“Europe’s only chance is to stick together” (Interview)

09.11.2011 - Interview

Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the European debt crisis in an interview with the Neue Westfälische newspaper.Published 9 November 2011


Greece’s political turmoil might be grist to the mill of eurosceptics like Frank Schäffler.Does that concern you?

You cannot fight a debt crisis by making it easier to take on more debt. We must restructure Europe and eliminate the euro’s structural deficits. The German Government back in 2004 made a grave error in weakening the Stability and Growth Pact. We are going to correct that mistake. The new European Stability Pact will have more bite. Violations of the rules will really be punished.

Frank Schäffler accuses the FDP leadership of talking about a “stability union” when what it really means is a “debt club”.What do you say to that?

You have to make a distinction between what needs to be done immediately and what needs to be done in the middle and long term. We have to erect a firewall now. Nobody should harbour any illusions: if other European countries default in a disorderly manner, Germany will suffer with them. It would be a catastrophe for the citizens and the economy were confidence in the currency to wane. Prosperity and jobs would be threatened, not least in Germany. Remember that the repercussions of the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 could be felt right down to the smallest savings banks.

Many people are afraid that helping other EU countries could become a never-ending story with Germany in the role of paymaster. What would you say to them?

That this is precisely what we want to prevent. Doing nothing and not erecting firewalls through the rescue packages would prove much more expensive for Germany. It is not fair to blame those who now have to deal with the crisis for the unease it is causing. The SPD and Greens are largely to blame for today’s crisis, because they weakened the Stability and Growth Pact in 2004.

Sixty-eight percent of Germans believe that Greece does not have a future in the eurozone.Is the population wrong?

Greece has not made the discussion any easier in recent days, but I am counting on them to implement the urgently needed structural reforms. If they do so in the agreed manner, Greece has a chance of staying in, otherwise not.

Do you agree with Federal Chancellor Merkel when she says, “if the euro fails, Europe fails?”

It is an old rule that if the money turns bad, everything turns bad. But Europe is much more than a common currency. The united Europe has given our continent the longest period of peace, prosperity and freedom in its history. I am also thinking of the future. Even successful Germany is too small to survive in competition with the new centres of power in the world, such as China, India and Latin America. Europe’s only chance is to stick together. To return to a preoccupation with national interests would destroy that chance. Germany makes up just one percent of the world’s population. At least Europe as a whole still accounts for seven percent.


Reproduced with the kind permission of the Neue Westfälische. Questions: Alexandra Jacobson


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