Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the German Bundestag on 20 January 2010

20.01.2010 - Speech

Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of this House,

German foreign policy is peace policy. The CDU-FDP Government believes that this continuity is among the most valuable fixtures of German politics.

Because German foreign policy is peace policy, we are committed to disarmament. I’d like to mention an encounter which has perhaps not received the public attention it deserves so far. In two weeks’ time, eight prominent figures will be meeting here in Berlin: Henry Kissinger, Richard von Weizsäcker, Sam Nunn, Helmut Schmidt, William Perry, Egon Bahr, George Shultz and Hans-Dietrich Genscher. These eight men have been working for peace for decades. They have fostered confidence. They have resolved conflicts, and they’re certainly not naive men. Today, these eight experienced figures are united in their conviction that a world free of nuclear weapons is both necessary and possible. The CDU-FDP Government also wants to follow this course. We’re convinced that after a decade of armament, we now need a decade of disarmament; disarmament is the imperative for humanity at this time.

Anyone who sees the opportunities offered by globalization will, of course, also recognize the dangers. I don’t want – as I’ve often done in earlier general debates – to talk about the implications of globalization for domestic, economic and education policy issues. Rather, I want to focus on foreign policy. Although globalization offers many opportunities, it also has dark sides – for example, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. International terrorism, including the morass of radical ideologies now present throughout the world and no longer only in certain regions, the networking among fundamentalists and radicals, contempt for humanity and cruelty are, of course, all a scourge of our time, one result of technological progress and globalization. Anyone who welcomes globalization with realistic optimism must, at the same time, commit to disarmament in order to make the globalized world safer.

President Obama has thus opened a window of opportunity. I’m not only talking about his speech in Cairo but, above all, […] his speech in Prague, a speech which I believe received far too little attention. It shows that ambitious, visionary goals can be formulated. It’s only right that we take the US President at his word. But don’t misunderstand me: we don’t want nuclear disarmament so that it’s easier to wage conventional wars. Rather, for the CDU-FDP Government – and hopefully for everyone in this House – nuclear and conventional disarmament go hand in hand. Time and again, we have to spell this out to politicians in all regions of the world where weapons abound.

We talk to our partners and allies about disarmament. That probably wasn’t the main focus of the news coverage of the series of inaugural visits I made during my first trips abroad, in some cases accompanied by Members of this House, but it is a central part of our policy. For we want arms control treaties which are either about to expire or have not yet been ratified to remain or enter into force. So we talk to our partners and allies about disarmament, as I did recently in Japan, where I was accompanied by members from almost all parliamentary groups.

We also want to talk to our allies about the withdrawal of the last remaining nuclear weapons in Germany.

We believe in the peace dividend. Twenty years after reunification – we’re celebrating this wonderful anniversary this year – it’s time to join forces and work on this peace dividend. Making the world a more peaceful place is one answer to the globalization of our age.

But we’re not naive. We haven’t forgotten the risks, nor are we ignoring them. I don’t have to tell those knowledgeable and interested Members of this House present today about the great challenges and dangers facing us. We had an opportunity to talk about them yesterday. We have many concerns. Take, for example, Yemen or Afghanistan. We’ve discussed them often here. We all know how much an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would destabilize the region in particular, even the entire world. Of course, we also know that we need fresh impetus in the Middle East conflict in order to bring everyone back to the negotiating table. Therefore, whenever the opportunity arises, we urge all parties to resume the peace talks.

But I also want to make it clear, ladies and gentlemen – for this Government regards it as an integral part of Germany’s raison d’être – that securing peace must entail recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within secure borders. I’m saying this against the background of the German-Israeli intergovernmental consultations which have just taken place, a remarkable event given our history. We should remember that this most dark and cruel chapter in our history took place less than a lifetime ago. It’s therefore the firm conviction of this Government – and I want to state this categorically once more – that Israel has the right to exist in safety, and that its citizens have a right to live in safety within secure borders. Those who dispute this in anti-Semitic speeches – as, for instance, the Iranian Government has done – will always face fierce opposition from us all, that is to say from all Germans.

