On 6 May 2013, Foreign Minister Westerwelle will be taking part in the plenary assembly of the World Jewish Congress, which is being held in Budapest for the first time.Before setting off for Hungary, he spoke to BILD.de about Germany’s work to combat anti Semitism and intolerance and about German Hungarian relations.
Your speech before the World Jewish Congress is a clear sign of solidarity from yourself and from the German Government.But can diplomacy really have an effect in the fight against anti Semitism, homophobia and extremes of antisocial behaviour in Hungary?
We must never let anti Semitism and intolerance stand – not anywhere on the planet, and especially not in Europe. It is very important to me that Jewish life be able to flourish unhindered in Europe. Germany is aware of its responsibility for the darkest chapter in its own and in European history. That is part of the reason why we speak out strongly against any form of anti Semitism. It is wise to be tolerant, but to tolerate intolerance would be foolish.
Your visit to Budapest is to include talks with Prime Minister Orbán.How much straight talking can there be, and how much is needed?
The friendship between Germany and Hungary stands on firm foundations.We have not forgotten Hungary’s contribution to bringing down the Berlin Wall.Among friends, honesty is not only possible but normal.
Isn’t there a risk that the Hungarian Government might see your speech as intervention in its domestic affairs?
Europe is much more than just the euro and the single market.Europe is a community of shared culture and values, rooted in democracy, the separation of powers, the rule of law, and tolerance. That means we are pretty much obliged to keep checking whether we in the European Union are actually acting according to those values.
Do you consider the situation in Hungary a threat to democracy in Europe?
The European Commission and the Council of Europe have not been shy of criticizing the Hungarian Government. We now need to talk about that honestly and openly.And I would point out that the Hungarian Government has expressly welcomed our Rule of Law Initiative for Europe.
To what extent has the Orbán Government already distanced itself from the shared European way of thinking?
If we want to act fairly, we must not be too quick to judge.My visit is intended partly as an opportunity to discuss things with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whom I have known for almost 20 years.But we do have questions, and we have a number of doubts. I am confident that my talks can also contribute to the search for a sensible way to proceed.
What expectations are you taking with you on your visit?
This year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Germans and Hungarians reestablishing diplomatic relations. We Germans look back with gratitude on the major contribution Hungary made to Germany’s reunification. That is a close bond which fosters understanding even when times are not particularly easy.
This interview was conducted by Daniel Killy and published on BILD.de on 6 May 2013.It is reproduced here by kind permission of the Axel Springer Verlag.