Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the German Bundestag: Responding to the crisis with “more Europe”

29.03.2012 - Speech

Foreign Minister Westerwelle gave the following speech at the German Bundestag on 29 March 2012 during the debate on the European Stability Mechanism and the fiscal compact:

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, I would like to add just a few points to this debate. Firstly, I believe that despite the differences of opinion among the parties, we in this house overwhelmingly agree on one thing: we are aware that what we are discussing today is a milestone along the path to further European integration. If I sum up this debate, which I have followed closely, what I notice is that all the parliamentary groups except one are convinced that more Europe is the necessary response to this crisis. More Europe will and should be discussed here today too.

I’d like to take up a few points from the debate. As for the negotiation strategy: there’s nothing wrong with differences of opinion between the government and the opposition regarding the negotiation strategy. I would like to describe our strategy once again. But what’s not acceptable is when quotes are taken out of context for domestic political reasons to create the impression of a lack of continuity in the way the German Government has negotiated in Europe.

My colleague Mr Trittin has quoted the following sentence from the Chancellor’s speech in Munich:

”This is also why we see a ceiling of 500 billion euros as the agreed upper limit.“

Mr Trittin, you cite this sentence in support of your thesis that we are now proposing and debating possibilities we had previously ruled out. But you are not quoting correctly.

You should have also included the next sentence, in which the Chancellor makes her intended meaning very clear:

So we’re going to keep discussing to what extent we might be able to find possibilities for combining the EFSF with the ESM; the Eurozone finance ministers have talked about this.“

If you’re going to quote somebody, the proper way to do it is to use the complete quote. The full quote gives a completely different impression.

Where do we diverge in this debate, and above all where do we diverge in our negotiation strategies? We are convinced that engaging in give-and-take negotiations in Europe was the right thing to do. That means we were prepared to give our solidarity, but in the interest of the citizens of Germany and Europe we also saw reason to make sure the individual member states did their homework.

My dear colleague Mr Trittin, you have said that we need a big enough umbrella if we don’t want to get our trousers wet.

But Mr Trittin, if we’re wetting our own pants, it doesn’t matter how big our umbrella is.

This is why we need to work against debt-making policies. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

From our perspective you’re quarrelling with the government in a way that has nothing to do with the matter at hand. You say that the Federal Government is convinced there’s only debt reduction and budgetary discipline, that we’re ignoring growth. That’s utter nonsense. Ever since Greece put the debt crisis on the agenda, the German Government has been combating debt-making policies from both sides.

We want budgetary discipline, and we also want to increase growth. It is our belief that growth cannot be bought on credit, growth is possible only through structural reform.

But it’s not enough for us to do this; the others have to do it too. From Italy to Greece, everyone understands this. In those countries everything is being agreed by overwhelming parliamentary majorities; it’s only you here who are engaging in this partisan nitpicking. In my view you are not taking your responsibility seriously here.

I’d like to conclude by commenting on how we will go forward from here. May I briefly remark that I never said – Mr Steinmeier unfortunately has had to leave, so he’s not here to hear this – that I thought the SPD would of course agree. That isn’t my responsibility, and it also isn’t my opinion. I do, however, have expectations. I expect everyone to live up to their responsibilities of governance at this historical moment for Europe.

At such a historical moment, when what’s at stake is not only combating the debt crisis but also asserting Europe’s role in the world, I expect everyone to set aside their electoral campaigning and think of Germany as well as of Europe as a whole.

Don’t think about the elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, think about Europe and Germany! That’s what’s at stake today. We want to invite you to play a role in this process. This government coalition is convinced that the answer is more Europe. We need to remedy the mistakes that were made in the past.

I accuse the Red-Green Government of that time of having undermined the Stability and Growth Pact. But that’s in the past. If, however, you now once again respond to the debt crisis with new debt and softer stability rules, then in my eyes you’re making a historical mistake for the second time. We will not do this, because what we want is to strengthen Europe.

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