Germany’s Image Damaged by Euro-Crisis Sniping, Westerwelle Says

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, “Unfortunately, some comments are giving the illusion of doubt about our commitment to the common currency and to Europe.” Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

German politicians’ derogatory and conflicting comments about other euro member states have created an impression of arrogance and sullied Germany’s image abroad, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

The foreign minister’s remarks, made in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper today, are a slap to members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition who have taunted Greece and other euro countries blighted by the debt crisis, clashing with the government’s position.

Westerwelle said that he’s been questioned about the “debate in Germany” over the euro crisis on recent trips to Beijing, Hong Kong and Kuwait, according to a transcript of the interview e-mailed by his Free Democratic Party.

“Unfortunately, some comments are giving the illusion of doubt about our commitment to the common currency and to Europe,” Westerwelle said. Such statements “form the impression of a lack of respect toward other European countries.” He didn’t identify specific remarks.

Weighing Words

Statements from coalition lawmakers and officials calling on Greece to quit the euro, lambasting the European Central Bank and mocking indebted euro states proliferated over the summer recess, prompting Merkel to rein them in upon her return from vacation. German officials calling on Greece’s exit should “weigh their words very carefully,” the chancellor said in an Aug. 26 interview, reiterating her determination to keep Greece a euro member.

Some of the most withering comments have come from the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, which faces a challenge at regional elections next year from a bailout-skeptic party known as the Free Voters.

Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder told Bild newspaper in an Aug. 5 interview that Greece should be cut loose for the greater good of the euro area. “There’s an old mountain-climbing rule,” he was cited as saying. “If somebody hanging on your line threatens to knock you to the ground, the line has to be cut.”

Soeder also said it was “important that Spain and Italy see what can happen if they don’t pay their debt” and that “at some point everybody has to move out of Mama’s house, and that’s where the Greeks are at this point.”

‘Money Forger’

Alexander Dobrindt, the CSU’s general secretary and a federal lawmaker in Berlin, followed up by taking a shot at ECB President Mario Draghi, telling Bild am Sonntag that the central bank chief was “making the ECB into an inflation bank,” and risked going down in history as “the money forger of Europe.”

Dobrindt’s assertion in that same interview that Greece would probably leave the 17-member currency region next year prompted Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to demand an end to the “cacophony” of speculation, saying during a visit to Berlin on Aug. 24 that such “toxic statements” deterred investors, undermining his country’s task of sticking to its bailout terms.

Merkel joined many of the same CSU euro critics yesterday at a traditional Bavarian political gathering northeast of Munich, sharing a table and sipping a beer with Dobrindt, before telling them that bailouts for euro countries are here to stay.

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