• Germany's news in English

Kohl slams Germany's 'unreliable' foreign policy

The Local · 24 Aug 2011, 15:40

Published: 24 Aug 2011 15:40 GMT+02:00

In an expansive interview with the foreign policy journal Internationale Politik, Germany’s longest-serving post-war leader slammed his successors Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel for ruining the country’s reputation overseas.

“Germany’s hasn’t been a reliable power for several years – neither domestically nor abroad,” said Kohl. “We have to be careful not to throw everything away. We desperately have to return to our former dependability.”

Kohl said recent events such as Germany’s decision not to support the efforts of its closest allies to oust Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and the lacking German leadership during the eurozone debt crisis had left him dismayed.

“I have to ask myself, where does Germany actually stand today and where does it want to go,” he said. “Our friends and allies abroad are naturally also asking this question.”

The former chancellor, who presided over Germany reunification in 1990, said the foreign policy of Merkel’s centre-right coalition under the direction of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle appeared haphazard and without direction.

“If you don’t have a compass, and don’t know what you stand for or where you’re going, and therefore lack the will to lead, then you’ve abandoned the continuity of German foreign policy quite simply because you don’t understand such things,” Kohl said.

Kohl also pointed to the decision last spring by US President Barack Obama to visit France and Poland yet skip over Germany as a sign just how much the current government had neglected transatlantic relations.

“I never dreamed that I would live to see the time when a sitting American president comes to Europe only to fly over the Federal Republic – I could say went around it,” he said.

The 81-year-old also warned about the dangers posed by the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis. Bailing out heavily indebted euro members such as Greece was crucial to future of the European Union, he said.

“We have no choice if we don’t want Europe to break apart,” Kohl said, adding he never would have allowed Greece to join the single currency had he still been chancellor at the time.

Story continues below…

He said Europe needed “robust action and a package of farsighted, cleverly balanced and non-ideological measures” to ensure the euro’s stability.

Kohl served as the chancellor of West Germany from 1982 to 1990 and then led the reunified country until 1998.

The Local/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

16:21 August 24, 2011 by storymann
Thank you Helmut Kohl.
16:42 August 24, 2011 by freechoice
And Thank You Joschka Fischer too!
17:16 August 24, 2011 by Wise Up!
And you missed out on Iraq too! Nevermind the Obama snub, he'll be out by next year.
17:49 August 24, 2011 by marimay
Only if hes up against Ron Paul, wise up.

Merkie's jowels remind me of a face transplant patient.
18:03 August 24, 2011 by neunElf
Kohl is correct!

Germany's prime focus seem to be its export industry. its foreign policy, or lack thereof, seems to exist only to bolster its ability to sell more product. Even when they join an effort, such as Afghanistan, they seem to establish many special conditions, such as there unwillingness to serve in the more troubled regions otherwise known as "cherry picking" assignments.

I guess the only thing worse than Germany not joining with its historic allies, is Germany joining with those same allies!
18:35 August 24, 2011 by TheCrownPrince
Kohl is wrong. Whining about the current condition of the EU and the Euro is very bold and daring if one considers that he with his former politics has laid the foundations for the problems of today (concept of the Euro etc.).

Concerning Germany's current foreign policy he is wrong, too, because it is not Germany's fault that her allies since 10 years or so constantly make the wrong decisions (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) and then expect Germany to join jubilantly in. I think some people got (and permanently get) the concept of "alliance loyalty" wrong here: if 5 people want to jump from a bridge their sensible friend certainly has the duty to tell them that this would be nonsense. If they want to jump anyway, well, there you go, have fun.
18:38 August 24, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
Honestly, who cares what Kohl thinks? He isn't the Chancellor. It's so easy to judge from the sidelines, watching everything from afar. Leading a great nation like Germany must be very difficult. Unless he has a detailed plan, or some vital information that would help resolve this EU debt crisis, keep your mouth shut Herr Kohl.
19:29 August 24, 2011 by stillinexile
@TheCrownPrince: the difference however is how one handles disagreements amongst allies - out of the public eye and with deference to the past or vocally in public in a childish manner.

Schröder may in fact have been very correct in keeping Germany out of the Iraq fiasco, but the public manner in which he did so was deplorable. Instead of simply stating his disagreement with Bush but making a point to reaffirm the many other remaining goals and values that Germany and the U.S. share (afterall, the United States is more ethnically "German" than anything else), Schröder looked to score politically with obnoxious remarks like "not going along with any American adverturism".

