Interview of Hon.Edelgard Bulmahn
Question: Please tell me a little bit about yourself, about your political career and your responsibilities in the current government.
Answer: I was always interested in politics because I realized how much politics influence the life of individuals. I therefore became a member of the Social Democratic Party SPD at a very young age. I was convinced that it is very important to improve the social situation of people who are not well off, to stand up for equal rights of men and women and of people of different origin and support the efforts for peace. While I was still at school and later on at university I worked within the SPD at the local level. In 1987 I became a member of the German Bundestag. Here I worked on the Committee for Education, Science and Research for a long time before I became Federal Minister in 1998. Now I am one of the Vice Presidents of the German Bundestag (German Bundestag is the national Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany ) .
Question : The people in the other countries when some one hears the name of Germany, straight away name of Hitler comes in his mind but why not Berlin wall, Goethe, Beethoven, German Automibie or German celebrities, such as Heidi Klum or Michael Schumacher. Don’t you think that there is lack of Publicity and Propaganda about Germany in the world ?.
Answer: My experience is very different. The entire world regards Germany as a wealthy democracy with a strong economy. Moreover, people all over the world enjoy the German classics like Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven or Bach and scientists like Einstein and Paul Ehrlich.
On the other hand the era under the Hitler dictatorship was the Dark Age in Germany which should never be forgotten. We have learned from our history. Germany for example has a special responsibility for the state of Israel. And much more than other countries it has to care about people whose human rights are violated and who are persecuted in their own country. We should always use our political influence to prevent genocide and violations of human rights.
Question: Since the fall of the Berlin wall on 9th November 1989, Berlin has emerged as the uncontested center of the continent in both political and economic terms. Germany today effectively runs the European Union. What is the role of Germany in the integration of European economy among the European community?.
Answer: Germany is not running the European Union and we don’t intend to do so in the future either. The idea of the EU is peaceful cooperation of the Member States and to combine the strengths of all European countries.
Question: On 7th February 1992 in Masstricht , Netherlands, there was a treaty signed by the members of the European Community. The aim was to integrate the Europe. But on the initiation of Germany, in addition to economic and currency Union, “it must also extend to Political Union which was the first binding pillar”. Did European Union succeed to get the Political union or it just remained a vision ?
Answer: We haven’t reached a political union yet but it is already much more than a vision. For instance we have undertaken important steps to achieve a common European science area. European citizins are free to move within the European Union and steps are taken to create a common European security policy. In some countries you will find a European embassy rather than a French, a German or Swedish embassy. Certainly, there are different ideas and visions about the future of the political union between the Member States. Germany’s position is to work for a stronger political union. We are convinced that this is in the interest of all Member States.
Question: It is a subject of debate for several years now that due to its increasing Political and economic power, Germany controls the foreign Policy of Europe union. Do you agree with it ?
Answer: No I do not agree. Germany is the biggest European country, we do influence the politics of Europe, but we do not control it. The idea that one country can run Europe is old-fashioned and simply not true. In our modern world cooperation is the most important political task.
Question: In both of the key crises – Ukraine/Russia and Syria/Iraq – the United States has shown leadership restraint at best. Washington did lead on strikes against the Islamic State but not on the broader strategic challenge. What is the role of Germany in this scenario?
Answer. The German role is to insist that there is no military solution to the conflict in the Ukraine. My government and especially our foreign minister worked hard to come to a peace agreement between Russia and the Ukraine – Minsk II was one result. And he worked also intensively to start negotiations to stop the war in Syria and to reach a peace agreement.
Question: In a way, the entire structure of modern Europe was created to take advantage of Germany’s economic dynamism. But at the same time all of them have the fear of Germany hegemony and domination, and they think the vast surrender of Sovereignty to a German- dominated European bureaucracy., whatever the economic cost will be for them. Does Germany realize it ?
Answer: I don’t agree with you. One of the core ideas of the European Union is solidarity. Solidarity is an important aspect not only for a social democrat but for a democratic Europe. As a politician I should not only look at the advantages of my own country, but should always try to take the perspective of the other countries. Otherwise we will live in a world of wars.
Question: There is an important big troika in European Union , Germany, UK and France .But London’s ambiguous political position within the EU and even is thinking to quit EU and France is not so strong enough economically. But on the other hand ,Germany rose to the top of EU foreign policy both politically and economically. US is standing with Europe but not taking the lead. So there is vacuum of leadership in EU. Don’t you think that history has put the responsibility on the shoulder of Germany to play the leading role in European Union?
