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22nd Feb 2020

German 'future of Europe' meeting irks partners

  • German foreign minister Westerwelle wants to discuss the 'future of Europe' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has irked some of his EU colleagues by inviting only a select few to a dinner on Tuesday (20 March) to discuss the 'future of Europe' after the economic crisis.

The meeting does not appear on the official website of the German foreign ministry as it is meant to be an informal event at the Villa Borsig, north of Berlin. Invited were the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

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But by leaving out 17 of the EU's 27 states, Westerwelle has stepped on the toes of some of his colleagues.

A diplomat from Sweden, one of the non-invitees, told Spiegel magazine that the German foreign minister was not contributing to EU co-operation by leaving some countries out.

The Danish foreign minister was invited, but refused to participate. "We have a government meeting that evening. Of course I am willing to discuss EU topics. But us ministers have to weigh which meetings are important and which are not," Villy Sovndal said in Copenhagen last weekend when asked by German Radio about Westerwelle's event.

The German minister also faces criticism in Ireland, another country not on his guest list

From Dublin's perspective, Westerwelle's debate on the future of Europe is seen as unhelpful at this moment in time, as the government is preparing a referendum on the Germany-inspired treaty on fiscal discipline, the Irish Times reports.

A recently ousted leader of the German Liberal Party, Westerwelle is struggling to maintain his credibility both internally and on the European stage. His idea to set up a "Future Group" to discuss issues ranging from the EU's democratic deficit to immigration and Schengen is aimed at bolstering his status.

"We have to open a new chapter in EU politics. We cannot limit ourselves to crisis management, but we have to show that Europe can also offer political perspectives," Westerwelle said last Friday when arriving in Copenhagen for an informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers.

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