First Historical visit of Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Niger

„Strategic visit on improving living conditions of Niger”

May 21st, 2016

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault visited the Niger on May 2nd. The visit of the German Foreign Minister was a first in this country of West Africa. Steinmeier said Europe had to help improve living conditions and security in Niger.

In the North, Niger is surrounded by Mali and Libya, two countries with strong turbulences during already several years. Terrorism, organized crime and arms trafficking cross the borders of these states with Niger. In the South, the country is bordered by Nigeria. After talks with the Nigerian government, Steinmeier reiterated that the terrorist group Boko Haram was still very present in the minds of Nigerians. "We agree on the fact that Europe must contribute to improving the security situation," he said, adding that this meant in particular seeking to stabilize Libya and enforce it the rule of law.

The issue of refugees and migration was also on the agenda of the visit. The Niger has indeed become a transit country for those who take the perilous path to Europe. On site, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean-Marc Ayrault visited a center of the World Organization for Migration (IOM), which hosts and supports those who have failed to reach their final destination.

From Guinea, Cameroon and Mali, many young men are today housed at this center and could tell their stories of their tragic course to the ministers. IOM informs migrants on legal migration opportunities and helps them return to their home countries when they wish. "We must to do something in order to improve the living conditions in the country of departure," insisted Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the end of this meeting.

Another major challenge for Niger is to respect the river of the same name, victim of silting and pollution. The Niger River is fed exclusively by rainfall but, as a result of climate change, it is drying. To this phenomenon is added the mismanagement of agricultural irrigation systems. Since 2007, Germany has granted 70 million euros to the Authority Niger Basin to fight against this problem.

On the night of Wednesday, May 4th, Steinmeier returned to Berlin and his French counterpart in Paris. But the two Ministers met less than 24 hours later. Jean-Marc Ayrault was indeed expected to Berlin the next day for talks on Syria.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Adam Slezak, CD News