He basically tried to out-Texan the Texan. Rather than rise above the rhetoric, he took himself down to Bush's level, and in the process, took his personal dislike for George Bush and projected it into a dislike between the common German person and the common American. For this, I hold Schröder as equally responsible as Bush, if not more. Compared to Kohl, Schröder is nothing more than a person willing to sully a long-standing alliance for his own personal political gain (and as has come to light in later years, his own financial gain as well).
03:44 August 25, 2011 by hochzeit520
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
11:02 August 25, 2011 by freechoice
So what's next? Syria perhaps?
11:11 August 25, 2011 by ECSNatale
I actually applaud Germany's willingness to tell its allies "No!" Being an ally does not mean that we should jump every time a "sitting US president" says so just in order to ensure that he makes a courtesy call as he flies through, over, around or to Europe. Look what Bush's visit got us: a 10 million€ concrete wall around Heiligendamm which is now a very expensive bench in various Ostsee resorts.

I do agree that some of the countries which were accepted into the single currency was a mistake, but since they are in the Euro needs to be upheld or it will be far more detrimental to Germany... can anyone really imagine the cost of returning to the Deutsch Mark?
16:44 August 25, 2011 by Sastry.M
Why not Germany,now that she has established economic leadership in Europe and recognition internationally as a major equitable allied recognized political power seeking her support, tidy up home panorama mowing down all hate rep.holocaust memorials?
21:13 August 25, 2011 by Major B
We applaud the vision and leadership of Chancelor Kohl. Although I am surprised he isn't appreciated by the German people more, after 2 years of reading comments on this forum I'm not surprised. I just hope the often extremely slanted and highly moralistic comments submitted here aren't representative.

Vision. Leadership. Guts. Smart boldness. Well at least the youth have seen that displayed recently.

@ stillnexile. Very well said in your para # 2. I've said before that I was glad Germany vocally disagreed with the Iraq misadventure and that opinion proved to be oh so right.

Nevertheless to side with China and Russia on Libya smarted. It was one thing to disagree, but to stand side with the Masters(monsters) of Tibet and Georgia was terrible.
22:55 August 25, 2011 by Takoda
Without the coincidence of the German reunion whilst Kohl's reign there would be nothing left from the 16 years he ruled Germany. Maybe only his black out in the bribery scandal the CDU had. So in his place I rather would be quiet. But of course that's not the way of his charakter. I don't believe that things would running better with Helmut Kohl as chancellor!
00:41 August 26, 2011 by einbein
Helmut Kohl is absolutely correct about Angie. She's no leader and never will be. Mediocre is the most fitting term in explaining her, her gov't and career. Sorry, I'm happy to live in Germany, but she's gotta go.

Positioning closer to America is necessary as we are amongst the strongest allies - despite the Bush years (thank God they are over).
10:36 August 26, 2011 by Sastry.M
I think the Americans by now must have realized inspite of differing views of foreign policy support that the Germans are more understanding to their cause with a slightly different language than the British holding special relations with a common language.
18:53 August 26, 2011 by Major B
@ Sastry.M

We'll have to wait and see if whay you said will take. The "differing views of foreign policy" you mention are well understood in the U.S. foreign policy community, not the general public. For example the Americans knew and predicted Germany would pursue a MittelEuropa policy after unification, which has come in handy in the case diffusing conflict in the Balkans.

But the fight within the German foreign ministry and the defense department as exemplified by the comments below from the Aug 26th The Local Edition, need to be resolved and a unified German policy towards international security expressed.

"But de Maizière¦#39;s deputy, parliamentary defence liaison Christian Schmidt, told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that the United Nations, the European Union or NATO might find it necessary to send troops in order to stabilize Libya after Muammar Qaddafi's regime is toppled. If that happens then in the realm of Germany¦#39;s interests and international responsibilities it could not stay away, Schmidt said."

Westerwelle says the opposite. The feckless Westerwelle approach is killing Germany. Chancelor Kohl finally spoke up. Time to get a real man(or Woman) in the German Foreign Ministry
19:25 August 26, 2011 by Kennneth Ingle
How short memories are in the world of politics! I remember quite well, how the then chancellor Kohl broke his, and the promises given by the Bundestag, to the deportees from former German territories. For no good reason whatsoever he made a statement which resulted in the loss of international guaranteed human rights for millions of his own fellow citizens. If anybody was unreliable, it was Kohl himself. As with so many other politicians, prestige played a greater role for him than the well-being of the constituents.
21:31 August 26, 2011 by Bob Hawkins
If Germany wants to be taken seriously it will stop hiding behind it's constitution,the world doesn't care about your internal wranglings,sitting in London Germany's views don't matter,your inaction says it all
08:52 August 27, 2011 by dr.makni49
He is out the time and out of the sync but yet impressive when he can give youthful snub. A bit of mixing up of history and holding decades old US luster close to his heart.

Westerwelle and the powerful lady(Forbes..) well done and keep it up.

Obama visiting Poland and skipping Germany, the old ex Chancellor can not comprehend, is a late disclosure that he was/is so blank about the past contexts when Obama lost some shine and not Angela Merkel.
11:55 August 27, 2011 by Sastry.M
@Major B-#17,

Truly observed by you the American assessment of German Mittel Europa policy is a natural consequence to re-unification which the U.S foreign relations establishment is well aware of and not so much to the American public. But given the complexity of European panorama surrounded with sovereign nations as well also the bitter past misgivings, Germany cannot exercise that freedom as an old world nation compared with the new world U.S.

