Need to fix the mistakes in the eurozone’s construction (interview)

03.11.2011 - Interview

Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle in an interview with the Bunte magazine, published 3 November 2011


Minister, how long will we still be paying with euros?Will the currency implode dramatically?

The euro is stable and has become a global currency. It has the same standing as the dollar. That is good for our economy and for our citizens’ prosperity.

So no return to the D-Mark...

In a changing world in which new centres of power such as China, India and Brazil are breaking into the big league, we would be very foolish to return to a preoccupation with national interest in Europe. Only if we Europeans band together do we have a chance of preserving our prosperity in the 21st century.

Sums in the trillions, mountains of debt, specialized jargon – can you understand why people are afraid?

I understand that very well. The main cause of this severe crisis is the debt incurred in recent decades. Again and again, politicians have made too many promises or handed out too many presents. Historically, in Germany the original sin was the weakening of the Stability and Growth Pact of Maastricht in 2004 by the Federal Government of the time. The current Government has enacted the biggest austerity package in the history of the Federal Republic. That is one reason why Germany is doing so well compared with the rest of Europe.


The Chancellor says that the debt crisis will last for years – not a very nice prospect...

We have to make sure that such a crisis does not repeat itself. That means we have to change the rules in Europe. As Foreign Minister it is also my job to help make that happen. The mistakes in the construction of the currency union must be fixed. Countries that want to be protected by the euro rescue package must be willing to hand over national rights to Europe. It has to be possible to have more control over their budgets. If EU member states violate the stability rules, it should be possible to go to the European Court of Justice. We need new, effective sanctions.

The world is changing faster and faster – contemporary history in the fast lane.Is it more difficult to be Foreign Minister today than it used to be?

Every period has its challenges. But even colleagues who held positions of responsibility in previous governments say that times were seldom as demanding and fast-paced as they are now.


What are you proudest of as Foreign Minister?

Proud is the wrong word, but we have got several things started. We have consistently pursued a policy of peace in and with Europe. Our culture of military restraint is respected. We have also begun to turn the corner in the Afghanistan mission and will withdraw our combat troops by the end of 2014 like our partners. Germany’s reputation abroad does not derive primarily from having large numbers of troops, but rather from a strong economy, from good diplomacy and from a willingness to help our fellow human beings. Old friendships must be nurtured. New strategic partnerships with the new centres of power in the world must be established.


Reproduced with the kind permission of Bunte. Questions: Tanja May, Sebastian Bassewitz.

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