From 19 to 20 July on the Spanish island of Mallorca, European Foreign Ministers will take part in a round table discussion on the future of Europe. Foreign Minister Westerwelle, who is currently vacationing on the Balearic Island, speaks about this in an interview with “Mallorca Magazin” (18 July 2013).
On Friday and Saturday, Europe will be discussed again in Palma. Last year the Future of Europe group met here. This time it is a round table discussion on the future of Europe. What is it about?
Last year we worked on concrete proposals about European development in the group of eleven Foreign Ministers, the Future of Europe group, as it is called. Now we want to join together to create pro-European momentum in a larger framework with numerous Foreign Ministers as well as representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission. We want to set the stage for further cooperation on Europe with positive purposefulness.
We want Europe to move forward. Can you be more specific? Or is the purpose of the meeting to deal with the topics on a more abstract level?
After the Future of Europe group made very many concrete proposals on how to improve Europe’s institutions, we need to think about how we can motivate people from all over Europe. How can we work against wide spread scepticism towards Europe with a positive attitude? How can we develop Europe further beyond the economic and financial crisis? The European Union is at its core a community of shared values. It is therefore a question of safeguarding and reinforcing the rule of law and democracy.
The “round table discussion” that was mentioned is taking place in Palma, in Spain. But as German Foreign Minister you are hosting it with your Spanish counterpart. How do you define your role in the meeting?
The Spanish Foreign Minister and I are co hosting, but I am very thankful for the hospitality of the Spanish government. This cooperation demonstrates that the division between northern and southern Europe seen by some does not exist in that form. With good intentions, we are able to cooperate very well in Europe. This second joint invitation is an expression of the strength of relations between Germany and Spain.
A year ago you praised Spain’s efforts with respect to reform policies in a Mallorca Magazin interview. What is your analysis for the country over the last twelve months?
I think that – inspite of all the difficulties – people all over Europe need to be receptive to good news again. Of course unemployment in Spain is still much too high and here in Europe we are not nearly out of the woods yet. But the Spanish Government has made many correct decisions and energetically started reforms, some of them difficult and painful. We are seeing the first signs that this is beginning to pay off. And we can also see positive developments elsewhere, in Portugal and Greece, for example, including the news that Athens was awarded the big TAP pipeline project for gas from the Caspian Sea. That is literally a billion dollar investment. Good news like this should not be underestimated.
What else can Europe do to solve the existing problems? A factor like youth unemployment surely determines whether people can be motivated as you just put it.
Good policies are not only directed at the coming months, but take coming generations into account. In the spring of next year at the latest, when the elections for the European Parliament are held, public debate will center on the question “quo vadis – where are you going, Europe?” I want to see those forces succeed for whom the European project is more than just a response to centuries of wars. For me Europe is a community with a shared culture, bound together by a common destiny, without which we will have a hard time keeping up with the dynamic development of the world’s new centres of power. Germany will only remain healthy in the long term if Europe does not fall ill. We Europeans can only compete with China and other emerging powers if we work together.
Let us leave the topic of Europe for a moment. One of the dominant topics of the past weeks has been the spying activities of the United States and Britain, which are obviously getting out of hand.
That is not at all off the topic of Europe, as you put it. It is a question of the foundation of our European values, of the right balance between security and the protection of the private sphere. Protecting people’s privacy is a basic European value. We will be talking about this in the coming days with our European partners. At the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, we will discuss how we Europeans can guarantee the protection of our values. The United States is our most important and closest partner outside of Europe; especially among friends, spying is not acceptable.
And on top of that, Britain is a member of the European Union...
A journalist is allowed to make such a generalization; it is maybe even necessary for journalists. I see a lively debate also in Britain on the right balance between security measures and the protection of privacy.
You have been Foreign Minister for four years now. How has this time in office changed Guido Westerwelle as a person?
[…] Of course working as Foreign Minister for four years changes your perspective. In terms of foreign policy, we are probably currently going through the most turbulent period since German reunification. Some people think that is all far away. But of course we are in many respects immediately affected by what happens in Europe’s neighbourhood, in the Middle East, for example. When as Foreign Minister you constantly deal with the situation in Egypt, in Syria, and with Iran’s nuclear programme, that also expands your horizons. But it also increases your worries.
The occasion for our talk is the round table discussion. We have already mentioned that you are co hosting the event. But why is Palma again the location for such a meeting? Does that have to do with your passion for Mallorca?
I really like being on Mallorca. Palma is a very beautiful city. It is a personal passion, but there are also political considerations. The Spanish Government has an interest in Mallorca becoming more important as an international conference and meeting centre. I talked about that last weekend with the President of the Balearic Islands.
The interview with Guido Westerwelle was conducted by Mallorca Magazin editors Bernd Jogalla and Nils Müller.