Interview: Westerwelle in the Argentine newspaper “La Nación”
What place does Argentina occupy in the Federal Republic of Germany’s political interests?
A very important one! Developing our relations with Argentina and other partners in Latin America is a high priority for us. That’s why I’m visiting your country. We share values and interests and are linked by close cultural and historical ties. For this reason we are natural allies and partners when it comes to shaping the global order. There are enough joint challenges facing us, after all: the economic and financial crisis, climate change, but also issues like disarmament and the fight against terrorism. We must find joint responses to all of these.
How would you describe our bilateral relations, and on what grounds?
Germany and Argentina are close partners; we can look back on over 150 years of friendly relations. That creates a very special type of bond. In concrete terms: think of our strong economic relations, the comprehensive cooperation in science and higher education. I want to pick up on all this with my visit.
Argentina has said on several occasions that it is keen to pay off its debts with the Paris Club, but has not yet started payment. Does Germany regard the settlement of debts with the Paris Club as relevant? What impact would the settlement of these debts have on German investment in Argentina?
Of course this is an important subject. The Argentine Government announced in 2008 that it wanted to pay off its debts gradually. We are hoping that there will be further progress on this issue.
From the German viewpoint, does Argentina offer adequate security for commercial activity today? Would the Federal Government encourage German companies to invest in Argentina?
Argentina is of great interest to German companies both as a sales market and as a production centre. Your country has recovered speedily from the international economic crisis; the workers are well-trained; and of course one mustn’t forget the prospect of growth in the Mercosur market. I also see potential in the field of renewable energies. But obviously progress on the debt issue would make it easier for German companies to become active in Argentina.
In which group of countries is Argentina considered when you look at the constellation of South American Governments? Do you group the Argentine Government along with the Governments of Brazil, Uruguay and Chile, or rather with Venezuela and Bolivia?
I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to categorize relations between Germany and Argentina like that. To do so would not be in keeping with the special quality of our relationship.
In the global perspective, the industrial countries generally expect 2010 to be a good year for economic growth; there is the impression that the worst phase of the crisis is over. Does Germany agree with this assessment?
In Europe, particularly in the Euro area, we do indeed share this view. Nevertheless, we must still be vigilant in dealing with the repercussions of the crisis. The European Central Bank forecasts growth, albeit modest growth, for the euro area this year. What we have to do now is work – at both national and international level – to consolidate this growth.
What is Germany’s view as a G20 member on the role of the developing countries in overcoming the crisis?
The G20 has functioned well in the crisis. It is good that the G20 includes important emerging economies and representatives of the developing countries. Globalization means that all countries – poor and rich – bear responsibility, each according to their capabilities.
Does Germany agree with the proposal that the multilateral credit institutions be restructured so that the smaller countries have a greater possibility to influence the decision-making process?
The German Government supports the ongoing reform of the International Monetary Fund and the multilateral development banks. We are very much in favour of the developing countries, who have not been adequately represented to date, being better represented and having a louder voice. But it is also clear that their voice and representation obviously depend on their willingness and ability to take on responsibility within the respective financial institution.
What chance does Germany see of getting the negotiations on a free trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU going again in 2010? Would Europe be prepared to make concessions on agriculture in order to open up market access in the region?
We want an ambitious and balanced free trade agreement with Mercosur. However, there is also an important link between the agreement and the Doha Round, which aims to benefit trade worldwide. We want the Doha Round to succeed. That is why the EU has made an advance concession and undertaken considerable efforts to ensure improved market access for agricultural products. Now we need movement from the other side as well. Progress in the Doha Round would surely bring progress in the negotiations on the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement too.
The Lisbon Treaty, which is regarded as the European Union’s new constitution, contains mention of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) as a British overseas territory, even though there is a dispute about sovereignty between Argentina and the United Kingdom. How does Germany assess this decision?
I can only say that the Lisbon Treaty, which has been ratified by all 27 EU member states, does not contain anything different in this regard from previous treaties. Moreover, a solution to this question must be sought through direct dialogue.