I don’t have to tell you that we are pressing for a two-state solution, this also being an integral part of Germany’s raison d’être and the policy of the last Governments. That goes without saying. Of course, the two-state solution also includes the right of Palestinians to their own viable state.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve spelled all of this out because after my many talks during the last few weeks and months, I fear that the time will come to make a decision. Indeed, that it will come during the next few weeks. We have to decide how we as members of the international community will react to Iran’s refusal to engage in dialogue. That’s why I – on behalf of this Government – want to make it very clear that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran is totally unacceptable. If Iran is not prepared to restart talks, if it doesn’t finally get back to the negotiating table, if it doesn’t resume fulfilling the international obligations it entered into voluntarily, then we’re prepared if necessary to support any decision by the international community to extend sanctions. We certainly won’t stand by and watch Iran acquire nuclear weapons without doing something about it. No-one in this House could justify that to themselves.

Next week, we will conduct a major debate on Afghanistan. As all the parliamentary groups are currently discussing what has to be done in preparation for the Afghanistan Conference, I would like to say a few words on this. Next week we will hear a policy statement on this issue by the Chancellor. That is Parliament’s vested right. At the same time, however, it’s this Government’s express intention and wish. For we want to have the broadest possible support in this House for our Afghanistan policy. I don’t expect to gain everyone’s support, but I’m counting on the common sense of you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, terrorism must not be allowed to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan. We must remember that millions of men and women in Afghanistan are relying on us. They have managed to gain a measure of freedom, for instance for women and girls. That’s the real reason we’re in Afghanistan: to protect our own society from terrorism but, at the same time, to fulfil our obligation towards our fellow human beings so that women are not murdered just because they want lead their lives in a way we take for granted, so that wells can be drilled, so that Afghanistan can hope for a better future. The international community cannot afford this state to stumble not to mention fall. That’s the challenge facing all those who share our values and has absolutely nothing to do with a militarization of foreign policy. Those who would withdraw now from Afghanistan in a panic, would leave millions of people in the lurch and send many of them to a certain death at the hands of the Taliban henchmen. That has to be said.

At the start of this year, I put forward five points which I believe should dominate the political agenda in London. I don’t have to repeat them here. I’d just like to say that for us it is, I hope, absolutely clear that we in the German Bundestag are all firmly convinced that our first task is to talk about our goals in Afghanistan, about what we want to achieve in terms of building up and consolidating good governance, about how we can create better economic and social prospects for people there and what we can do to uproot terrorism. We have to discuss all of this before we focus on anything else. Only then can we talk about other issues.

Contrary to some newspaper reports, I’ve never said that an increase, for example in the Bundeswehr’s training capacities, were out of the question. Nor have I ever said that we will definitely do this. I’ve merely emphasized the order in which we want to address these matters. On behalf of this Government, I stand by this order, the exact order in which we want to discuss the issues at hand. We first of all have to examine the objectives, the prospects for Afghanistan. That is by far our most important priority, and then comes military protection. That’s our order: strategy, then instruments, and only then the issue of troops and military protection. That’s the right order. That’s why we’re sticking to it. London must have a broad political approach and must not be a conference on troop levels. That’s the position of the entire Government.

Ladies and gentlemen, Members of this House, it goes without saying that we’re also endeavouring to strengthen civilian institutions. Of course, we also have to express thanks, and I would like to take this opportunity to do so. I would like – and I’m certain I speak on behalf of the entire House – to thank civilian helpers throughout the world for their work, and most especially the men and women of the Bundeswehr. When we talk about foreign policy here, then it’s only right for this House to express its thanks. We’re proud of the work being done and we are grateful that men and women are active throughout the world – be it in Afghanistan, in the Balkans or anywhere else. Thank you very much!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a given that the European Union is the most successful peace project. We’re therefore keen to further develop the cooperation model. That’s the lesson we’ve learned from our history: we don’t want confrontation on a continent of wars – that’s Europe’s history – but, rather we want to foster cooperation as the answer to those truly terrible years.

I’d like to say the following to all those who are asking what the next steps will be following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty – the Treaty really does represent an improvement – as well as those who, like all of us, are critical about many aspects of Europe: at the end of the day, we have to keep reminding ourselves why we did it all. We didn’t just do it to for our prosperity, not just for the freedom to travel. First and foremost, we did it for peace and reconciliation. If all the European Union had given us was decades of peace on our continent, then it would have been worthwhile for every German as well as for every other European citizen.

