Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start off by making two preliminary remarks. First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteurs for their work. Without wishing to belittle in any way the work of the other contributors, I would be grateful if you would convey my special thanks to the general rapporteur, Mr Frankenhauser, along with my best wishes for his speedy recovery. I know that he would have liked to take part in this debate. Thank you all very much for your work.
My second remark is addressed to Ms Wieczorek-Zeul. It is somewhat ironic that someone who was herself responsible for the affairs of the Federal Security Council for eleven years should now, after only a few months in Opposition, blame the current Government for the FSC’s failings, when she didn’t achieve anything herself.
I have to say, Ms Wieczorek-Zeul, you were in charge for eleven years. You claim this Government is ratcheting up arms exports and chose to make a big scene about it here. But let me remind you that every weapon being exported now was not approved by the current Government, but mainly by the Red-Green coalition during its seven years in power. These things take time – they do not happen overnight. The things you are deploring today are the very things for which you yourself are responsible. Now that really does take some gall!
Ladies and gentlemen, Germany was elected to a seat on the UN Security Council just a couple of months ago. This was a success for German foreign policy, and above all a success for Germany on the world stage. It was a vote of confidence in our country. It shows what high regard we are held in. Never before has Germany been pitted against other candidates for a seat in such an election.
But in the first round we won a two-thirds majority in a secret ballot, coming out ahead of some very respectable candidates. That shows just how well regarded Germany is in the world. This is due to the work of a great many people, including the Federal Government. I think the Opposition has to admit this, notwithstanding all the faults that an Opposition is duty-bound to find. We can be proud of Germany’s reputation on the world stage.
Of course conflict prevention and conflict settlement are among the prime issues for the UN Security Council. The world is certainly not a peaceful place. For that reason, I will take this opportunity to say how worried we are about yesterday’s incidents on the Korean Peninsula. We strongly condemn the North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong island.
Nothing can justify such an act of aggression. The international community will not give in to blackmail. We call on North Korea to respect the armistice and to confine its actions to those that conform with international law. The North Korean Ambassador was summoned to the Federal Foreign Office today to drive this message home. We expressly commend the level-headed way in which President Lee of South Korea has responded to the incident. I trust that I speak for the entire House, not just the Government, in this matter.
Regional conflicts abound, and we will be kept busy on the Security Council in the next two years. We will soon address the future of the Sudan. We have discussed this in detail in the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs. We will consider the necessary mandates tonight. We know that the issue must be looked at in the context of regional instability, given the problems in Yemen and Somalia. We are all aware of this, as this evening’s debate shows.
I would however like to draw particular attention to two issues. The first is the Middle East. At the moment we are in a very important but very difficult phase as regards the resumed direct peace talks. The Federal Government calls on all those involved to refrain from any action that could jeopardize these peace talks, which are difficult enough already. We trust that a two-state solution will be pursued by all participants and will be the goal of the negotiations.
We hold Israel’s security to be non-negotiable. But the Palestinians also have the right to live with self-confidence in a state of their own. I have visited the Gaza Strip, for Gaza is part of a two-state solution. We call on all relevant parties to firstly refrain from the use of violence, and secondly to permit the people of Gaza to conduct trade freely once again across their borders. Imports and exports must be allowed again.
The second issue I want to raise in this connection is Iran. A year ago the question was whether international diplomacy would succeed in forging an international consensus on how to proceed. We have managed to do just that. This is not only due to the German Government and German foreign policy. It is also due to the circumspect and above all wise and nuanced actions of many participants on the world stage.
During the course of many conferences we have managed to convince Russia and China to vote with us in the Security Council. We have ensured that the 27 member states of the European Union all back the sanctions. Just a few months ago no-one would have thought this possible. It is a sign that the world is changing, and that the world will not sit back and watch while Iran becomes a nuclear power. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran is unacceptable to the international community, and unacceptable to us. That is why the international community must present a united front on this issue. I am glad that we are now able to do so.
We do not want ever more states to become nuclear powers. We are not talking about random distant regions, but about our security here in Germany. The more states there are with nuclear weapons, the more unstable the world will become and the greater the danger that terrorists could get hold of these weapons. What could happen to humankind then does not bear thinking about. That is why the Federal Government is a staunch proponent of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. These are two sides of the same coin.
With respect to Iran, we attach great significance to appealing to the country to allow the two German nationals imprisoned there to obtain all possible assistance, including consular assistance, and to be granted access to lawyers. I would like to assure you that we will do all we can to get these two German nationals back on German soil as quickly as possible. This is the Federal Government’s unequivocal position, and I am sure it is shared not only by the Coalition parties.
We also have various issues that need to be discussed with our European partners. I will not say much about Afghanistan at this juncture. We have discussed it many times before. But I would like to make one short comment. We have often spoken in general terms about the elections. Now – today – the final results have been announced.
Considering that these were the first elections for which the Afghans themselves were responsible, it should be positively noted that the Afghan authorities have investigated allegations of electoral fraud. Consequences have been taken, nothing has been hushed up. Indeed, the Afghan agencies have themselves uncovered electoral irregularities and have, for example, barred 27 MPs from taking their seats. This must be duly acknowledged on a closer look at the situation.
This is progress that we must recognize, amid all the undeniable setbacks.
But Europe, too, is not immune from conflict. Just think of Transdniestria and Georgia. The President’s speech to the European Parliament has already been mentioned. It was a key speech, a remarkable speech. In the Western Balkans – as Mr Polenz rightly noted – we have made great progress. We have managed to persuade Serbia to change its policy towards Kosovo. That is a joint European achievement.
What becomes of Europe is, of course, a matter of critical import – and this is my last point here. I would like to state something on behalf of the Federal Government quite unequivocally, something I believe in strongly myself. Europe may be going through a tricky patch at the moment. But I can only advise you to at no time question the substance on which Europe is built.
When discussing regional conflicts, such as the conflict in the Western Balkans, I can only beg you not just to ask what difficulties we face regarding Europe, but also to consider how fortunate we are to have Europe. The fact that we are living here in peace, surrounded by our friends, is thanks above all to the EU.
The fact that we are again recognized as a member of the European Community and of the international community is due to Europe. If the German Government wishes to ensure that private creditors share the burden of the crisis, that not all the risks are shouldered by the taxpayers, it is because this is in the best interests of Europe.
We are not just standing up for the interests of German taxpayers, but for all European taxpayers. That is my clear and firm response, here in the German Bundestag, to the criticism expressed by Commission President Barroso.
Disarmament policy is another vital issue. Whether you like it or not, it has to be said that we have made progress on disarmament. You may think that the agreement reached at the NATO Summit did not go far enough. You can find your advocate for any position. But let me remind you of something. NATO’S last strategic concept was adopted in 1999. Back then, when you were in charge, disarmament played no role at all. This time round it is a key concern of the Alliance. This is the most disarmament NATO has ever had.
We will continue down this road.
Thank you for your attention.