“I’m concerned by the harsher tone being adopted in Europe”

20.02.2012 - Interview

In an interview with Welt-Online, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle calls on everyone concerned to refrain from upsetting or belittling other nations in the current euro crisis.The Foreign Minister described the violence in Syria as intolerable.


You put Latin America on your political agenda two years ago, something which not everyone took seriously at the time: is your decision better understood today?

Today this is no longer ridiculed as my own personal hobbyhorse: Latin America has finally been recognized as one of the strategic powerhouses in a multipolar world.

You’ve drawn up the strategy paper on cooperating with new players in a globalized world: how has this been received in Latin America?

It’s the logical continuation of the shift in focus in our foreign policy.

The Latin America Strategy was the first step. That was followed by the Africa Strategy, for Africa is also evolving into a new global centre of power.

The strategy paper on cooperating with new players in a globalized world is the strategic description of a new foreign policy which cultivates long-standing friendships and partnerships in Europe and with our transatlantic partners, but which recognizes that in a multipolar world we can only master the global challenges of the 21st century if we work together with new global players.

How would you sum up your trip to Brazil, Peru and Panama?

I believe these countries have key features in common: first, most Latin American countries haven’t only achieved impressive economic development but are set to rise much further.

Second, most Latin American countries have the same values as we Europeans: they believe in the rights of the individual, they want free societies and they want to implement a model which is – more or less – based on the social market economy. Third, these are young societies with an undeniable zest for life.

Although the UN General Assembly has condemned the violence committed by the Assad regime, the move to impose UN sanctions failed due to vetoes by Russia and China. Will there be a renewed effort to win over these two Security Council powers, for example at the first meeting of G20 Foreign Ministers in Los Cabos?

Our goal remains to also take action in the UN Security Council as soon as an opportunity arises for a new attempt. For the violence in Syria is intolerable and unrelenting.

Are you actually in direct contact with your Russian and Chinese counterparts?

Yes, I have very regular and very intensive exchanges of views with both.

Do you regret that the Russians in particular haven’t even sent a Deputy Foreign Minister to Mexico?

Our meeting in Mexico is a first. If it’s a success, then others will be convinced of its worth. The G20 is not intended to be a rival format to the United Nations. We’re simply convinced that the 20 strongest economic nations in the world have more in common than just their economies and fiscal policy. For they are also united in a global political approach.

Following the two Afghanistan Conferences, will Berlin be seen as a possible mediator in the Middle East?

We can work constructively on resolving the Middle East conflict as long as we don’t take on too much. Luckily, we Germans enjoy the confidence of both sides – of Israelis and of Palestinians – as well as the Arab world as a whole.

At the same time, we want the US to play a key role here. For there’s no doubt that the role of the US is of crucial importance to peace in this region.

Iran has attacked Israeli diplomats and there’s a debate going on in Israel on whether to carry out a preventative strike against Iran: in view of this situation, how does the German Government see the statement by Angela Merkel in the Knesset in 2008 that Israel’s security was part of Germany’s raison d’être?

Israel’s security has long since been one of Germany’s key political tenets. There’s no need to interpret such a statement, it means what it says. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t criticize Israel’s settlement policy. It’s in the interest of an independent state of Palestine if it is created on a permanent basis as a result of substantial negotiations with Israel.

We’re providing practical help – and that’s very much appreciated. I’d advise against any involvement in debates about military interventions. We want the sanctions against Iran to have an impact. We’ll achieve that if the greatest possible number of partners in the world support them. Readiness to do so won’t increase if some countries get the impression that sanctions are intended to prepare a military intervention.


I’m very concerned by the harsher tone being adopted in Europe today. You can say much in Europe and quite openly, but we have to do it in a way which doesn’t upset anyone and which doesn’t belittle a specific people. Especially in view of the fact that we Germans have such a strong economy, we have to show more sensitivity than others: that’s the responsibility of the strong.

This interview was conducted byHildegard Stausberg and reproduced by kind permission of Die Welt.

Related content


Top of page