Future is 'bleak' warns Joschka Fischer

Joschka Fischer, the former German vice-chancellor, has issued a bleak assessment of Europe's prospects for surviving the financial crisis, warning that leaders of a "self-weakening" continent are failing to come to grips with its decline.

By Michael Levitin in Berlin
Last Updated: 7:09AM GMT 26 Feb 2009

Former German vice-chancellor Joschka Fischer Photo: PHILIP HOLLIS

"Modern capitalism is based on a global ponzi scheme," he said. "There is no quick fix to this very severe crisis. It will transform global reality in a similar way as the collapse of the Soviet Union transformed the global system 20 years ago."

Global power was shifting from West to East, "and it's completely short-sighted to believe that other powers will look after our interests", Mr Fischer said in a speech to the London School of Economics.

"We are ignoring the basic facts – we're discussing whether we are creating super-states or not, whether to help Berlusconi or not – but we don't discuss our relative decline."

The result, he predicted, would be an acceleration of the transfer of power from West to East – something that did not bode well for an inward-looking Europe.

"If you walk through the corridors of Washington these days, everyone's talking about China. Add India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia," he said. "It was not by chance that Hillary Clinton made her first foreign trip to Asia."

As Eastern EU economies crumbled, "there is a serious question mark: whether richer European economies understand that they must contribute to the refinancing of those economies. Otherwise, enlargement is in danger... [and] we will invite other powers to play games in a very unstable and insecure situation. I'm not talking just about the economy, but about peace and insecurity on the European continent."

Mr Fischer, 60, who was foreign minister and vice-chancellor under Gerhard Schröder, the former chancellor, from 1998 to 2005, added: "Europe is in a very precarious situation because we are strongly integrated with the common market and the euro zone. On the other hand, Europe is not integrated enough to act decisively. We don't have streamlined institutions. We don't have a strong common foreign policy or security policy."

He said Europe was weak in dealing with Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and crises in the Middle East.

Europe would become irrelevant – and vulnerable – if it kept failing to speak with a united voice, beginning with the creation of "a strong European pillar for Nato".

"America will follow its interests and the question will be simple: can you deliver? [If yes], then trans-atlanticism will have a future. If Europe cannot deliver in time, and deliver enough, then I predict huge problems."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... scher.html