Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Atlantik-Brücke

02.07.2012 - Speech

On 2 July 2012, the Atlantik-Brücke in Berlin celebrated its 60th anniversary. It also held an alumni conference entitled 60 Years of Transatlantic Relations for those who had taken part in its programme for Young Leaders. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave the following speech at the alumni conference.

-- Translation of advance text --

Friedrich Merz,
Members of the Atlantik-Brücke,
Current and former Young Leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for inviting me to the 60th anniversary of the Atlantik-Brücke. I was delighted to come and consider it a great compliment that you have asked me to address the Young Leaders.

When the Atlantik-Brücke came into being 60 years ago, Germany was divided and burdened with ineluctable historic guilt.

Today we are living in a united Germany that is firmly anchored in European and transatlantic structures and counts the United States of America and Israel amongst its closest partners.

The Atlantik-Brücke is right to emphasize the major role it played in this success story. In good times and in bad, you worked hard across the Atlantic to consolidate relations, you brought together businessmen and politicians, artists, journalists, scientists, young and old leaders and thus ensured there was constant exchange. Politics cannot do that on its own. Your work proves the huge importance of person-to-person exchange between societies for good relations in the long term between states.

Transatlantic relations can’t be left to autopilot. They, too, need a constant flow of fresh input. Especially now in this era of globalization.

If we want to deal with the major current challenges, it is first and foremost up to America and Europe. We share the same values and interests, but we also have the resources and the will to solve problems. US Vice President Joe Biden was completely right three years ago when he addressed the Munich Security Conference saying “In sharing ideals and searching for partners in a more complex world, Americans and Europeans still look to one another before they look to anyone else.”

In many fields, cooperation between Europe and America has never been closer than it is today.

In Afghanistan we share the same goals; we agreed on a joint strategy to hand over security responsibility to the Afghans and launched the Transformation Decade. We are in agreement that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, and through the E3+3 talks we are working on finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear conflict. Together with the United States, we are supporting the Arab World on its path to more democracy and prosperity. In the Middle East, we are working together to facilitate lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And together with the United States, we are working to end the horrendous bloodshed in Syria.

The United States of America and a united Europe can and should be the core of an enlarged West.

That is my vision for the future of our strategic partnership. Close transatlantic relations remain a top priority – and a sine qua non for our future.

In the globalized world, the United States and Europe can no longer set the global direction on their own. But we can be a driving force for progress in the world.

A global shift is taking place. New powerhouses are emerging in Asia, Latin America and in other parts of the world. The so-called NICs today own more currency reserves than industrialized countries. They are driving the global economy.

These emerging economies are also new political players in tackling global challenges.

Economic strength generates political clout. This in turn means a greater share of responsibility for the world. We need to win over these new players as partners.

All governments are working on this. After all, globalization is ushering in completely new challenges. I am thinking here of climate change, scarcity of water and food, cyber security and preserving Creation. Anyone who wants to shape globalization needs strong partners.

Germany’s first answer to globalization is Europe. There can be no bright future for our country without a bright future for Europe.

This is reflected by the decisions taken with large majorities in the Bundestag and Bundesrat last Friday. This can also be seen in the decisions taken last week by the European Council.

The direction is clear: solidarity and moving away from debt-making policies in Europe are for us inextricably linked.

There isn’t going to be an amazing turnaround to overcome the debt crisis. What we need is determination and consistency in our departure from racking up debts and our move towards growth policy through reform.

Europe needs this new mentality. We will continue to do everything we can to get there.

A lack of solidarity is a threat to Europe but too much solidarity is no less of a threat. Asking too much of Germany is just as negative for Europe as the lack of readiness to reform amongst our partners.

Joint and several liability for debts in Europe in the form of eurobonds would therefore be a design flaw which would endanger the European idea.

It is not a question of the timing. Even if we already had a European federal state, the introduction of German joint and several liability for Europe’s debts through eurobonds would be a grave error.

Not even in the more than sixty-year history of federal structures in Germany has there ever been joint and several liability. Nor will there be in future.

Needless to say, overcoming the debt crisis is our main priority. But here, too, we have to take off the blinkers. After all, just as we have seen throughout Europe’s history, the current crisis also presents opportunities for a further step in European integration.

Clearly, we have to strengthen the economic and monetary union. Here we are following the three-pronged approach of solid budgets, reforms for more growth and competitiveness, and solidarity with our weaker partners.

We have done a lot recently. But we need to take it further. Europe will only deal with this crisis if we draw the right conclusions and together take the next step towards “More Europe”.

We have to prove to ourselves and the world that we are ready to preserve and strengthen our prosperity, our freedom, our peace and our wonderful cultural diversity.

Rethinking how European institutions interact is also part of this.

The Future of Europe Group with other European Foreign Ministers that I initiated has already presented some proposals.

We are aware of Germany’s responsibility for Europe.

And we are aware of Europe’s responsibility in the world.

Only this kind of Europe is attractive as a “partner in responsibility” also for the United States of America.

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