You once described the Ukraine crisis as “the worst in Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall.” There are comments that the Ukraine issue demonstrated the EU’s declining strength – the EU wasn’t able to prevent Russia’s actions in Crimea, and there are internal controversies within EU member states that the sanctions against the Kremlin might turn out to also harm the EU itself. What’s your view about the so-called “EU decline demonstrated in the Ukraine crisis”?
It’s important not to mistake prudence and common sense for weakness. I see much resolve and unity in Europe’s reaction. We categorically condemned Russia’s actions in Crimea, which violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international law. In our view, we are in agreement with a large majority of states which, just like us, voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution. And what’s equally important is that we don’t want any further escalation in the situation and are keeping the door open for talks. We have to do everything in our power to get Russia and Ukraine to sit down at the table and enter into a dialogue accompanied by international partners. We’re pleased that Germany and China are working closely together on this difficult issue and that their assessment of the situation is very similar.
Russia has been isolated by the G7 despite German opposition. Some believe freezing out Russia will prove pointless because it is already the era of the G20 and G8 issues are already dealt with in the format of the G20. Do you agree? Is the G7 still the centre of global power?
We believe that both formats have an important function. The G20 devised key solutions for the global financial crisis after 2008. Industrialised countries and key emerging economies come together to discuss the global challenges of the 21st century in this format. We need that, but the smaller G8 format can also make valuable contributions – also as a forum for dialogue in times of crisis. Unfortunately, Russia’s conduct at present would seem to indicate that such a dialogue in the G8 format would not have much prospect of success.
There have been discussions over rifts between the US and Europe, especially since the scandal about Washington spying on European leaders was exposed last year. How do you see such rifts?
The transatlantic partnership between America and Europe is and will remain a solid and crucial cornerstone of our foreign policy. We’re working very closely together with our American partners on all key questions on the international agenda. That hasn’t been changed by the differences in opinion which have cropped up now and again during the last few decades. At the moment, there is a very lively debate in and among our societies on the relationship between freedom and security in the digital age. Given the rapid technological progress in information and communications technology, there are important questions here about our common future which are globally relevant and go far beyond the transatlantic relationship.
There seems a common stance in terms of diplomatic approach between Germany and China. Germany is seeking to take a more active approach to diplomacy. And the Chinese leadership has stressed that it seeks to pursue a more active approach in diplomacy, especially when dealing with neighbouring countries. How do you see China’s diplomacy in transition?
There was an intensive and very constructive exchange of views on this at the highest level between Germany and China during the visit by President Xi Jinping to Germany a few days ago. We stated our shared commitment to the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes and conflicts on the basis of international law. That is a crucial area of agreement between our two countries. Germany and China are among the winners of globalisation. We have benefited economically from the peaceful coexistence of states and regional cooperation. We Europeans were especially successful: the ever closer cooperation in Europe has brought us an unprecedented period of peace, freedom and prosperity following the horrors of the Second World War. We also want to see flourishing regional cooperation in Asia. Promoting regional cooperation and mechanisms to resolve conflicts and shouldering responsibility for global challenges – these are and will remain core tasks for a more influential foreign policy.
During his recent European trip, Chinese President Xi Jinping described China as a “peaceful, amicable and civilised” lion that has woken up. China has indeed shown a different side of itself compared to past centuries. But the world’s view of China is still very complex, both negative and positive in political, economic and social spheres. Generally, how do you see the world’s various judgements and expectations of China?
We welcome China’s peaceful rise to prominence. It brings with it greater responsibility – nationally, regionally and globally. Germany has been closely following China’s changed role and its engagement in many fields of international politics. The rise above poverty and hardship of hundreds of millions of people, especially in China, has made the question of sustainable development the focus of the global agenda. We’re therefore very keen to enter into an intensive exchange of views on solutions and technologies, for instance in the sphere of sustainable urbanisation, innovation or climate and environmental protection.
Erschienen am 14.04.2014.