Expectations are high ahead of the G7 summit in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel told DW what she hopes the talks will achieve. And she said absent Russia still had a vital role to play, particularly in Syria.
DW: Chancellor, the world will be watching Germany closely over the next few days. People have high expectations of the G7 summit. The agenda reads a bit like "rescuing the world in 24 hours." What would be a tangible measure of success that only this G7 meeting can achieve?
Angela Merkel: For me, the most important thing first of all is that the seven heads of state and government talk about major issues. This exchange of views is very, very significant so that we know for the whole year how the thinking is on basic matters - where there are differences, and where there are similarities. But it is also possible to say more concretely that I would like to obtain more coherent answers in particular to the question "How do we react to epidemics and pandemics in the future?" and perhaps come up with a way of taking better action in the future. When Ebola broke out, the world community did not react well: too late and without enough coordination. This should not be repeated. And I think the presence of African heads of government, such as the Liberian president, will make us aware once more how important the issue of health is. Health will also feature with regard to other matters: for example, resistance to antibiotics, where we will all be drawing up national plans and work together with the World Health Organization. I hope for some progress here, even though no problems can be solved in 24 hours, something that is itself a big problem.
Is the G7 still keeping with the times? It's no longer really true that the group represents the world's most economically powerful nations, if you look at Italy, France and Canada.
They are all democratic states with shared values. And they are states that are still very important economically. But we need the G20 format as a complement. This includes countries with very different social systems, but the biggest economic powers are really gathered there. But the G7 provides a freer, more intensive exchange owing partly to the democratic systems of governance.
If so much importance is placed on shared values, doesn't the whole discussion about whether Russia should take part or not fall flat? Even apart from the Ukraine crisis, do you think that Russia shares the same values as the rest?
It is true that Russia has not made further progress in the past few years toward adopting many of the ideas that we share in the G7. When Russia was accepted into the group, the thinking was that there were perhaps more things in common - particularly with regard to defense, when I think of the NATO-Russia partnership, for instance. But Russia remains an important partner in other discussion formats. We have the Normandy format for resolving the Ukraine crisis, we have the P5+1 talks on the Iranian nuclear program, and Russia will and must also be included in efforts to resolve the Syrian civil war. I only have to remind you that it was only with the help of Russia that chemical weapons were removed from Syria. So we will also be discussing how Russia can be included.
The G7 began as a global economic summit. Economic issues are now at the forefront again: free trade, growth and above all how to make growth sustainable. And now the Greek crisis is looming over all this. Is Greece overshadowing the other big economic problems?
No, I don't think so. We will, of course, be talking about the situation in the eurozone in connection with the global economic situation. And there will certainly be discussion about what problems we have solved. We will be able to point out that Ireland, which also had an (austerity) program, is now the country with the biggest economic growth, and that the economy is also growing in Portugal and Spain. And then we will also talk about Greece. But that is really not a central issue now; we will simply give a report on where things are and express our hope that talks can be concluded successfully.
The last time there was such a summit - then the G8 - in Germany was eight years ago. Since then, there has been the euro crisis. The last German summit was before the Arab Spring, before the Syrian war, before the Ukraine crisis. Looking at this summit now, how has your role changed, and how has the role of Germany changed in this dramatically changing world?
It must be said that in between there was a big international financial and economic crisis that has, of course, changed many things. The global economic situation today is marked by a policy of keeping interest very, very low. This has certainly boosted growth to a certain extent, but we will also face the question of how to return to normal. We now have much better regulation of banks. And if you ask about Germany's role, then I can remember that even in Heiligendamm we had issues such as climate change, for example, that we are still working on today. And there is a certain continuity in the issues that we have dealt with at G7, or then G8, summits. The issue of climate protection was always an important one for Germany, and it still is with regard to the Paris conference in December. And new issues have arisen as well. The issue of health did not play as big a role back then. So I am pleased that Germany can be the host again, but we are all united as a community, as well, and all have our particular issues we want to focus on.
Chancellor, many thanks for the interview.