German President Joachim Gauck argues that Germany must fulfill its international responsibilities. In an interview with DW, he says the country should be prepared, if absolutely necessary, to deploy troops.
A technician carefully stuffed a thick cable under the red carpet before German President Joachim Gauck arrived for the DW interview at Bellevue Palace on Friday (21.02.2014). "We don't want the president to trip over," he said. The wooden floors in the presidential residence creaked so loudly that, after the president has sat down and the cameras are switched on, the camera team and sound technicians were told not to move about.
In the interview, conducted by Dagmar Engel, the head of DW's Berlin studio, Gauck said Germany needs to become aware of its responsibilities. In the past, he said, he didn't even want to see himself as German, on account of the crimes committed by his parents' generation. However, bit by bit, he said, over the intervening decades, Germany has changed and matured.
"Germany is now a completely different country to what it was in the time between the wars," he said, adding that he currently cannot see any deficit in the country's democratic credibility, and that it compares well with other European states. Legal certainty prevails, but so does social balance. All this, according to Gauck, has resulted in Germany being regarded by other countries as a model of democracy.
No polite restraint
A certain responsibility arises from these changes - a responsibility, Gauck said he believes, that Germany must become aware of. It is his view that, as the biggest country in Europe, Germany cannot just show polite restraint in the face of the ongoing violence in the Ukraine, but should - along with other European states - take on a mediation role in the crisis. Germany cannot be indifferent to what is happening in the Ukraine, Gauck said.
Crisis prevention - especially where inter-ethnic crises are concerned - is an important tool of responsible foreign policy, according to the German president. Germany, he said, needs to open its eyes to conflict situations in other parts of the world - not just in Ukraine but in the Mediterranean region as well - and ask itself whether it wants to be a mediator there.
With regard to German development cooperation work, the president said the country needs to promote climate protection and renewable energy in distant parts of the world.
'Sometimes it's worse when the good guys hide their weapons'
But Gauck added that, in an emergency, responsibility also means consulting with the international community on sending in soldiers.
"This grown-up Germany, which is a guarantee for stability and democracy, must not hide," he said.
He also emphasized that while it is not good to let guns do the talking, "sometimes it's even worse if the good guys hide their weapons and leave the bad guys with theirs," going on to add that Srebrenica and Rwanda made it very clear what can happen when no one intervenes. It's not a question of a show of force by Germany but of solidarity, the president pointed out.
In early March, Gauck plans to go on a state visit to Greece. He said he believes that we are seeing the first signs that the crisis-hit country is stabilizing. While there, he will certainly recall "Germany's calamitous history," but warned that he will also express some quiet criticism that European aid has not always been used as well as it could have been. Germany could also help with structuring the Greek administration so that it meets European standards. "But if people think their plight is all Angela Merkel's fault, that's where my understanding is at an end," he said.
With regard to domestic issues, Gauck criticized the fact that many Germans fear immigration: And yet, he added, there are not only demographic reasons but also many cultural reasons for them to welcome it. Germany, then, still is not at the end of the path of democratic development.