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“Europe is our life insurance in the age of globalization”

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in an interview on the European debt crisis, the situation in the Middle East and China’s role in global politics. Published in the Swedish daily Dagens Industri on 19 December 2012

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How do you see Germany’s position internationally?

Today we have a strong economic position. Germany is a reliable and consistent partner. This means our responsibility and people’s expectations have increased. This holds true first and foremost for Europe, especially when it comes to dealing with the debt crisis.

Will Germany’s role in efforts to save the euro be different in future?

From the outset, our strategy to tackle the crisis was founded on three pillars: consolidation of budgets, growth through competitiveness and solidarity with partners experiencing acute problems. Solidarity always has to go hand in hand with a sense of direct responsibility. That is why we are against any steps aiming to buy growth by accumulating more and more debts. What we need are real structural reforms and binding mechanisms at European level designed to increase competitiveness. We are getting on well here.

Can you relate to the Swedes’ increasing scepticism about Europe?

Europe is not just a peace project; it is also our life insurance in the age of globalization. Even Germany which is relatively large in European terms or Sweden which is so successful would, by themselves, be too small to hold their own in our 21st century world.

What do you think about a banking union without Sweden – and without the UK and the Czech Republic?

European banking supervision is the right way to respond to the causes of the debt crisis. We feel it is very important that non euro countries can participate as equals in the new system. No one should be excluded from participating, but no one can be allowed to stop others from making progress.

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Which foreign conflict causes you the most concern at the current time?

The triad of problems consisting of the conflict in Syria, the Iranian nuclear programme and the Middle East peace process is a source of great concern and takes up a lot of my time as Foreign Minister. There is a real danger of conflict engulfing the entire region and any of these hotspots can be the spark that sets this off.

Where do you think China is heading with its new leadership?

We are counting on the new leadership continuing Beijing’s policy of opening up the country. The stronger the Chinese economy becomes, the more important it is that China shoulders its growing political responsibility in Asia and around the world with policies aiming to reconcile interests peacefully and promote stability.

Interviewer: Mikael Björk

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