GLOBAL ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT
KOHL: WHO SUPPORTED UNIFICATION 10 YEARS AGO? GERMANY'S
ROLE IN EUROPE NOW
GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: In your opinion, which Social Democrat could join you in good conscience in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall?
HELMUT KOHL: Many Social Democrats, of course, advocated German unity with me, but not many of the active ministers in the German government today. Willy Brandt, however, was one of those who supported German unity at that time. In the evening following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Brandt assured (then Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev along with me that the people in East Berlin would not proceed against Soviet establishments. He was of great help in that respect.
GV: But now everybody is a champion of unification, aren't they?
KOHL: A lot of the forgetfulness about the position
of people who
At the time, Mr. (Gerhard) Schroeder (currently German
chancellor) was a strong supporter of (former East German leader) Erich
Honecker's demands. He wanted to give up the one single
GV: How do you explain the growing popularity of the PDS (the reformed East German Communist Party) in Germany?
KOHL: It is not an accident that the key Communist
parties in all
GV: How long will it take for mindsets and basic attitudes to adjust?
KOHL: We are showing an approval rate of 80 to 90 percent with respect to German unity in the New and Old Bundeslander. I consider these surveys to be reliable. That's a very good result. As far as the financial reality is concerned, let's wait another five to eight years.
That's only a short amount of time, considering also that 95 percent of the GDR companies were involved in traderelations with the Eastern Bloc. But of course, the billions in aid we have given are already showing an enormous effect.
GV: What is your assessment of the foreign policy of the Schroeder administration?
KOHL: Here is my view, and you can judge from
this how the new
So, Germany must act neither in a conformist nor in
GV: Does this apply to Germany's relations to France as well?
KOHL: Our friendship with France is the most
precious achievement of our post-war foreign policy. France has her own
national identity and has always looked upon herself as the
Foreign policy cannot be measured by the standards of the General Accounting Office. We do not always have to make out a receipt for everything. This strategy has always paid off for us.
An example? Normally we would not have been able to bring the European Central Bank to Frankfurt. In the decisive meeting of the Council of Europe on the issue, Francois Mitterrand gave a fiery speech in favor of Paris as the one and only seat of the ECB. Then John Major came up even better arguments for London. But both said: We are not voting against Germany and not against Helmut Kohl.
Incidentally, it was this decision about where to place the bank that made it obvious that the construction of the "House of Europe'' is of vital significance or, as Francois Mitterrand put it, a matter of war and peace. I was ridiculed for this position by many at that time. Today, however, I hear this sentence from the mouth of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer on every occasion.
GV: Have Schroeder and Fischer caused harm in Germany's relation with France?
KOHL: I'm not saying that we put up with everything,
but there is,
This government, it seems, is constantly tempted to cut the umbilical cord from history. But you can't engage in foreign policy without the historical reference.
GV: In the short run, wouldn't it be simpler
to dispense with these
KOHL: That might be useful for the moment. But
the lesson I learned is: What's right in private life is also right in
politics. And what is wrong in private life is also wrong in politics.
You won't have friends if you always look at friendship as a one-way street.
(c) 1999, European Viewpoint/FOCUS. Distributed by the Los AngelesTimes Syndicate
For immediate release (Distributed 11/3/99)