May 24, 2013
‘We've intensified relations with LatAm,’ German Ambassador
Ambassador, in your first month on the job, how do you see bilateral relations between Germany and Argentina and in what areas do you expect the main progress for your mission here?
Before I came here on September 1, I have had previous experience in relations between Argentina and Germany through my work as Director-General for Latin America in the German Foreign Ministry. But in spite of what I had experienced and participated in before with visits, consultations, joint projects, etc. it makes a clear difference to be here in Buenos Aires and to have a first-hand impression of the close ties which our two countries have in many fields.
Close cultural links, a history of important productive investments and unique tools for co-operation between researchers and universities are some examples. The new Max Planck research institute in Buenos Aires, for instance, is one of only three institutes of that kind outside Germany. We are currently in the process of founding the German-Argentine University Centre, a network of universities which is unique outside Europe.
On today’s 22nd anniversary of German reunification, how do you see Germany in Europe?
Twenty-two years ago, our neighbours not only respected the right of Germans to self-determination, they also trusted us, expecting that a united Germany would play a positive role for stability in Europe. We are happy that over the decades this trust has been strengthened.
Germany’s foreign policy is anchored in Europe, and today Germany is an anchor for stability in Europe and an engine for economic growth.
But does that still stand in the ongoing eurozone crisis? It seems to me that reactions to Germany in Europe fall into two extremes — either for not doing enough for its European partners with debt problems or for doing far too much in general, causing some people to mutter: “The Germans are at it again.”
There is very close co-ordination in Europe, in particular in the eurozone, and governments are constantly exchanging experiences. In the 2008 banking crisis Germany followed three guidelines:
— solid financial planning to generate trust
— solidarity with those who need it
— competitiveness through innovation and reforms.
We think these guidelines have been successful: the salary cuts were painful and the strict budgetary discipline is still not easy but in the end Germany came out stronger from the 2008 banking crisis than it was before.
Today, in 2012, we have a debt crisis and a lack of investor confidence in parts of the eurozone. The way out of this will be difficult. It will require spending discipline, solidarity and growth — growth not necessarily from borrowed money, because you cannot solve a debt crisis by facilitating debts, but growth through healthier structures. But Europe is on track.
What makes you say that when people are protesting?
It is very hard, and yes, it hurts, but Europe has succeeded in making important steps in the right direction. The fiscal pact, together with bold but often painful budgetary reforms in member states, is a strong signal to investors that member states are committed to financial solidity. On the European level, we now have the European Stability Mechanism ESM, a powerful tool for solidarity with those countries who need it. And in some eurozone countries you see the first fruits of reform: competitiveness is improving and a trade surplus is coming or on the way. My government is confident: Europe can emerge from this crisis stronger than it was before. But, as I said, we are not there yet, and it will be hard.
Might there not be a back-handed argument for saying that Germany should also be grateful to Greece since eurozone weaknesses have made the euro more competitive than a Deutsche Mark ever could be or was?
The history of the Deutsche Mark has taught us to seek competitiveness not through devaluation but the hard way.
But anyway, at an exchange rate of US$1.29 US dollars, the euro is not weak at all. And in Argentine pesos or Brazilian reais, it is stronger than it was a year or two years ago. This is sometimes overlooked.
Is Germany so busy with European affairs today that it ignores other parts of the world?
Europe is very, very important for us — as are relations with our allies. The German government is very well aware: states that were long thought of as developing or newly industrialized countries are now an influential force in shaping international policy.
Together with our European and Transatlantic partners, we want to confront the global challenges in partnership with these new players. In that context, Latin America has a specific role. Our shared values and similar interests, as well as our close cultural ties, form a unique basis for shaping co-operation for mutual benefit at the bilateral level and in shared responsibility at the multilateral level. That is why in the past three years Germany has intensified its relations with Latin America.
Due to the close ties between Argentina and Germany, Argentina can play a very important role in this.
So I am very much looking forward to strengthening and expanding these ties: in politics and in commerce, in culture and in science and technology, and in many other fields.