In an interview with the Rheinische Post Online, Foreign Minister Westerwelle gave his views on developments in Egypt and Syria, the situation in Europe and the trial of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.Published on 14 August 2012
The euro crisis is getting ever worse, Syria is in a state of war, and the struggle for power in Egypt could turn nasty any moment.You could have a lot on your plate.Are you feeling refreshed after your break?
I think I am, yes, although of course all these pressing issues also occupied me during my holiday.
Let’s start with Egypt.The new President Mohammed Morsi has dismissed the head of the military.What does that mean?
This is a critical time for Egypt. The country’s future will be determined by the people and the political institutions in the coming weeks. I hope and expect that they will continue along the path towards democracy.
Will Egypt become a state based on the rule of law, in the western mould?
I have met President Morsi twice in the past few months and am inclined to believe him when he says he wants to build the country on democratic foundations and safeguard peace in Egypt at home and abroad. Incidentally, this includes religious plurality and the protection of the Christian minority. That’s what we’ll continue to insist on.
By visiting Tahrir Square, you have adopted the future of Egypt as your own cause.Why?
The German Government wants democracy to succeed in Egypt. Partly because of its past, Germany supports people who rid themselves of dictators and seek to institute democracy and the rule of law. I was the first European Foreign Minister to visit President Morsi immediately after his inauguration. The first freely elected President of Egypt deserves a chance. Our offer of a transformation partnership still stands. Egypt is a key country in the Arab world.
Syria is anything but a democracy.A civil war is now being waged.The rebels want the West to enforce a no-fly zone.Do you also think that is possible?
I can understand the wish of the opposition, which has suffered greatly under the violence meted out by the Syrian regime. But we have to think carefully before we act, for it is obvious that military intervention could enflame the situation across the region. We want the violence to end and we want Syria to have a chance of embracing democracy.
Turning to the euro crisis, the SPD and Greens are campaigning hard for debt mutualisation.Will this become the key issue in the Bundestag elections?
Now that the opposition has come out in favour of shared debt liability in the euro area, the Bundestag elections will pose voters with a stark choice. I am against Germany being held jointly and severally liable for the sovereign debts of countries across Europe. It is not a question of timing. Sharing liability and creating a debt union would be a mistake that would weaken Europe. Germany has been a federal republic for 60 years, without its Länder, its federal states, ever assuming liability for each other’s debts. The crisis in Europe will be resolved by reform and sound budgetary policies, not by creating new debts. The voters will have to decide whether Germany is to steer straight towards a union of shared debts or whether our policies will be guided by reform, budgetary discipline and solidarity. Without the FDP, eurobonds are inevitable.
Is it possible to have “more Europe” with fewer Eurozone countries?
It is our goal to preserve the Eurozone in its current form. We call on the Greek Government to finally get back on course with its reforms and to produce results on consolidating its budget. The agreed programmes cannot be changed in substance.
They can’t be changed in substance, but could more time be allowed for the reforms?
The Greek Government has lost valuable time during the election campaigns this summer. We all have to live with that. But there cannot be any change in substance to the reforms.
Does Germany need a European constitution?
I’m a constitutional patriot. We have the best constitution that Germany has ever had. But we should also start work on a genuine European constitution as soon as possible. This could be prepared by a convention. When a European constitution has been drafted, as I hope it will be on some not too distant day, the German people should get to vote on it.
In Russia members of the punk-rock band Pussy Riot might be imprisoned for years for alleged hooliganism.Is Putin’s Russia democratic?
We want a strategic partnership with Russia, not just on energy and security issues, but also with respect to the rule of law. I am following the band’s trial very closely and welcome the fact that artists worldwide have expressed their support for members of Pussy Riot. Artistic freedom is an inalienable right. A strong country like Russia should be able to cope with it.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Rheinische Post Online. The questions were put by Michael Bröckler.