What we’re continuing to build on: Europe and the next US President

03.11.2012 - Interview

Foreign Minister Westerwelle on the tasks Europe should tackle in cooperation with the US after the presidential elections.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the forthcoming US elections. Published inthe Frankfurter Rundschau on 3 November 2012


This coming Tuesday, the American people will elect a new President. Many people in Germany, Europe and around the world are following these elections with great excitement. I’m no different.

The American electorate’s decision will have repercussions for all of us. It will determine how we can manage the shift to a multipolar world in a peaceful and productive way. It will determine how we deal with the rise of new powers and with our growing mutual dependence. However, in both Europe and the US, our priority should be to shore up the foundation of our capacity to act on the world stage. Budget consolidation, the move to sustainable fiscal and economic policy, greater social cohesion – these are all right at the top of our agenda in Europe, and they will be at the top of the next US President’s agenda, too.

Over the past few years I have greatly valued our cooperation and partnership with the US and in particular with Hillary Clinton. Together we developed NATO’s new Strategic Concept, with which the Alliance faces up to a changed security situation. We opened our Alliance up to disarmament issues again and integrated elements of cooperative security into Alliance strategy. We are agreed on the long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. NATO remains our “life assurance policy” across the Atlantic.

Europe is no longer a problem for the US; it is part of the solution. We work closely with the US in a spirit of trust – on stabilizing Afghanistan post-2014, on the search for a political solution to the problem of Iran’s nuclear programme, and on efforts to bring the dreadful bloodshed in Syria to an end as quickly as possible.

In Asia our companies often find themselves in competition. However, we share an overriding interest in building up a peaceful, cooperative order, in the rule of law, stability, prosperity and respect for human rights in Asia too.

Beyond this, there are four tasks which I believe we should tackle in cooperation with the US:

Firstly, we should give resolute, long-term support to the democratic movements in North Africa and the Middle East, despite the setbacks and twists and turns. A new attempt at finding a lasting solution to the Middle East conflict on the basis of the two-state solution is also a matter of urgency. We will only make real progress on this if the US is resolutely committed.

Secondly, I am keen to continue with our ambitious joint agenda on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Progress requires above all a constructive balance of interests with Russia, not an easy partner, including on the question of missile defence.

Thirdly, we need to resuscitate the US commitment to a globally binding climate change convention.

Fourthly, I think it is very important that we strengthen and extend our shared fundamental interests. To this end, we should give our dense network of economic relations a fresh boost. If we still don’t see any progress in the Doha Round, then America and Europe should agree soon to enter into concrete negotiations on a transatlantic free trade zone. Europe and the US both need to assert themselves in the tougher global competition. A free trade zone between the world’s two biggest economic areas will stimulate growth, create jobs and strengthen the dense network of daily contacts across the Atlantic. We should use the new President’s first visit to Europe after his election to get the idea of a transatlantic free trade zone on track.

Of course the US in turn has expectations of Europe and of Germany. It expects a sustainable solution to the debt crisis as a contribution to growth and economic stability worldwide. Given the density of our economic links, this is all too understandable. Our strategy of solidity, solidarity and growth is taking us in the right direction.

Further, we should not be surprised that the US, given its own shortage of resources, expects Europe to shoulder more responsibility in our southern and eastern neighbourhood. Strengthening the common foreign, security and defence policy as a complement to NATO will be a major task for Europe in the next few years.

In a world of ever closer ties, the closest and densest are those that stretch across the Atlantic. And so it should remain. A prosperous future for our peoples remains dependent on the firm resolve of both sides to work together for indivisible security, for a liberal world economic order, for the rule of law and human rights, for the dignity of the individual as the yardstick for all state policymaking. That’s the foundation of our alliance, and that’s what we want to continue to build on.

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