Interview : Obama on Merkel: "We don’t always agree on everything"05.06.2011 14:33 Uhr
Speaking of the democratic movements in North Africa: How do we balance our high hopes for them to succeed with the historic lesson that they normally never do in the first attempt? The Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians needed several uprisings before they got rid of communist dictatorship in 1989. So how much change in which time frame can we realistically expect in a region with no practical experience in democracy like North Africa?
We know that there are many challenges ahead in the Middle East and North Africa. These are not easy transitions and they will take time. But, as I’ve said, this is also an historic moment of opportunity. The demands for political and economic reform that are coming from the people of the region are legitimate and must be addressed. Violence against peaceful protestors is unacceptable and must stop. Leaders engaged in violence against their people need to understand that they cannot smother calls for change through oppression.
Some of the changes we’ve already seen have been monumental – in Egypt for example. As I said in Europe last week, the example of the former Warsaw Pact countries is instructive. I was deeply moved by something I heard at a dinner I had with a group of Central and Eastern European presidents during my visit to Warsaw when I was there. One of my counterparts told me how 20 years ago there were those who claimed that the countries of Eastern Europe could not handle democracy, that their cultures were not compatible with democracy. But, he said, America had faith in these countries and they succeeded in throwing off communism and making the transition to democracy. And this leader said that his country now wants to return the favor by supporting those in the Middle East and North Africa who are yearning to be free. That’s a good lesson for all of us. The lack of democratic experience in the region does not make the desire for freedom by the people there any less valid or any less deserving of our support.
Last, allow me a question, which I asked as well your predecessor in the White House in 2007. The USis a superpower. Germany is – like the UK or France – a midsize power: pretty important for most countries, but always in fear, that it has little influence on the decision-making of the superpower, though it has to bear the consequences whether in war or financial crisis. Can you think of any example, where you have changed your mind on an issue after talking to a European head of government, maybe even the Chancellor?
I consult with the Chancellor on every important issue on my international agenda and I very much appreciate her pragmatism and her straight talk. We don’t always agree on everything; no two allies do. But in our meetings and discussions, we always speak honestly and openly, as close friends should, and I believe that our approach to shared challenges is stronger because of it. I firmly believe that he issues facing the world today require that we act together. As I have said before, our relationship with Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world and a catalyst for global action. Germany is at the center of Europe, and the cooperation between the United States and Germany is central to everything we hope to accomplish in the world.
The questions have been asked by Christoph von Marschall.