immediate political influence”. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was already in the Amazon rainforest together with Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) in January.
The German travel diplomacy has a reason: the new Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was not considered an environmental politician in his first two terms of office until the end of 2010. But he has now promised to give priority to environmental and climate protection. His predecessor Jair Bolsonaro had advocated the exploitation of the Amazon region.
Habeck already considered the plans of the Brazilian government under Lula to stop the deforestation of the rainforest by 2030 with emotional words during his trip to Brazil: “At least I can get tears in my eyes that a government is turning things around like that.” However, the deforestation of the rainforest is progressing – in German diplomatic circles, with a view to the evaluation of satellite images in February, on which the provisional number of fires are counted, there was talk of a worrying situation. Also because the fire season hasn’t even started yet. Under the right-wing Bolsonaro government, environmental and control authorities were systematically weakened. The deforested areas create new pastures and farmland for soybean cultivation and cattle breeding, for example. According to the environmental organization WWF, 18 percent of the forest has already been cleared.
cwo/fab (dpa, afp)