During his visit to Peru, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke to the newspaper El Comercio. Published on 14 February 2015.
What’s your assessment of the outcome of the negotiations in Minsk?
It has been a very long night in Minsk; the negotiations were extremely difficult. Everyone knew what was at stake.
I am pleased that it was possible to agree on a joint declaration. I say that without any excitement and certainly without euphoria, for it did not come easily.
The most important thing is that Moscow and Kyiv have agreed on a ceasefire. We reaffirmed the September Minsk agreements. For the first time, we have set out a clear timetable for the implementation of provisions of the Minsk agreements – on elections, border control and prisoner exchanges.
To some that will not be enough. We had also hoped for more. But that is what the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia were able to agree on.
Today’s agreement is not a comprehensive settlement and certainly no breakthrough. However, after weeks of violence, it could mark a step away from this spiral of military escalation and could lead to political impetus.
Are Germany and the EU concerned by Alexis Tsipras’s election victory?
As democrats, we naturally respect the new majority in the Greek parliament. If our Greek partners make a suggestion that respects the existing obligations and at the same time shows ways of undertaking the necessary reforms in a more social‑minded way, then we will examine this suggestion seriously. Our aim is and will remain to strengthen the eurozone and to keep all its members on board. Contrary to what is sometimes suggested, in order to achieve this we support not only sustainable budgets, but also investment and innovative strength. Lasting and robust growth in Europe ultimately benefits other world regions, too, such as Latin America for example.
Young Germans are amongst those who have travelled to the Middle East in order to join the jihadists. What measures is Germany using to monitor and control this?
Unfortunately, ISIS has repeatedly managed to evoke a pernicious fascination from some young people through a cynical combination of brutality reminiscent of the Middle Ages and the very latest means of social media communication. Of course, in order to ensure our citizens’ safety we need effective security services which cooperate on an international level. We are currently toughening up our criminal law in line with United Nations provisions in order to counter the phenomenon of foreign fighters. At the same time our response within society must be that our communities, schools and associations fight for people vulnerable to the influence of the extremists. Such integration work is arduous, but there are no easy answers here.
How much has the Pegida movement damaged Germany?
The majority of the population in Germany regards the protests against Islam and refugees with grave concern. We will not let ourselves be divided, by neither Islamophobes nor terrorists. I am pleased that in nearly every place where Pegida demonstrators appear, they are far outnumbered by people attending counter‑demonstrations making it clear that Germany is and remains a country which is tolerant and open to the world.
What importance does Latin America have for Germany’s foreign policy in light of the multitude of international trouble spots?
Latin America is an important partner region for Germany with great potential. That is why I have come here, despite all the crisis diplomacy which demands a great deal of my time and effort in Europe. This partnership is based on shared values and cultural ties. We should build on this and strive to help shape the process of globalisation together. Otherwise that vacuum may be filled by others with whom we have less in common. Latin America can look back on commendable economic and social development, which I am also very impressed by. German business has a great deal to offer to help continue writing this success story.
To what extent have German‑Peruvian relations been neglected and which areas need to be developed?
I’m visiting your country now and President Humala came to Germany only last July. We have great respect and recognition for Peru’s development in recent years. Our raw materials partnership has just come into force. Its membership of the Pacific Alliance makes Peru an even more interesting location for business and investment. With its expertise and innovative technology, German business could contribute a great deal to Peru’s development. It could in particular help to reconcile growth with environmental and social responsibility. Peru is also an important partner to us when it comes to formulating ambitious climate protection goals. Although our countries are far apart in geographical terms, we want to work towards facilitating more direct contact between our societies, above all between young people.
Interview conducted by Francisco Sanz Gutiérrez.