Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle talks about the violent protests which have arisen in response to an anti-Muslim hate video, the Iranian nuclear programme and the euro rescue package. This interview was published in the Thüringer Allgemeine newspaper on 15 September 2012.
What is your response to the storming of the German embassy in Sudan?
I condemn the attacks on our embassy in Khartoum in the strongest possible terms. The Sudanese government has an obligation to guarantee the absolute integrity and security of our embassy premises.
There is a danger that this violence could engulf North Africa and the Middle East. You were against the military operation in Libya at the time. Do you feel vindicated?
I have made sufficiently clear what my position is on our decision not to send any troops to Libya. I do understand the indignation with which this anti-Muslim hate film has been received in the Islamic world. I too condemn the despicable video. But that cannot be used to justify the attack on our embassy and other acts of violence. I am glad to be able to say that all the embassy staff are safe.
But wouldn’t you say that Gaddafi, like Assad in Syria now, was the lesser of two evils?
Gaddafi was responsible for countless atrocities. We therefore always supported the Libyan people in their struggle for freedom – just as we are now supporting those standing up for freedom and the rule of law in Syria.
But the opposition forces in Syria are dominated by Islamists. Is there a risk of Syria becoming another Iran?
That’s why it’s so important for the Syrian opposition to agree on a common platform of democracy and ethnic and religious tolerance.
So our basic principle is hope – just like in the negotiations with Iran. Defence Minister de Maizière said this week that an Israeli military strike would be legitimate. Can you back him on that?
The idea of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is unacceptable. However, the German Government is working on a political and diplomatic solution. We are also reserving the option of tightening sanctions yet further.
Turning to another of the week’s top stories, our Constitutional Court has put a number on the ceiling for contributions to the European Stability Mechanism. When will the Bundestag be raising it again?
I can well understand people’s worry. These are difficult times. But for Germany, for our prosperity and our jobs, stabilizing Europe and our common currency is crucial. We are for fiscal discipline, for reforms – but for solidarity as well.
Then I’ll rephrase the question: is this 190 billion euros really the final limit?
When decisions are reached, we put them into practice. But we have our limits. Unlike the opposition, I am against eurobonds, for instance. You can’t solve a debt crisis by making it easier to take on more debt – or by making Germany liable for everything.
But haven’t we already gone beyond the limits specified in the Basic Law?
The Constitutional Court doesn’t think so. The Basic Law has proved how valuable it is, and it must not be compromised. It not only tolerates European integration – it wants European integration.
So Germany doesn’t need a new constitution? The people aren’t going to have a say?
In a world full of new centres of power, Europe will only be able to hold its own if we stand together in our shared destiny. If the integration process moves forward and one day leads to a shared European constitution, then it’ll be time to talk about the individual articles of our Basic Law. But that’s all very far off. For the time being, let’s concentrate on getting over the debt crisis.
This interview was conducted by Martin Debes and is reproduced by kind permission of the Thüringer Allgemeine.