For a European culture of trust

23.08.2012 - Interview

Joint article by German Foreign Minister Westerwelle and the three Baltic Foreign Ministers Audronius Ažubalis (Lithuania), Urmas Paet (Estonia) and Edgars Rinkēvičs (Latvia) on the occasion of their “3+1 Consultations” in Riga. Published on 23 August 2012 in the Frankfurter Rundschau


23 August 1939 was a dark day for Europe. On that day, the Reich Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop and Molotov, the Soviet People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, signed the heinous Hitler-Stalin Pact. The secret additional protocol to the Pact defined Soviet and German spheres of influence in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as in Poland and the region then known as Bessarabia. It paved the way for a policy of injustice and inhumanity which brought disaster on a catastrophic scale on Europe.

Our united Europe has learned from the past and overcome the cynical and pernicious spirit of the Pact. Today, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Germans are part of a European community of shared culture rooted in our belief in peaceful interaction among equals in a Europe of open borders. Its fundamental values are those which drove the European revolution for liberty in 1989: the freedom of the individual, the protection of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and free markets.

The basis of our community is trust among European neighbours and trust in Europe, our joint project. This harks back to the outward-oriented cooperation which linked our ancestors for centuries way back in the heyday of the Hanseatic League. It is firmly based on the strength of shared values, not on the questionable law of the strongest.

That said, this cooperation in Europe is not something we can take for granted, as the debt crisis reminds us. It has become a profound crisis of trust. The imbalances that have come about are not limited to those among the national economies of the eurozone. There is also a growing gap among the national debates on Europe. Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new split threatens to divide our continent, this time between north and south.

We cannot allow that to happen. Our countries cannot enjoy a bright future without a united Europe. We cannot meet the challenges of shaping the era of globalism alone. For European values to be heard, we must become more deeply integrated. What we need now is: more Europe!

We stand united in our determination to overcome the crisis with a European policy of consolidation, growth and solidarity. We know from our own experience during the last few years how difficult the road ahead will be. However, we have also seen that even severe crises can be mastered with resolute reforms.

The successful reforms carried out in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should encourage us in Europe to continue along the path upon which we embarked with the fiscal compact and the ESM rescue fund. They inspire us to continue championing “better spending” in the negotiations on the European Union’s budgeting for the future. We are pursuing the idea of intelligent growth because we see targeted investment in innovation as the best path back to more competitiveness in Europe.

Beyond intelligent crisis management, we also have to conduct a joint European debate on Europe’s future. Not least, it will make it easier for us to overcome the challenges ahead. There are three crucial points:

Firstly, we need to make the monetary union fit for the future by complementing it with closer collaboration on economic and fiscal policy. To this end, all member states have to transfer more sovereign rights to Brussels. This is just as important to Germany and Estonia as members of the eurozone as to Latvia and Lithuania, who will become members in the future.

We want to continue demonstrating our solidarity with those neighbours which have been particularly hard hit by the crisis. Here we will have to uphold the democratic principle that greater responsibility can only be granted to those who are capable of maintaining greater control.

Secondly, we need to ensure that Europe continues to have effective and democratically accountable institutions. Citizens and states will only agree to deeper integration if their interests are represented in this Europe with vigour and there is also full democratic oversight.

Thirdly, we need to make Europe a true global player. To achieve this we need to develop a comprehensive approach to European external policy that is consistent with our internal values – living together in peace, democracy and solidarity.

We are determined to work together to overcome the crisis which the European project is currently experiencing. In doing so, we can build on the trust which links Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Germans in our united Europe. Today especially, history reminds us how precious our European culture of trust is.

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