Outgoing Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier told the Süddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published on Friday that in all his years in politics, he had never witnessed an election such as the one last November in the US.
“Despite long years in politics, I was appalled by this American election campaign,” Steinmeier said, adding that he hoped Donald Trump would change now that he is President.
“It is not about trivial matters, but about the fundamental questions of our own self identity, such as the stance on torture,” Steinmeier explained.
He also commented on the severity of conflicts within the United States.
“We have never experienced such polarization within American internal politics, and no one – not even he himself – could deny that Trump’s campaign was part of this.”
Steinmeier further acknowledged that it would be hard to give the new US President a history lesson about the significance of the EU for Europe.
“I do not have the naive hope that I will be able to clarify for him the growth and development of the European Union out of the ruins of the Second World War,” Steinmeier continued, “but that the USA would have nothing if Europe were weakened, that is evident.”
Speaking more generally, Steinmeier also warned of growing populism in various countries, including in Germany where the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) looks set to become the third largest party in September’s election.
“Where patriotism becomes nationalism, things will be serious and dangerous. We feel that nothing is irreversible and that peace in Europe must always again be newly established and protected.”
Steinmeier was selected by the ruling coalition government parties as their candidate to become the new German President when Joachim Gauck ends his five-year term this year. Current Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is set to take on Steinmeier’s current role as Foreign Minister.
“The potential for inconvenience lies within the constitutional job description of the President,” Steinmeier noted.
“You do not need to be extravagant, but wise, if you want to be heard.”