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“We need a new stability pact” (Interview)

29.10.2011 - Interview

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the outcome of the Eurogroup meeting on 27 October. This interview appeared in the Berliner Zeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau on 29 October 2011.

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Mr Westerwelle, has the euro now been rescued following the recent EU summit?

It is certainly more stable now and we’ve mapped out a course for favourable development in Europe.

The EU states are making available one trillion euro, that’s 1000 billion euro, to prop up ailing eurozone countries.Isn’t that an enormous gamble in the face of the speculation indulged in by financial jugglers?

It’s right that we tackle the crisis by building a firewall. Our aim is to prevent the crisis in Greece from spreading to the rest of Europe. Doing nothing would cost Germany a lot more. However, we also have to set about restructuring the EU and to rectify the design flaws of the economic and monetary union. Otherwise, we’ll end up enduring a debt crisis every few years.

How are we going to do that?

We need a new stability pact, for the current one is a toothless tiger. Although violations of the criteria were identified in 37 cases, sanctions were not actually imposed in one single case. The then SPD-Green Government was largely responsible for this because it watered down the pact in 2004. This momentous error now has to be put right.

How long will this restructuring take?

In my view, an EU convention with a clearly defined mandate should discuss the necessary amendments 12 months at most.

Given the current pace at which the EU works, a 12-month timeframe sounds very ambitious.

It took less than six months for the Two plus Four Treaty and Germany’s Unification Treaty to be drawn up. That should also be possible in Europe in the current crisis.

Isn’t it the case that an informal grand coalition or a coalition of national unity has long since emerged in Germany in the face of the current crisis? After all, the SPD and the Greens regularly vote in favour of the Government’s euro motions.

The CDU/CSU and FDP govern and make the decisions. However, I’m glad that the SPD and the Greens have voted with the Government after abstaining in the past on key decisions.

In terms of democratic theory, do you feel it’s a problem that, with the exception of DIE LINKE (the Left Party), no political force represents the misgivings of the eurosceptics?

I think the fact that every leading force in our country, every leading force in Europe and nearly every leading force in the world is convinced that it’s right to rescue the euro this way should make even the most sceptical pause to think.

Strangely enough, it seems to be difficult for some members of your own party to accept this wise insight.

It’s not enough to say what you don’t want. You also have to say what you want. I’m looking forward to the internal vote by our members for it gives us an opportunity to use our arguments to canvass support for Europe among the German public. Citizens have to be convinced, for their approval is more relevant to the system than that of any bank if Europe is to succeed.

Will you remain in office if the party fails to support your policy on Europe?

I don’t think much of encumbering such a decision with irrelevant considerations.

We’re just coming to the halfway mark in this legislative period.What mark has the Foreign Minister earned?

So far, this Government has led Germany successfully through the most difficult economic and financial crisis since the establishment of the Federal Republic. We’ve made crucial foreign policy decisions, initiated the start of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and taken measures to protect Europe and the euro. The world envies our low level of unemployment, while net salaries and pensions are rising - just as we pledged. The CDU, CSU and FDP can be proud of this record.

You were widely criticized for your scepticism about Libya.You warned against painting a rosy picture of the democratic awakening in that country.Now it’s become clear that although the despots in North Africa have been toppled, it’s unclear what the future will bring.Do you feel vindicated?

This is not about being right. What matters is that we play our part in ensuring that the transition process in the Arab world really does result in the establishment of successful democracies. That’s why we offered those countries our help as well as transformation partnerships.

2011 is considered to be a crucial year for Afghanistan’s future.What’s your record there?

In Afghanistan, there’s been some good news but there are still a great number of problems. It was right to finally set realistic goals and to draw up a timetable for the handover of responsibility for security and the withdrawal of international troops. However, we have to ensure that even after 2014 and the withdrawal of international combat troops, those forces whose aim is to spread terror and destruction don’t regain power.

Withdrawal is set to begin in winter. How many Bundeswehr soldiers do you want to bring home?

The Defence Minister and I will discuss that very responsibly on the basis of the relevant criteria before we make a decision within the Government in December. This is not about symbolic figures but about achieving a turnaround. After the start of the handover of responsibility for security this year, the mission will be downsized for the first time, just as was decided in the last mandate from the German Bundestag.

This interview was conducted by Damir Fras and Steffen Hebestreit and reproduced with the kind permission of the Berliner Zeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau.

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