Interview with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Topics: German Presidency of the UN Security Council, sale of battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, Greek debt crisis.Published in the Bild newspaper, 11 July 2011
This week you’ll be Mr Germanypresiding over the UN Security Council.What’s it like to govern the world, Minister?
The Security Council is not a world government. But it does bear a great responsibility for peace and security in the world. This week the UN will decide on the membership of the newly founded Republic of South Sudan. That will be a historic moment. We’ll also be seeking a Security Council resolution on better protection for children in conflict situations. Prohibiting attacks on schools and hospitals is something that’s long overdue.
During the German Presidency the Palestinians might also ask for a vote on founding a state of their own.How would you react to that?
We’re in favour of a two-state solution, Israel and the Palestinians living peacefully side by side and in security. I understand how impatient the Palestinians are at last to found a state of their own. But the only way to get there is by direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, not by unilateral action.
How does the sale of German battle tanks to Saudi Arabiafit in with the country’s poor democratic credentials?
The Federal Security Council meets in secret session. That was the practice also of today’s opposition parties when they were in government.
Is Saudi Arabiareally a stable country?
Saudi Arabia still has major deficits in terms of democracy and human rights, that’s something we don’t deny. However, the country is an influential actor in the region and can play an important role in bringing about peace in the Middle East. Responsible foreign policy needs to take also our own security interests and those of our allies into account. In the interest of peace and security we often need – not just in the Middle East – to work together with partners who don’t come up to our own democratic standards.
Let’s return to Europe, to the debt crisis in Greece.Does this really call European solidarity into question?
We must and will overcome this crisis. And we must make sure the European idea remains intact. In Europe it’s vital we don’t let prejudices shape the way we perceive each other.
What do you mean exactly?
One shouldn’t assume that posters bearing crude anti-German slogans reflect what the majority of Greeks think. By the same token, suggestions from Germany that the Greeks should sell off their islands or don’t work hard enough are highly out of place.
Is there any prospect Greecewill actually get over this crisis?
Germany is now reaping the fruits of two years of budget consolidation and structural reform. Greece needs to embark on the path of austerity and reform. The majority of Greeks know that’s the only way out of the crisis.
Will the reform process in Greecetake just about a decade, as in Germany?
The crucial thing is to tackle the problems and stay the course. Less than two years ago Germany was still in recession. Now jobs and real wages are increasing at a rate not seen since German unification. Educational opportunities have improved and at last pensions, too, are rising again. This has happened also because the German Government has been steering the right course.
... yet the Government’s opinion poll ratings are lower than they’ve been for a long time ...
Objectively the situation in Germany is very good. This Government has guided Germany through this crisis with a sure hand to date. Sometimes it takes a while till people see success for what it is.
Interview: N. Blome and J. W. Schäfer. Reproduced by kind permission of the Axel Springer Verlag