Interview with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle published in the Heilbronner Stimme on 25 January 2012
Minister, everybody’s talking about the euro crisis, everybody’s talking about money.Does that put the Foreign Minister at a disadvantage?
Overcoming the European debt crisis requires joint efforts, and we are all working together in a spirit of partnership both at the federal and at the EU level. However, one thing has become quite clear during the crisis: what we need is more Europe, not less! One of the European Foreign Ministers’ core tasks is to advance European integration, and I will continue to work to achieve this goal.
What is the role of the Federal Foreign Office in connection with the private sector?
Germany is strong in terms of foreign policy, not least because we have a strong economy to back us up. On my travels I often see how our country’s excellent reputation has been further enhanced by our innovative and competitive private sector, particularly because of its many small and medium sized enterprises. To me, therefore, foreign policy and external economic promotion are not mutually exclusive but, rather, two sides of the same coin.
At the Congress of World Market Leaders, securing raw materials is a central topic for many companies.What role did oil and other raw materials play in the Libya conflict?
Recently, I visited Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. The many talks I held there made one thing perfectly clear: it’s quality that counts. Doors are wide open for German businesses. In my view, one task of German foreign policy must and should be to open up opportunities for German companies. SMEs in particular need support through foreign policy and through the network of German missions abroad because they are not capable of building international networks themselves.
How can and must the private sector support foreign policy?
The economic strength of our companies gives us leverage in the sphere of foreign policy that we would not have otherwise. And we’ve all observed that the globalization of the economy goes hand in hand with a globalization of values. German companies don’t only export goods and services but also social and ecological values and standards. Through their long term commitment, they play their part in promoting the key benefits of the social market economy all over the world. We can see one possible result of this globalization of values in the Arab world, where hundreds of thousands fought courageously for freedom, democracy and human rights.
You weren’t able to bring jobs to Tahrir Square in Cairo last February ...
Without a doubt, one key to consolidating the democratic movement in the Arab world lies in the creation of economic prospects and jobs, so that political change can translate into better opportunities for the people. Through our transformation partnership and by pressing for a further opening of European markets for North Africa, we are tangibly supporting those countries in the region moving towards democracy and freedom.
SMEs are calling the tune at the Congress of World Market Leaders.What role do those companies play?
Many countries envy us because of our strong industrial base and our innovative and export-oriented SMEs. Especially in times of sweeping global change and the rise of new economic powers in Asia, Latin America and Africa it’s good that Germany can rely on strong and internationally competitive SMEs which seize the economic opportunities those new markets present. It’s the only way for Germany to further enhance its position as a global economic leader. Therefore, the Federal Government’s decision to focus on SMEs was right.
Questions: Manfred Stockburger.Reproduced by kind permission of the Heilbronner Stimme.