The Green View on German Politics | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 24.07.2004
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The Green View on German Politics

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has been busy campaigning for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Greens party co-chair Reinhard Bütikofer talks to DW-TV about Germany's foreign policy goals and reform plans.


Envisioning a more social future in Germany and beyond.

After a 10-day, five-country tour of Asia, Fischer has returned to Germany with little in the way of concrete support for his efforts to secure a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. The Greens party member and vocal opponent to the US war in Iraq had hoped for endorsements from countries who agreed with Germany's approach to more multi-lateralism in the world community. Instead he was greeted with tacit words and a compromise agreement from India which also has its sights focused on the UN's powerful decision-making table.

DW-TV spoke with Fischer's party colleague and co-chair of the Greens Reinhard Bütikofer about Germany playing a bigger role on the world stage and how the coalition with the Social Democrats has been holding up under a series of unpopular social reforms back home.

DW-TV: Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has been busy drumming up support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Why should Germany have a seat at the table?

Bütikofer: I would look at the question differently. I would ask, what contribution does Germany make to the international community -- it's a big one. In the last years, specifically through the work of the red-green coalition, Germany has taken on additional responsibility. Just think about our activities -- and not just military but rather diplomatic and economic -- in the Balkans. Think about what we have done for peacekeeping in Afghanistan. Think about the role we played in defending multi-lateralism as the basis for a rational international world order as opposed to the one-sided strategies from Washington. Germany gained a good deal of respect and as Joschka Fischer reports, many countries not only view us with respect but would like to see Germany continue to play such a role.

Not too long ago the Greens were in favor of an EU seat on the Security Council. Now the foreign minister is backing a national, a German proposal. Why the change in approach?

I don't really see it as a change in thinking. If it were possible to achieve a European seat on the Security Council, that would be a good solution. But I don't think there's much sense -- in this area and in many others -- to only concentrate on what is ideal, but rather to look at what we can accomplish practically speaking.

While the Social Democrats continue to suffer a serious decline in popularity, the Greens -- the junior partner in the governing coalition -- have reached an all-time high in approval ratings. What is the Greens' recipe for success?

I think it is the unity that we have managed to build in the party in the last two and a half years. We started early on preparing our voters for the reforms, telling them they were necessary and what direction we would have to take. As Greens we have a vision for the modern social system and we have made it clear: basic insurance for everyone, respect for everyone, especially for those who through no fault of their own have come on hard times. And these ideas are the basis of our proposals. They are the basis of a social republic.

Is the government coalition faltering under the weakness of the SPD?

The government has so many things ahead of it, that it cannot allow itself to be derailed by the current difficulties. The chancellor, the leaders in the SPD and we ourselves know that many people have invested their hopes in us. The current discussions show that the country knows it must change. It's now a question of which direction to take. The direction we the Greens support is the course of renewal coupled with social justice. I think when you look at the discussions of the last few days, where for example top DaimlerChrysler managers jerked around employees in pay negotiations, then you realize there's a chance that those who are greedy will get ahead and that the system of social security could be destroyed. I think that's enough of a reason to keep trying, to bear the responsibility and say: We'll make this happen.

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