Answer: It is not our aim to play the leading role in the European Union. What has been put on our shoulders is a responsibility to do everything to build a democratic, social and strong Europe. Helmut Schmidt, always underlined that German politicians should never forget Germany’s history and that Germany’s future is embedded within the European Union.
Question: On the security front, Berlin depends on its Western allies, especially on the United States. But as the United States is reducing its footprint in Europe, Don’t you think that Germany needs to step up its game on security front?
Answer: Germany is not shying away from taking on responsibility. We strongly support the efforts of the UN to end the war in Syria and we are actively engaged in peace negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine. Only the de-escalation of the Ukraine conflict and the avoidance of fresh antagonism between East and West will help to strengthen the international order.
Question: Germany’s continued diplomatic engagement in the region, as well as its readiness to support Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq with arms, Don’t you think that these activities of Germany became more significant than it would have been under strong US leadership?
Answer: First of all Germany was asked for support by the government in Iraq and the regional Kurdish government. Secondly, our contribution was done in close cooperation with the USA and our NATO allies. Today’s conflicts require us to rethink security. In our modern world security is much more interconnected than it used to be.
We cannot solve conflicts with old strategies. Each conflict needs to be analyzed individually and requires a coherent strategy. You cannot solve problems with arms.
We therefore repeatedly urged for the start of peace negotiations and peace talks. And of course we did that in close cooperation with our allies.
Question: In case of Refugees there are some problems, the Germany is facing? But Germany needs them more than any country else due to the declination of German Population. In spite of opposition from some European countries, what are the current and future plans of Germany about the refugees ? .
Answer: In the last year about one million refugees came to Germany, mainly from Syria. Of course this is a great challenge. For refugees it is not easy to live in emergency accommodations for a longer period of time. On the other hand it is not easy for the government to provide sufficient housing, to find enough teachers for language courses and integrate the refugees in the labor market. Many people in my country support refugees. And most of refugees do their best to integrate here. There are sometimes problems with some refugees, of course that’s true. I am not naïve, but we also have problems with some Germans who violate German laws. Refugees who are coming to Germany must learn the German language, get to know and learn to respect our culture and of course our laws – as everybody has to.
Question: USA and its allies invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, because Osama bin laden was there, harbored by the Taliban government. Osama Bin Laden’s training camps were there and Alqaeda had organized the 9/11 tragedy from there. That’s why Afghanistan was invaded. But when Afghanistan was invaded, the Taliban and al qaeda fled from Afghanistan and went to Pakistan. All Taliban and alqaeda leaders including Bin laden, were in Pakistan. Pakistan provided them sanctuaries, training camps , weapons and finance them to send them back to attack afghan army , NATO and US forces. Then why Pakistan was not invaded by USA and NATO forces? Is it not a double standard or the blood of Afghans is very cheap?
Answer: First of all nobody`s blood is cheap – whether it is Afghan, German, American or Russian blood. The US and its allies fought the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9/11 because Afghanistan in those days offered a safe harbor to terrorists and there had been many training camps for terrorists in those days. But Germany did not only send soldiers, we undertook huge efforts to help the Afghan people by building up schools, health care and universities. And we still try to help the Afghan people to get back to normal life. We are willing to continue this support even after the troops will be withdrawn. And we continue to train Afghan troops and the Afghan police as a part of the European mission.
Question: In the current situation,the European Union is under tremendous pressure, and national interests are now dominating European interests. In Europe there can be three alliance, Franco-German alliance, Franco-Russia alliance or three ways alliance Franco-German-Russia alliance which is the ideal situation for Germany but it will make Germany very strong and neither Russia, France nor other Europe countries will want it. But at this situation, France can use another card, which is Mediterranean Union. In the Mediterranean region, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy , Greece Croatia etc are also located. As a whole there are about 23 countries in the Mediterranean region. It means that Mediterranean will completely weaken the European Union. In such a situation what will be the next political and economic strategy of Germany and who can be the natural partner of Germany in Europe not in European Europe only. And why?
Answer: I don’t agree. The alliances you have mentioned don’t exist in the way you think they do. Therefore, there is no reason for a new special political and economic strategy of Germany in Europe.Crises are normal in the history of European integration and have been a productive catalyst for the economic and political integration in the past. I am therefore hopeful that we will overcome the challenges ahead. We need to have the courage to commit to more Europe, and to more solidarity within Europe.
Interviewed by :
Mashal Khan Takkar
Editor in Chief
THE VOICE TIMES