Even as an economically stabilized and leading power in central Europe Germany, inspite as a reunified country, is beset with many unresolved internal problems related to natural boundaries of ethnic population forcefully usurped and reallocated to other sovereign neighbor states by the victorious ww-2 allies. This problem was not really solved by successive federal West German govt.s whose foreign policy lacked the diplomatic tact to convince the western allies to include along with major reunification programme after exit of der Alte Chancellor.

Credit should be given to ex chancellor Kohl for grabbing and take the best advantage of prevailing situation in Europe leading to German Reunification waiving all popular sentiments of economic disparities and ethnic rehabilitation. To the present German population his boastful nostalgic recallings serve no purpose and a courtesy call of the U.S president en route to visit a full fledged European nation may not help regain the same honor of recognition to a sullen people of sentiments with abused character.

If any one points an accusing finger against the Germans for their indecisiveness regarding foreign policy and military support in international campaigns as a fully independent sovereign nation let them do so wholeheartedly condoning all human errors with grace of forgiveness and help solve their internal issues with true cooperation and empathy.

True to the German spirit of order and compliance to authority de.M's deputy spelled organizations for cautious support while W.Welle might have rejected outright fearing waves of protest from home front.
13:45 August 27, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
Now, now, Helmut. Wasn't it YOU who gave us Das Mädchen?
22:49 August 28, 2011 by Jerr-Berlin
...as always...quite a few sophmoric comments on this website...

Germany was correct in being against the Iraq War of "liberation"...

...even today, Germany is still just a US satrap...Germany is a "sovereign" nation now...and it's important that any " truly sovereing nation" voice it's international opinion...frankly, Germany is much more democratic today than any of it's WW1 and WW2 adversaries in the past...
11:41 August 30, 2011 by Louis Prince

I have to agree. Schröder gave valid reasons for not supporting the Iraq war. Kohl thinks being a tool is the best policy, he is the one that had no direction. Saying 'no' to the US means you have some kind of principle, you are not afraid to say no, everything is not about keeping the transatlantic relationship healthy. For the Germans the policies should best represent and be in the best interest of the Germans.
18:37 August 31, 2011 by Flint
@ Takoda. The collapse of Eastern European communism during Kohl's chancellorship was hardly happenstance. His and Thatcher's firm stance in favor of deployment of the Pershing II's despite Warsaw Pact saber-rattling was instrumental in its collapse.
Today's headlines
Pegida take to Dresden streets - to march against Pegida
Pegida demonstrators. Photo: DPA

Followers of the xenophobic Pegida movement marched in two factions on Monday evening in the capital of Saxony, brandishing fierce accusations of treason against one another.

Is it fair to call the AfD far right?
AfD leaders, from left, Georg Pazderski, Frauke Petry and Jörg Meuthen. Photo: DPA.

The AfD has been dubbed "far-right" over the past year as it has taken on a tougher stance against immigration and made gains in state elections. But at what point does one call a group far-right?

Dresden police guard Islamic buildings after mosque attack
The Dresden mosque that was hit by a homemade bomb attack on Monday. Photo: DPA.

All Islamic buildings in the capital of Saxony have been put under police protection on Tuesday after explosive devices were detonated at a mosque and a congress centre in the city.

Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
Photo: DPA

German data protection authorities on Tuesday said they had blocked Facebook from collecting subscriber data from its subsidiary WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns.

Stuttgart fest pulls in twice as many boozers as Oktoberfest
Is this Oktoberfest or is this Stuttgart's Cannstatter Volksfest? Can you tell the difference? Well, it's Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

Apparently Munich is no longer the top place to wear lederhosen and down beer one litre at a time.

The Local List
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Photo: DPA

These films are so good, not even The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari made the list.

Young man destroys 17 cars after visiting Oktoberfest

Early on Monday morning a drunk 29-year-old trashed 17 cars after staggering out of Oktoberfest into the Munich streets. It was one of several eye-popping crimes from "Wiesn" over the past few days.

VW emissions scandal
Audi tech chief leaves after reports link him to 'dieselgate'
Audi's head of technical development Stefan Knirsch stepped down on Monday. Photo: DPA.

Audi's head of technical development stepped down "with immediate effect" on Monday, the luxury carmaker announced, after German media accused him of involvement in parent company Volkswagen's "dieselgate" scandal.

Deutsche Bank shares hit lowest level in quarter century
Photo: DPA.

Shares in Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest lender, sank to a historic low on Monday after reports at the weekend that Berlin had refused state aid for the embattled lender.

The Local List
The 10 worst German cities for students to find digs
Photo: DPA

It's the start of autumn, which means the start of the university year. But along with the excitement comes the stress of finding housing - and in some glamorous locations this can be a nightmare.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd