In conversation with Foreign Minister Westerwelle

13.08.2012 - Interview

Six holidaymakers in Mallorca had the opportunity to talk to Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. They spoke to him about their concerns regarding the euro and people in Syria.

Six holidaymakers in Mallorca had the opportunity to talk to Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. They spoke to him about their concerns regarding the euro and people in Syria. Published in the BILD am SONNTAG newspaper on 12 August 2012

BILD am SONNTAG: Welcome to our dialogue on the state of Germanyhere in Mallorca, Minister! Instead of BILD am SONNTAG journalists, you’ll be answering questions put to you by six holidaymakers. Over to you, Ms Achterberg.

ANDREA ACHTERBERG: Mr Westerwelle, which journalists’ questions are you fed up answering?

GUIDO WESTERWELLE: The question “Who’s going to win the Bundestag elections?”. For some journalists start asking that question only three months after the last elections.

GÜNTER DICKMANN: Can you perhaps explain to me why we don’t seem to be able to end the euro crisis?

The euro isn’t in crisis. Rather, the policy of running up debts in Europe has failed. We have a stable currency with about two per cent inflation. By comparison, we had an inflation rate of 5.1 per cent in 1993 when we still had the German mark. We’ll only be able to overcome the crisis if we tackle the root causes, namely the tendency to rack up debts.

DICKMANN: But the pressure on Germanyto assume liability for the debts of the weaker euro countries, ultimately unlimited liability, is increasing every day. How long will the German Government withstand this pressure?

The German Government has made it clear since the outbreak of the debt crisis that Germanywon’t assume joint and several liability for Europe’s debts. I consider that to be non-negotiable. Eurobonds would aggravate rather than ease the crisis. They would place too great a burden on us and reduce the incentive for other countries to implement reforms.

ACHTERBERG: How long will we have to go on saying we’re sorry that we caused the Second World War?

We’re around the same age and I believe that there’s no doubt in either of our minds that we cannot ignore or forget the Holocaust or the Second World War, nor would we wish to do so. As late as the nineties, by the way, we witnessed wars in Europe, wars which resulted in half a million refugees coming to Germanyin one year. So don’t believe that peace, prosperity and freedom can be taken for granted! Just think about how easy it is for you to come to Mallorca. Our freedom to travel round Europe today and our freedom to study and work everywhere are the result of step-by-step strenuous effort. I hope that one day we’ll have a real European constitution on which we can hold a referendum.

JAN HÖHN: What would be the point at which you would say: the euro isn’t worth it anymore?

How can the Spanish Government impose cuts if we make it easier to run up debts? The euro and Europe are not only at risk from too little solidarity but also from too much solidarity. We would be jeopardizing the euro if we were to accept joint and several liability.

HÖHN: Does that also apply to the purchase of the bonds of countries with high debts by the European Central Bank?

That’s something completely different. The European Central Bank is independent and makes any decisions on buying government bonds in order to stabilize our currency on its own.

ANDREAS NEUMEIER: Ever larger sums of money are flowing into Greece. Is there a point where we have to say: enough is enough? Can we keep Greecein the eurozone? Do we still want Greecein the eurozone?

Greece’s fate is now in its own hands. We’ve concluded agreements to help the country but, in return, Greecehas to carry out far-reaching reforms. And I would ask the Greek Government to reliably tackle and continue these reforms in earnest and with vigour. We’ve lost a great deal of time in Greecedue to the election campaigns. Resolute and swift action has to be taken now. I believe it’s crucial that our tone remains cordial. However, we also have to make it clear that it wouldn’t be acceptable for Greece to stray too far from the agreements on reform.

NEUMEIER: Bavaria’s Finance Minister Söder has demanded that an example be made of Greeceand that the country be left to sink. Wouldn’t that be a salutary shock for other countries with high debts?

I found the remark that we have to make an example of a country completely out of order. Just imagine how we would feel if that happened to Germany. We would be insulted and offended. Such a choice of words achieves the opposite of what is justifiably being demanded, namely that the reforms in Greecereally have to be implemented. The economic fate of Bavaria, which has a strong export industry, is more closely linked to Europe than that of almost any other federal state in Germany. Carping about Europe is therefore not in Bavaria’s interest either.


NEUMEIER: How long can Spainhold on without aid from the rescue fund?

The Spanish Government under Prime Minister Rajoy has shown great determination in its efforts to implement reforms. I’m therefore optimistic about the situation in Spain.

BILD am SONNTAG: The real question was: do you expect Spain to have to seek assistance from the rescue fund, perhaps before the end of the summer?

I’m not going to speculate. If I were to give the answer which your newspaper is perhaps hoping to hear then you would have a great headline and we would have a big problem. Anyway, I answered your question: I regard Spain as a very strong country with a strong economy.

DICKMANN: In Syria, President Assad is waging a brutal war against his own people. As a humanist and Christian, one is left asking: how long do we want to stand by and watch people dying and what can we do?

A situation such as this makes us feel sad and powerless. For a military intervention would increase rather than diminish the problems, because the crisis could then spread. However, the recent defection of Assad’s Prime Minister shows that the erosion has advanced to the heart of the regime. Russia and China will have to accept responsibility if they don’t finally end their policy of blocking any measures against the Syrian regime being adopted in the Security Council and stop supporting Assad.

DICKMANN: What should happen to Assad once he’s lost power?

The best thing would be if he were to be tried before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. However, if more deaths could be prevented by allowing him to leave the country of his own accord, then I wouldn’t consider a criminal prosecution to be a priority. Although that would go against my sense of justice, the most important thing is to prevent more deaths and to make it possible for Syria to have a peaceful and democratic future.


Reproduced with the kind permission of Bild am Sonntag.

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