“Europe doesn’t end at Poland’s eastern border” – Foreign Ministers Westerwelle and Sikorski in an interview with the Tagesspiegel, 5 November 2010

05.11.2010 - Interview

Question: Mr Westerwelle, Mr Sikorski, you’ve been to Minsk together to visit Europe’s last dictator.Why did you go?

Westerwelle: The reason for this visit was the stake we both have in the Eastern Partnership – we want to develop closer ties also with Europe’s eastern neighbours. That’s why we together sent a clear message to the Belarusian Government about free and fair elections. For here the rule of law, democracy and human rights is the basis for any European engagement.

Sikorski: Guido and I get along so well that our visit was organized in the space of a few days. We want to put an end to divisions in Europe and we can do so more credibly if we go about this together. This has now become quite a tradition. During the Orange Revolution in Ukraine Germany and Poland also took a common stance.

Question: How will you judge the success or failure of this visit?President Lukashenko seems very sure he’ll win a fourth term.

W.: The international community will be monitoring the elections very carefully, the OSCE already has election observers there. What counts for us is what President Lukashenko does, not what he says on state television.

S.: If Lukashenko thinks he can win in free elections, he should simply prove it. At the moment we have reason to doubt the elections will be free and the Opposition will enjoy unhindered access to the media. Only if President Lukashenko allays these doubts can Belarus look forward to closer cooperation with Europe.

Question: Are you planning any other trips – to Ukraine, for example, Georgia or Moldova?

W.: Europe doesn’t end at Poland’s eastern border. We want to communicate our ideas about freedom, the rule of law and economic prosperity also to the European Union’s eastern neighbours. Right now we’ve no plans for further visits of this kind, we don’t want such a strong signal to be devalued. But I’m sure that if any situation demands this kind of joint gesture, it will happen again.

Question: In countries like Belarus and Azerbaijan the rule of law is still a long way off.

W.: That’s why it’s so important to proceed here in a coordinated way. We’re working closely together to resolve regional conflicts like the one in Moldova. I sometimes wonder at how people in Germany can discuss strategic questions such as the future of Belarus, Moldova or the Western Balkans as if these countries were somewhere way out there. Clearly some people know remote corners of the world better than they know their own continent. But these countries are really on our doorstep, they’re our neighbours’ neighbours! So that’s something that has to change.

Question: Do you also speak the same language when it comes to Russia?In the past Poland has often accused Germany of getting too chummy with Russia.

S.: Where Russia is concerned, economic integration and modernization are in Europe’s interest. What we want to see is modernization across the board, however. Russia needs to understand that a society needs space to breathe and grow and it also needs democratic standards.

W.: Russia is our strategic partner. We want a modernization partnership that’s not just about the economy but also about the legal system and domestic reforms.

Question: In the area of foreign policy Russia is now taking a small step in the direction of NATO.

W.: Here we’ve already achieved a great deal. I’m very pleased President Dmitry Medvedev will be attending in person the NATO Summit in Lisbon. That Russia is considering participating in the planned missile defence system is a very positive sign. It’s also a good thing that Russia regards the Transdniestrian conflict as a test case for its own conflict resolution commitment. This all demonstrates Moscow’s desire to play a responsible role internationally.

Question: The Baltic Sea pipeline is nearing completion.When the project was agreed between Russia and Germany, Aleksander Kwasniewski, the then Polish President, complained about the Germans not taking the Poles seriously.Is that still the case?

S.: No. At the time we were not consulted about the project, that was something we criticized. And we found it strange how the whole thing was handled. The German Chancellor first decided on the pipeline and then joined the supervisory board of the consortium building it. But what interests us more now are questions concerning the future.

W.: One very clear conclusion can be drawn here: there is no justification for going it alone – quite apart from any benefits this project offers in terms of energy security.

Question: You’re keen to resurrect the Weimar Triangle.Will the European engine in future be a three-cylinder model?

W.: France and Germany have a key role to play in promoting European projects. But the same applies to Poland. The Weimar Triangle provides a symbolic bridge to the new member states. We’re talking about the “European Union”, after all, not some “Western European Union”.

Question: Germany is finding it increasingly hard to win the support of its European partners for its ideas about the Stability Pact, for example.Is Germany too apathetic to move things ahead here?

W.: No. Germany is a country deeply committed to Europe. In pursuing our European policy we seek partnership not only with the large, economically strong countries. Clearly we want partnership on equal terms also with the smaller and medium-sized countries. In this area Germany always has partners. In promoting a culture of stability, by the way, one of our most important partners is Poland.

Question: Poland is not a Eurozone member.

S.: That’s not quite fair. We want also countries like Poland that will shortly be joining the Eurozone to participate in decision-making on monetary matters. We want a 27-member Eurozone, not a 16-member one. And as far as a culture of stability is concerned, we see absolutely eye to eye with Germany. Solidarity cannot mean some living at others’ expense.

Question: From mid-2011 onwards Polish nationals will be able to seek work also in Germany.Is that good or bad for the German labour market?

W.: It will be a tremendous opportunity. Even many heads of medium-sized companies who were sceptical about this a few years ago now see it in a different light.

S.: We Poles for our part were worried seven years ago that Germans would pour in to buy up our land, so we introduced transitional arrangements as well. These fears, too, were unfounded. What worries Poles now is the prospect of losing any number of highly skilled people once theGerman labour market opens up. In the past, however, they complained about Germany denying us access to its labour market. As you see, there are plenty of paradoxes here.

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