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Egypt: All groups at one table

20.08.2013 - Interview

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle spoke to the Wiesbadener Tagblatt newspaper aboutthe situation in Egypt, German-American relations and the European debt crisis.

The situation in Egypt is escalating. Is it at all possible to find a solution in a country which is so torn apart?

The international community must push to ensure that there is no further escalation of the violence and to prevent Egypt from sliding into a situation akin to civil war.

How can that be prevented?

The international community is crucial for positive economic and social development in Egypt. The country is dependent on foreign investment and on tourism. That’s why Egypt has a strong interest in returning to stability. The violence was avoidable. When I spoke to the Egyptian Foreign Minister on Saturday I made it clear once again that all groups have to come to one table to negotiate a fresh start. We want Egypt to return to constitutional order and free and fair elections.

Does the European Union speak with one voice?

We are coordinating closely now in Europe. The EU-Ambassadors in Brussels are holding discussions today to that end.

Is there currently any danger for German nationals?

We are advising against travel to Egypt and urging that the Federal Foreign Office Travel and Security Advice be heeded. There are currently around 40,000 German tourists in Egypt’s tourist resorts. Travel operators have announced that there will be no more departures to Egypt just now.

Another of your main concerns at the moment is the NSA affair.Has it damaged German-American relations?

No. And nor can we allow that to happen. Of course we demand that German law is respected in Germany. We urge our allies, including the US, to find the right balance between legitimate security interests and protection of the private sphere. That is an expression of our Western community of values. However, I cannot understand the anti-American tone you hear in this debate sometimes. The US is a parliamentary democracy with an independent judiciary and Germany’s most important ally outside Europe.

Do you share the fear that the Germans are going to have to foot the bill for the euro crisis countries?

We Germans have benefited greatly from our single European currency.

What consequences do eurozone countries that fail to stick to budgetary discipline have to fear?

We only provide assistance if the required reforms are being implemented. There’s been a light at the end of the tunnel for some time, and now the eurozone is posting economic growth again. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we are leaving the worst of it – if we don’t slacken in our efforts towards reform. The crisis in Europe will not be resolved by creating new debts, but only by making real efforts towards reform and improving competitiveness.

In your view, is the exclusion of a country which does not adhere to budgetary discipline the ultima ratio?

No one who regards Europe as a community with a common fate and shared culture has any reason to think along those lines.

Published in the Wiesbadener Tagblatt on 19 August 2013. Interview by Stefan Schröder, Karl Schlieker and Christoph Cuntz.Reproduced by kind permission of Verlagsgruppe Rhein Main GmbH.

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