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Joschka Fischer: Breakfast in Washington

Joschka Fischer, Germany’s Foreign Minister, shares his views on some burning global issues — from the Middle East to U.S.-EU relations.

May 6, 2002

Joschka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister, shares his views on some burning global issues — from the Middle East to U.S.-EU relations.

At a recent press breakfast held in Washington D.C., German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer discussed a number of hot global issues with The Globalist and other news outlets. Key issues included the Middle East and U.S.-EU relations. We are happy to offer some excerpts from Mr. Fischer’s candid conversation.

What is the most serious issue on the international stage today?

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the hottest volcano in world politics. What makes it so complicated is that it is based on village-to-village conflict — people-to-people and individual-to-individual.”

After the military actions by Israel in recent months, is the United States still a credible third party in Middle East peace negotiations?

“Without the United States, nothing will happen in the Middle East. But the United States alone is not enough, either. That lesson we learned after Camp David.”

What is Israel’s current challenge?

“For now, Israel has won a military battle. But it will lose again — unless it rapidly moves toward a political negotiating process with the Palestinians.”

What do you make of Israel’s refusal to accept a UN fact-finding mission?

“I think it’s in the interest of Israel that the facts will be put on the table. We should not live with any myth. However, the refusal to accept the UN fact-finding mission does not make the business of the friends of Israel any easier.”

Can you envision a road map toward a peaceful solution?

“The process must start with democratic institution building in the Palestinian territories. That requires the early declaration of Palestinian statehood. For this to happen, other thorny issues — such as the status of Jerusalem — will have to be postponed for now.”

What else needs to happen to make this work?

“The international community will have to guarantee binding timelines by which all those outstanding issues will have to be resolved.”

And the lessons learned by the EU?

“What we learned as a result of the Oslo Accords is that economic aid should be supplied to Palestine, but not until the democratic institution-building process has gotten in a serious manner underway.'”

What about increased Muslim immigration to Europe?

“This simply reflects geographic realities. Europe and the Middle East are neighbors.”

And what about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe?

“We have to fight against anti-Semitism. And especially in Germany, it’s our commitment. But currently, it’s more a factor of rising immigration. If there were a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, I would be the first to cry out loud. For me, ‘It will never happen again!’ is the core of my personal biography. Our Jewish citizens are never going to face this alone anymore.”

Do you agree with the Bush Administration’s goal to remove Saddam Hussein from power?

“On this topic, we are still in a discussion with our American friends.”

How do you view U.S.-EU relations at the present time?

“To my mind, we don’t have too much of the United States in world politics — but too little of the EU.”

What about the institutional challenges for Europe?

“We are 200 years behind the United States in institutional terms. We have only now reached the level of writing the Federalist Papers.”

How would you explain the challenges of EU enlargement to a U.S. audience?

“EU enlargement from a U.S. perspective is as if the United States integrated its economy with Mexico and all of Latin America in the space of a few years.”

Finally, what about those controversial U.S. steel tariffs?

“Europeans have difficulty understanding why they are getting punished for U.S. problems with Asian steel producers.”