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"I want to solve problems, not to add fuel to the fire"

11.05.2012 - Interview

Interview with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the situation in Ukraine and the debt crisis in Greece. Interview published in the Westfalenblatt on 11 May 2012.

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Things are moving now in the Tymoshenko case: is there enough movement for the ex Prime Minister, who was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, to be released at last?

Our priority is to ensure that Ms Tymoshenko is treated appropriately both medically and under the rule of law. That’s why German doctors are with her. And that’s why I have sent diplomats in whom I have great personal trust to see her. Her removal to hospital and the end of her hunger strike mean progress has been made. We are talking to the Ukrainian Government. Germany and Europe have a strategic interest in Ukraine orienting itself further towards Europe.

How isolated is Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych?

I want to solve problems, not to add fuel to the fire. I am trying to conduct the ongoing negotiations with due discretion so that they will be successful.

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Is Greece in the same position today as the Weimar Republic was in 1930?

I don’t hold with comparisons like that. We want Greece to stay in the euro. But we also expect Greece to keep its promises. Solidarity is not a one way street. It presupposes that Greece will make its own efforts to overcome its debt crisis as well. If Greece were to break off the agreed course of reform, then no further aid payments could be made.

Whoever threatens to stop the aid payments will lose the money already leant once and for all. You’re in a catch 22 situation.

Solidarity has a twin – solidity. Nothing will change there. Some of the statements being made from within the ranks of Greece’s politicians are irresponsible. That’s playing with fire. It would be the weak in Greece who would suffer most. They don’t have the possibility of investing money abroad. That’s one reason why I’m so worried about the current crisis in Greece.

Is it also playing with fire when François Hollande wants to renegotiate the fiscal compact?

François Hollande has called for Europe to do more for growth. That’s what the German Government wants too. The fiscal compact for less debt is in place. And it will remain in place. But in addition to the fiscal compact for less debt, we also want a growth compact for more competition. I will be making a policy statement on this issue on Friday. Growth doesn’t spring from new debt. We need to use the money spent in Europe more for strengthening competitiveness, by investing in future-oriented areas like education and research. We are also creating impetus for growth by entering into new free trade agreements with the world’s growth regions. Stimulus packages financed by yet more borrowing, in contrast, are just a flash in the pan.

France’s future President Hollande doesn’t seem to have realized that …

Growth comes from competitiveness and structural reform, not from more and more new debt. That’s been our experience in Germany.

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Interview by Reinhard Brockmann. Extracts reproduced with the kind permission of www.westfalen blatt.de.

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