Former Secretary of State Kissinger is said to have once asked: “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?” In recent years, for the most urgent issues, for America at the top of the list of European interlocutors there has always been Angela Merkel. Who today will meet Joe Biden at the White House, and first Vice President Kamala Harris, on one of her last official trips as chancellor. With her, in Washington, is Norbert Röttgen, president of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Bundestag, former Minister of the Environment and former papable successor of Merkel, last January, in the election that later crowned Armin Laschet as party leader and candidate for chancellor of the CDU (with a good chance of winning). Röttgen and Merkel are there to revive and strengthen the Berlin-Washington axis, after the frost of the Trump era. The deputy anticipates some issues that will be discussed with Biden, starting “with the danger of Beijing, the most important challenger of the Western post-war order”.
Herr Röttgen, how are relations between Germany and the United States of Joe Biden changing?
«For transatlantic relations, the Biden presidency is a great opportunity. Friendly interaction, consultation are once again possible. Unlike Trump, Biden made it clear from the start that he wants a partnership with Europe. Now we must ask ourselves whether we are ready for a real partnership. If so, we must take on more responsibility, also in the name of our neighbors in the East and the South ”.
One of the issues that divide you is Nord Stream 2, the pipeline with which gas will be pumped between Russia and Germany. Will Merkel bring home an easing of tensions?
“Nord Stream 2 is important to the Americans, but it’s not a key issue. China is much higher on Biden’s list of priorities. Against strong pressure from Congress, the president refrained from imposing new sanctions, so as not to put stress on relations with Berlin. Now it’s up to us to make sure the pipeline doesn’t cause any more political damage. The project is also viewed critically by its European neighbors ».
You speak of Beijing: from the Munich Security Conference to the G20, Xi’s regime is the first protagonist of the international agenda. What does China represent for Germany?
«China has always been seen by Germany primarily as a huge export market. With no other country do we have a greater volume of trade. The Chinese economy is enormously important for individual sectors, but it represents only 8% of exports: the United States is still by far the decisive partner. Under Xi Jinping, China changed its role and became the most important challenger of the Western post-war order. We must stop considering the Dragon only as a big market, the technological, geopolitical and military dimensions of the rise of Beijing must also be taken seriously, if we deal with it ».
What are the red lines not to cross? To give an example, will you refuse the trade in products manufactured in Xinijang companies, where human rights are not respected?
“Germany and my party regard human rights as a universal good. When violated on a large scale, such as in Xinjiang, it is not a domestic Chinese affair, but a violation of international law. In the last weeks of this legislature, we passed a law that ensures that German companies must take responsibility for working conditions throughout the supply chain of their products. “
What dangers do you see today for the Western world?
“The greatest danger for European democracies as a community of values is if we will not be able to develop a common idea, which exercises a greater attraction than Chinese authoritarianism.”
Over the years Merkel has become the bulwark in defense of democracy and freedom. The Navalny case is the most symbolic example. Will Germany still be willing to take on this role?
“Germany’s role is set to increase in the future as Europe must become more independent if we are to continue to be taken seriously by our partners. As the largest economy in the Union, we have a particular responsibility.”
Italy feels abandoned by the EU on the landings of migrants. Your country has started sending back the “dubliners” and is not facilitating a solution. How does it come out?
“The EU and the member states have left Italy, Greece and Spain alone for too long. The problem was ignored until the refugees arrived here. As a result, populists like Salvini have grown strong. There is still no solidarity community solution, because a significant number of countries refuse to accept. I believe we must act pragmatically: States willing to open their doors to refugees must go ahead and divide them among themselves. First of all, however, we need to create perspectives in the migrants’ countries of origin ».
The New York Times wrote that, after the Chancellor’s farewell, Draghi will be the new “European leader”, do you agree?
«I believe that Mario Draghi is a great opportunity for Italy and therefore for Europe. He is not afraid to initiate the necessary reforms and at the same time is a strong representative of Italian interests in Brussels. His word has a weight there ».
Merkel was clear: this is not the time to return to the stability pact. But how does your party see the European battle over the rules of budget policy?
«The European Stability Pact is suspended until 2023 for a good reason: the recovery of our economies is the priority. This requires that we modernize and invest in growth. The one-off joint loan was fair, but for Covid. In my party, the CDU, we agree that we do not want a debt union ».
If Laschet wins the election, is there any alliance you exclude from the start?
“For now I will not pronounce, we will see what happens.”
The AfD loses in the polls. Has Covid turned off the nationalists?
«These parties argue and do not provide any solution. People notice this, especially in emergency situations like a pandemic. When we are in crisis and it comes down to it, nobody wants to be governed by the AfD ”. – © REPRODUCTION RESERVED