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Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the occasion of the budget debate in the German Bundestag

17.03.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

During the last reading it is first and foremost the parliament that should have the chance to speak, which is why I will take only a few minutes of your time. Before I speak about peace policy and an important issue that will affect the work of all of us in this House, I would like to make three introductory remarks.

First, I would like to sincerely thank the rapporteurs and the entire Budget Committee. I would like to thank you, Mr Frankenhauser, Mr Brandner, Mr Koppelin, Mr Kindler and Mr Leutert. On behalf of the entire Federal Foreign Office, thank you for the excellent cooperation.

Second, Ms Künast, this morning I listened to your speech, like the rest of the debate, very attentively. You called on us as the new governing coalition and on me, in a critical tone, to do more about the scandalous increase in German arms exports. I would first like to share a statement from 15 March 2010 by the SIPRI institute in Stockholm which investigated and criticized this issue because the impression is being given here that the new Federal Government quickly threw together a few submarines in the last few weeks and exported them to other parts of the world. I am quoting from a report on the issue:

The author showed little understanding for the criticism expressed by Claudia Roth, chairwoman of The Greens, on the increase in German arms exports.

Here is the quote:

Most of the contracts that contributed to this doubling were signed while the red-green coalition (The SPD-The Greens) was in power.”

Third, Ms Künast, you said it wasn’t me who discovered Brazil.

[...]

I would like to say the following regarding this comment: Brazil was discovered by the Portuguese explorer Cabral. He arrived with 13 ships. So, it seems that people in Portugal 500 years ago already understood that, at times, delegations can help promote a country’s interests.

[...]

This brings me to my fourth point, which I would like to discuss in a bit more detail. First let me address you, Mr Brandner. You correctly pointed out that continuity plays a significant role in Germany’s foreign policy as well as the corresponding budget. This will continue to be the case.

This is not a transitional budget we’re working on, indeed in the last legislative term – and this is something I will continue to do as a Federal Minister – I strongly praised the fact that particularly under Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier, it became possible for our cultural relations and education policy to grow.

I stand by that. I intend to continue this policy. Though you may have criticism in other policy areas, I am asking for your support on this because the time will come when I will have to fight for cultural relations and education policy in the Budget Committee.

This request is directed to everyone because I believe that the best “business card” for our country is supporting cultural relations and education policy.

This is not an attack, but rather a case that I would like to make because I believe this House has an interest in this issue that transcends party lines.

Finally, I would like to offer some thoughts on a key issue. There is still much to be discussed. We have already discussed quite a few aspects in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Over the next week, we will discuss the European External Action Service that has to be established. As you know, there is a lot to be done to ensure that German interests can be realized in this area and, most importantly, that in the end we have a good, powerful, capable European External Action Service. I can tell you – we still have a long way to go.

There are aspects of economic promotion that will be the subject of controversial discussion in this House. I hope, however, that there is one point we can all agree on. Up to now, a key feature of German foreign policy has been peace policy.

[…] In contrast to you, Mr Gehrcke, I believe that if German foreign policy had not been peace policy in the past decades, we never would have experienced the joy of a united Germany. This is my firm belief.

It is not about who did what, whether it was Willy Brandt, Walter Scheel, Helmut Kohl or Hans-Dietrich Genscher. There is general consensus on this.

I would like to warn you that if we are not careful, we will end up with a decade of rearmament rather than disarmament.

I believe that we will have to have an intensive discussion on this problem here in this House – not today, but in many expert debates.

This is the actual threat we are facing: that we will not experience a decade of disarmament, the possibility of which was opened up by a hopeful speech given by President Obama in Prague; but that instead this decade we will see nuclear proliferation suddenly become the norm among states that were not on our radar.

It is right to discuss human rights. I have done this, as you and your colleagues that accompanied me on my travels know. We discuss, for example, the human rights situation in Iran. I would like to ask all of us to remember the core of the problem. When it comes to Iran, and I’m mentioning this because it’s currently the subject of negotiations at the United Nations in New York, the central problem is that if we permit a country to develop the option of producing nuclear weapons, a country that does not cooperate with the international community and is not transparent in its actions, it is only a matter of time until other states in this region – or indeed around the world obtain the capability to produce nuclear weapons over the next ten years.

There have always been two components to nuclear non-proliferation. The first was to discourage countries that want nuclear weapons from building them illegally. The second is an obligation on the part of the nuclear states to disarm, but without making it easier to wage conventional wars. I predict that this will be a key concern, a concern we will hopefully address together in addition to the hectic day-to-day politics and all the issues that have to be intensively debated in a democracy. It is something I am very worried about. There have obviously been a few steps backward with regard to Iran, or in another very worrying development, with regard to the Middle East conflict. Particularly if you consider that just in the last week the settlement policy has been continued. There is no point in beating around the bush – everyone knows that we are a friend of Israel. But if you want to achieve a peace process, you have to be prepared to meet the international demand to stop building settlements. This is a precondition for ensuring that the process can succeed. This comment is directed towards both sides. That is the new dimension.

That has always been our rule: when you address an issue in this House, it should not always just be criticism directed at your predecessor or an attack on someone who might have failed to do something. No, the challenge on the agenda is new. I believe German foreign policy has two trademarks: disarmament and peace policy. That is what I wanted to contribute to this general debate today.

Thank you for your attention.

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