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Audronius Ažubalis, Urmas Paet, Edgars Rinkēvičs, Guido Westerwelle: For a European Culture of Trust

23. August 2012 - 13:42

23 August 1939 was a dark day for Europe. On that day, the Reich Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop and Molotov, the Soviet People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, signed the heinous Hitler-Stalin Pact. The secret additional protocol to the Pact defined Soviet and German spheres of influence in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as in Poland and the region then known as Bessarabia. It paved the way for a policy of injustice and inhumanity which brought disaster on a catastrophic scale on Europe.

Our united Europe has learned the historical lessons and has overcome the cynical and pernicious spirit of the Pact. Today, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Germans are part of a European community of shared culture rooted in our belief in peaceful interaction among equal partners in a Europe of open borders. Its fundamental values are those which drove the European revolution for liberty in 1989: the freedom of the individual, the protection of human rights, democracy and rule of law as well as free market economy.

The basis of our community is trust among European neighbours and trust in Europe, our joint project. This harks back to the open-minded cooperation which linked our ancestors for centuries way back in the heyday of the Hanseatic League. It is firmly based on the strength of shared values, not on the questionable law of the strongest

That said, this cooperation in Europe is not something we can take for granted, as the debt crisis reminds us. It has become a profound crisis of credibility and trust. The imbalances that have come about are not limited to those among the national economies of the eurozone. There is also a growing gap among the national debates on Europe. Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new split threatens to divide our continent, this time between north and south.

We cannot allow that to happen. Our countries cannot enjoy a bright future without a united Europe. Germany is no more capable than Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania of managing on its own the challenges of the global age. Therefore, what we need now is further integration to uphold European values. What we need is "more Europe"!

We stand united in our determination to overcome the crisis with a European policy of consolidation, growth and solidarity. We know from our own experience during the last few years how difficult the road ahead will be. However, we have also seen that even severe crises can be mastered with resolute reforms.

The successful reforms carried out in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should encourage us in Europe to continue along the path upon which we embarked when we signed the fiscal compact and created the ESM rescue fund. They inspire us to continue championing “better spending” in the negotiations on the European Union’s budgeting. We believe in the idea of Smart Growth: targeted investments in innovation are the best path to regain economic competitiveness in Europe.

Beyond intelligent crisis management, we also have to conduct a joint European debate on Europe’s future. Not least, this will make it easier for us to overcome the challenges ahead. There are three crucial points:

Firstly, we need to make the monetary union fit for the future by complementing it with closer collaboration on economic and fiscal policy. This is just as important to Germany and Estonia as members of the eurozone as to its prospective members Latvia and Lithuania.

We want to continue demonstrating our solidarity with those member states which have been particularly hard hit by the crisis. Here we will have to uphold the democratic principle that greater responsibility can only be assumed in exchange for greater control.

Secondly, we need to ensure that Europe continues to have effective and democratically accountable institutions. Deeper European integration will be possible only if citizens and states see that their interests are represented with vigour on the European level and full democratic oversight is ensured.

Thirdly, we need to make Europe a true global player. If that potential is to be fulfilled, we need to develop a comprehensive approach to European external policy, fully in line with our internal values such as peaceful interaction, democracy and solidarity. We are determined to work together to overcome the crisis which the European project is currently facing. In doing so, we can build on the trust which links Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Germans in our united Europe. History reminds us how precious our European culture of trust is.

Audronius Ažubalis is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, Urmas Paet is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, Edgars Rinkēvičs is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia and Guido Westerwelle is Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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