GLOBAL ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT
US MUST ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR GLOBAL CLIMATE
Gerhard Schroeder is the chancellor of Germany. He spoke last week with LA Times Berlin correspondent Carol Williams for European Viewpoint.
EUROPEAN VIEWPOINT: How do you assess the current state of the transatlantic alliance? Does the absence of a unifying threat from a Communist, nuclear-armed superpower substantially change the relationship?
GERHARD SCHROEDER: No. If the relationship between the U.S. and Germany, or between the U.S. and Europe, was only about resisting a common threat, that would be making too little of it. I have always seen the basis of our relationship as common values, like the will to find peaceful solutions to conflicts and the absolute will to defend democracy as the most rational, actually the only possible form of government among civilized people. These values also have to do with a common interest in free world trade for the welfare of all people.
EV: What is your view of the proposed U.S. national missile shield?
SCHROEDER: I don't want to see those of us in Europe having a closed discussion about this, one that would, right at the beginning, say, ``No, never, under no circumstances.'' I believe the U.S. is entitled to fair consideration of its reaction to a changed security situation and should not be shut down right at the start. That would be wrong.
EV: On the European Security and Defense Identity, why do you think U.S. military and security officials have such strong reservations about a European military force? Will it divert resources from NATO?
SCHROEDER: I really don't understand these reservations, because it has been a long-standing U.S. demand that the Europeans be in the position to react to regional conflicts in Europe -- of course, strictly within the framework of NATO and in no way against it. This is a policy that should strengthen NATO, not weaken it.
EV: Does Germany spend too little on defense?
SCHROEDER: Security should not be considered so narrowly. Security is more than military security or the security provided by defense forces and defense appropriations. If one looks fairly at the role Germany has played in the past 10 years, it must be said that we are the ones who carried the brunt of the weight in supporting the rebuilding of democratic structures in Russia. This is an enormous security boost. The dismantling of the friend-foe relationship in Europe between the West and Russia is a security improvement, and if you look at who is to be credited for this, you should find that it is Germany.
EV: How will the availability of a rapid-reaction force affect Europe's ability to respond to crises on the continent like the current unrest in Macedonia?
SCHROEDER: This has already been demonstrated in Kosovo. We Europeans have the majority of the troops stationed there now, which means we carry the main burdens and costs. But one thing must be clear: For the time being, it is a fact that NATO cannot function without the American structures.
We understand that there might be a troop reduction if the crisis is under control, but I am sure that we need the American presence for the foreseeable future.
EV: If such a European military force were already in existence, what would you, as leader of the biggest member state in the European Union, advise as a course of action in response to developments in Tetovo, where Macedonian authorities beat back Albanian guerrillas?
SCHROEDER: I hope that this conflict does not escalate, that there will be a peaceful resolution. For this, we need more from the KFOR troops based there, and more is being done. A de-escalation policy is needed by the Macedonian government, whose territorial integrity we support. But I think improvement in the approach of the Macedonian government to the expectations of the Albanian minority is also needed .... But we do not believe that an intervention by NATO soldiers is necessary.
EV: Germany's relations with Russia have been on a course of steady improvement since unification, while Washington and Moscow lately have endured strains reminiscent of the Cold War era. How might the Bush administration's policies and priorities affect Russia's relations with Germany and other European states?
SCHROEDER: I don't see any direct connection. The American government does not need any European mediation to do what isbest for American-Russian relations. The latest developments and how they were handled -- the expulsion of the diplomats on both sides -- shows that there is understanding of the times. George Bush had declared the problem solved. There were similar expressions from the Russian side, and I hope very much that the American administration and the Russian government both will get back into close discussions on issues like missile defense.
EV: How do you assess the new U.S. administration's environmental policies and its readiness to abide by international accords?
SCHROEDER: We are hoping for ratification and realization of the Kyoto protocol. There are still questions that can be discussed in the conference about how this can be achieved, whether this must be done by individual countries or whether exchanges can be made with the Third World countries. What is important is that the U.S. accept its responsibility for the world climate. They are the biggest economy in the world and the heaviest energy consumers. It must be made clear that shirking this responsibility is unfair to future generations. The question of fairness has always played a major role in American policy, especially in domestic affairs. Therefore, I am not so pessimistic regarding this question.
EV: German politicians from across the political spectrum often contend that Germany is not a land of immigration. But with a 30-year practice of accepting guest workers and millions of ethnic Germans and Jews allowed in from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, is it time for Germany to see itself as multicultural, and to see that as an advantage, not something to be resisted?
SCHROEDER: That is our policy. We have reached an interesting point in our discussions of this due to the ``green card'' program that I kicked off myself. We now have an atmosphere that allows a more relaxed discussion of immigration issues than in the past. People have recognized that a country like Germany cannot fence itself off in a globalized economy, and that we need more internationalism, not less.
EV: You have said that you consider U.S.-Euroepan trade issues more contentious than a national missile defense. What specifically is problematic?
SCHROEDER: Every once in a while there are conflicts coming up within (the World Trade Organization). I want to give you an example. At the moment, we have here not only in Germany, but all over Europe, a discussion about healthy food. And here I think those who say we have to allow in hormone-treated meat need to comprehend that we have a very delicate consumer mentality due to the recent events here in Europe -- BSE and foot-and-mouth disease. One has to understand that at such times a government has to insist on proper documentation and on the fact that food products that have been treated in a certain way have to be labeled. This is the only way to empower the consumer.
EV: What do you think of the debate raging in Germany about whether Germans should feel pride and self-confidence? Is this such a big controversy because Germany has arrived at some threshold in a new post-post-war era? Or do the recent outbreaks of rightist violence suggest there remain too many traces of racism and intolerance from the Nazi era for Germans to speak of national pride?
SCHROEDER: Right-wing radicalism in Germany has to be decisively combated. This must be done by any civilized country. In Germany we have a special responsibility. I think the questions of pride or non-pride are an abstract discussion. This is my country. I believe that Germans have built a democratic community in a remarkable way during the past 50 years, and they do not have to hide.
(c) 2001, European Viewpoint/Los Angeles Times/El Pais. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 4/9/01)