German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the Bush Climate Dispute 'I'm not Expecting a Solution this Week'

In a SPIEGEL interview conducted in the run-up to the G-8 summit at Heiligendamm, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 52, discusses protest culture, argues that expectations for a climate change deal must be managed and talks about the growing rift between Russians and Americans.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "I prefer to be closer to the people, even those who are protesting."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "I prefer to be closer to the people, even those who are protesting."

SPIEGEL: Ms. Chancellor, at the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm, the powerful will talk behind barbed-wire barriers and a high fence, while 16,000 police officers are deployed outside. Costs have swelled to over €100 million ($134 million). Is there even a reasonable relationship any more between costs and benefits ?

Merkel: I will be the first to admit that there are side effects to this sort of summit meeting that do not please me. On the other hand, these security precautions are unfortunately necessary.

SPIEGEL: People are gathering to protest vocally -- against this summit and against prevailing policies.

Merkel: I take a more differentiated view of this. The fundamental mood of the vast majority of protestors changed long ago. It is not simply negating or rejecting -- it is also constructive. A great deal of public attention is being paid to the process of globalization, both to the opportunities and the associated risks, as well as the summit's Africa and world climate focuses. The political realm cannot just isolate itself at times when society wants to have a say -- and it must also be open to criticism. I perceive this to be a fruitful and necessary discussion. That is why every contribution is welcome.

SPIEGEL: But are these kinds of fortifications really necessary for this discussion? One of your predecessors as chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, has suggested that it might be a better idea to stage this type of global economic summit in a golf hotel or on a remote island, such as Helgoland.

Merkel: That's a legitimate question. Of course we could switch to a more remote venue. We could also decide to meet exclusively at the United Nations headquarters in New York from now on because they are used to these sorts of events there. But I would see that as similarly artificial. I prefer to be closer to the people, even those who are protesting.

SPIEGEL: Will there be any dialogue between the host of the summit and the people on the other side of the fence?

Merkel: I certainly have no plans to go to the protest.

SPIEGEL: But will you open the gate and receive and listen to a delegation of the protestors?

Merkel: In the weeks leading up to Heiligendamm, I conducted many conversations with critics, artists, human rights activists, trade unionists and representatives of non-governmental organizations. Without this summit I would never have met many of these people. Some of these encounters were extremely useful to me.

SPIEGEL: Hundreds of government officials have been preparing for this summit for months. Everything at this point has been said and written. At this juncture, how much political latitude does the German G-8 chair have left?

Merkel: It is true that parts of the conference program have already been exhaustively negotiated for all intents and purposes. Take hedge funds, for example, where I would like to have seen more transparency and willingness for self-regulation in order to limit the risks for the global financial system. The finance ministers have already done as much as they could in this respect. And because one colleague will soon become prime minister, namely Gordon Brown, it is not to be expected that he will change his position in his new office. Still, we will keep this issue on the agenda at the G8 summit and it will remain there throughout the German presidency, which continues through the end of 2007.

SPIEGEL: And how are things looking with the very ambitious climate goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050? Is US President George W. Bush even open for discussion?

Merkel: This issue is being negotiated down to the wire. You can assume that I will not agree to allow any established scientific findings like the United Nations IPCC report to be watered down.

SPIEGEL: The unusual aspect of this disagreement is that your political friend Bush is in fact your adversary in this instance. What do you expect from him?

Merkel: We will conduct highly constructive talks with all of our partners and nobody will be forced into a corner. Incidentally, I see it as progress that the Americans are now acknowledging that climate change is primarily a process caused by human activity. Our opinions have long differed when it comes to how to go about limiting global warming. America wants to increase efforts to use new technologies and new biofuels, and in doing so test the extent to which CO2 emissions can be reduced. We Europeans, on the other hand, are more convinced that the motor for change should be agreeing to international targets and to structure our measures accordingly. I also believe that we can bundle these measures together under the auspices of the United Nations.


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