Interview With Former Foreign Minister: Merkel 'Botched' Her Duties in Euro Crisis, Says Joschka Fischer

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has voiced fierce criticism of the way Chancellor Angela Merkel has handled the euro crisis so far. In an interview with SPIEGEL, the former Green party leader says Merkel has 'botched' her duties and embarrassed her country.

Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel. Zoom
dpa

Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Fischer, is (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel a great European?

Joschka Fischer: Angela Merkel has had her rendezvous with history in recent weeks. But unlike (former Chancellor) Helmut Kohl after Nov. 9, 1989 and (former Chancellor) Gerhard Schröder after Sept. 11, 2001, she pretty much botched it.

SPIEGEL: She helped put together the most ambitious rescue package in European history.

Fischer: Yes, the rescue package for the euro is the right thing to do, but it should have come in February. At that point, it was already clear that Greece is merely a trigger for speculators to launch an all-out attack against the euro. Europe would have been able to act much earlier if it hadn't been for the chancellor. And now most of the action was taken by (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy and (Italian Prime Minister Silvio) Berlusconi, not by our government. The chancellor's role in this was simply to agree to the plan.

SPIEGEL: But does it matter? The main thing is that the rescue package is in place.

Fischer: It certainly does matter. Germany is more isolated in the EU than ever before but we Germans are still bearing the brunt of the financial burden while the French president is being celebrated for it. That's really first-class statesmanship! I can't remember anything as embarrassing as this happening since 1949.

SPIEGEL: You're really on a roll. Aren't you exaggerating a little?

Fischer: Not a bit. According to the media, the chancellor didn't know what she was about to face when she traveled to Brussels to attend the summit meeting with the other leaders of the euro group. This is unbelievable, if it's true.

SPIEGEL: How should Merkel have reacted?

Fischer: The chancellor should have put forward her own proposal to rescue the euro, in coordination with France. We have a responsibility as Europe's strongest economic power. The EU cannot solve its problems in the long run if Germany hides itself. We are paying a high price for our resistance. We are viewed with suspicion in the entire Mediterranean region, and are seen as villains in Greece. This is extremely deplorable given what our country has done for Europe so far.

SPIEGEL: Has Merkel failed as a European politician?

Fischer: The chancellor still has a second chance. During her speech at the awarding of the Charlemagne Prize she said that if the euro fails, the entire European project will fail. That's true. Now she has to act accordingly. Rhetoric alone isn't enough anymore.

SPIEGEL: The EU already existed before the euro did. Why should it be finished if the common currency doesn't survive?

Fischer: It isn't just about a currency, but about the European project per se. It's about the issue of whether Europe is strong enough and has the common desire to defend this project against external attacks, in this case, by speculators. Unity and decisiveness are key here. Unfortunately, our country has reacted in a complete different way since the crisis over Greece began.

SPIEGEL: How is it possible for a small country like Greece to plunge the EU into an existential crisis?

Fischer: From the very beginning, it wasn't just about Greece. The markets brutally confronted Europe with reality. All our beautiful illusions -- including my own, -- and all our self-delusion were swept away. The choice today is between true integration and dissolution.

SPIEGEL: What illusions do you mean?

Fischer: It was always said that we couldn't talk about a United States of Europe anymore. It was said that the euro could function solely on the basis of the Maastricht criteria, without further political integration. The markets merely made it clear to us that it doesn't work that way. This is why we must now take a courageous step forward.

SPIEGEL: And where would this step go?

Fischer: Now that we have the €750 billion guarantee, the monetary union has transformed itself into a community of solidarity. That's what has to be implemented now, which means substantially more and not less integration.

SPIEGEL: A community of solidarity means that Germany must pay for the failures of others.

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