Germany's stance is 'most European', says Westerwelle

 

GERMAN FOREIGN minister Guido Westerwelle has dismissed criticism of Berlin in the eurozone crisis, saying that Germany has “the most European position possible”.

Mr Westerwelle said that, despite current difficulties, he had “huge respect for the Irish success story”.

“Just because Ireland is in difficulty now doesn’t mean that all decisions in recent years were wrong,” Mr Westerwelle told The Irish Timesyesterday. He added, however, that it was “understandable that Germany and Germans aren’t thrilled having to take up debts of other countries”.

As the eurozone crisis rolls on, Germany’s role in matters has come in for close scrutiny.

After widespread criticism of Chancellor Merkel’s demand for private bondholders to be included in future sovereign debt restructuring, Luxembourg’s prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, joined the chorus of critics.

In Die Zeit weekly, Mr Juncker accused Berlin yesterday of “simplistic thinking” and “an un-European manner” for, as he sees it, rejecting out of hand his proposal for eurozone members to finance themselves through common eurozone bonds.

German officials have dismissed the criticism from Luxembourg as unhelpful and remain opposed to the idea of euro-bonds.

“One cannot project the current unease onto the government that is trying to solve the problems,” said Mr Westerwelle.

“The idea of being liable for all debts in Europe is something we cannot accept. There would be no incentive for countries to discipline themselves on debt if it’s clear that a handful of countries are in the background who will guarantee.”

While Germany’s EU partners wonder if Berlin’s opposition to eurobonds is principled or strategic, Berlin officials say they are stung by claims that Germany is cooling on European solidarity.

They point out that a poorer Berlin republic can no longer afford, financially or politically, to write blank cheques to solve EU problems as in the Bonn era.

To support the euro, though, Berlin is prepared to write cheques if its conditions are met, including creating new EU financial regulation and a tougher stability pact.

With its calls for EU partners to agree welfare cuts and legal limits on budget deficits, Mr Westerwelle said Berlin was demanding nothing from EU partners that it had not done itself. “Germany’s position is the most European that one can have.

“We will do more to protect Europe if we change the rules as a consequence of the crisis,” said Mr Westerwelle.

“We Germans are not just taking into account the interests of German taxpayers: with our appeal for structural reform we are taking into account the interests of all taxpayers in Europe.”