German foreign policy is interest-led and value-oriented. We therefore don’t see any contradiction in the fact that, on the one hand, we want to open markets and, on the other, we are pressing for human rights to be observed. To us, there’s no contradiction, for they belong together. Interest-led and value-based: during my trip to China and to the Arab region, I saw that these factors are indeed compatible. We also want to pursue our economic interests in other countries. How can we otherwise be the world’s leading exporter and create wealth in our own country? But we will never stop championing values, human rights, education, freedom of religion, plurality or protection of minorities. We’re not prepared to make any compromises when it comes to human rights. For we know that being true to our values and interests are both central parts of good German foreign policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, of course it’s also important that we expand our cultural relations and education policy. This is rarely discussed. However, about one fourth of the budget we’re debating today is allocated to cultural relations and education policy. And, by the way, I’d like it to stay that way. For we believe that my predecessor’s policy set the right course. We will continue down this path. Cultural relations and education policy will therefore be a key component in our foreign policy.

We want a close dialogue with every country, particularly with our direct neighbours, as well as with Russia and China. But we won’t forget to maintain the balance I’ve just spoken of.

We recognize our own fundamental interests. We shouldn’t forget that. Above all, our foreign policy is influenced by values enshrined in our Constitution. Human dignity shall be inviolable: it goes without saying that this also is the yardstick for our foreign policy. We Germans are reliable partners in the world. I want to emphasize that. We keep our word. I made that clear again only recently in Turkey.

The transatlantic friendship is also part of Germany’s foreign policy. The United States of America and Germany are linked by a close friendship and not just by a transatlantic partnership. But that doesn’t prevent us from focusing more than has perhaps been the case hitherto on other regions. We will begin giving special priority to Latin America this year. We believe that region has an enormous potential which is underestimated in debates on foreign and domestic policy. Of course, we will provide assistance and solidarity to Africa, not just because it’s our neighbouring continent but also because we have an obligation towards our fellow human beings.

Ladies and gentlemen, German foreign policy has been a great success since the establishment of the Federal Republic, irrespective of who was in power. In truth, continuity is not down to a lack of imagination but, rather, it is very valuable, also in foreign policy. This includes the fact that in Europe we also want to act and work in a spirit of cooperation. This includes good neighbourly relations. I’m saying this as someone who remembers Willy Brandt and Walter Scheel. I grew up in the Rhine region, and I’m also saying this as someone who was influenced by the Franco-German Youth Office in Bad Honnef. I’m saying this as someone who realized as a schoolboy that youth exchange is a means of promoting international understanding. Just as we have succeeded in placing our deep friendship with our western neighbours on a firm footing, our task now is to create a deep friendship with our eastern neighbours. We want to work on this and complete what others before us began.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to conclude by expressing thanks – for I spoke of being guided by values – for the compassion of our fellow citizens. We’ve been following a terrible disaster. And we have also witnessed the great solidarity shown by our fellow citizens, not only yesterday evening during an extremely successful appeal for donations on German state television. We’ve also seen it in many other initiatives. We want to express our thanks for this generosity.

Immediately after the earthquake I – also on behalf of this House – talked to members of the German Embassy and to the German Ambassador in Haiti, and I’d like to highlight what these people are doing. Having survived the disaster, they didn’t leave the country but, instead, stayed to help. In my view, this is so commendable that it should be stated in this House. This House says thanks on behalf of Germany to those who are now working in and outside the Embassy.

Of course, we also have to thank our fellow citizens for their compassion and generosity. The level of solidarity we’ve witnessed is wonderful.

The suffering is immense, we’re all aware of that. I’ve just learned that there will possibly be more difficulties following a further aftershock. I can’t say more yet because I don’t have more details. Of course, we’re facing an incredible challenge. What we’ve learned from history is that we Germans feel part of the international community, also at difficult times when countries have to endure disasters such as this one. Germany is thus showing at the moment that it’s a compassionate country, a country which helps, which shows solidarity, a solidarity also practised by every individual at home.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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