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Five questions to Hans-Gert Pöttering

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Interview with Professor Hans-Gert Pöttering, member of the European Parliaments Commission for Foreign Affairs Professor Hans-Gert Pöttering is president of the European Parliaments European Peoples Party/Christian Democrat Group and leader of the German Christian Democrat delegation.

Cafébabel: What influence has Europe had, in your opinion, on the setting-up of Afghanistans provisional government?

The European Union has been strongly committed to this process, for example through the Petersberg agreement, which is the foundation of Afghanistans future political life and is backed up with considerable financial aid. With its provision of 352 million euros, the EU is the biggest donor of funds for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, and so contributes to the reconstruction of the country. However, the EU has emphasised that in the long term aid will depend on the honouring of the Petersberg agreements, as this is the best guarantee of a new, representative government being put in place. The EU, as an important contributor of financial aid, can influence the future government to ensure that human rights, democratic principles, political and religious tolerance, as well as sexual equality, are upheld. The European Union acted in a similar way in former Yugoslavia.

Cafébabel: How far do economic concerns play a role for Europe in this war?

The war is not being waged for economic reasons. Certainly, the deployment of troops is very costly for the states involved, but that is not the most important consideration. The main point is that the international community unites to fight terrorism across the globe. It should not be forgotten that while Afghanistan was under the Taliban regime, it was neglected for many years by the international community. Now we must contribute towards the construction of new, stable structures in this country, which maintain peace. Just as is the case in former Yugoslavia, the truth is that war costs even more than peace. This is why the EU is supporting the reconstruction of Afghanistan with such significant sums of financial aid.

Cafébabel: After the collapse of the Taliban regime, how do you see the international crisis developing and how do you view Europes role?

We are on the right track to overcoming this international crisis. The agreements made at the Petersberg conference strengthen this impression. Europe will - as I have mentioned already -contribute to Afghanistans transition to normality, while spreading its democratic ideals and the principle of respect for human rights.

Cafébabel: How far can the Islamic communities based in Europe contribute to European foreign policy?

Islamic religious groups are part of society in many EU countries and the legal means of political participation are open to them. (They can freely express their opinions, establish democratic political parties, and be politically involved.) They are on an equal footing with other social groups. However, they dont exert a particular influence upon European foreign policy.

Cafébabel: How can we view relations between the USA and Europe, in the context of the crisis and the new anti-terror alignment?

On September 11 2001, it was the United States that the terrorists chose as a target, but in reality is not only the USA that is affected, but the entire civilised world. In principle, we acted in solidarity with the United States during this crisis and intend to do so in the future. But this does not mean that we cant have differences of opinions on certain issues. Europeans are not necessarily going to support all American actions. But in general, Europeans and Americans have presented a united front in the fight against terrorism and the defence of our common values.

Translated from Cinq questions à Hans-Gert Pöttering