The Rt. Hon. Bob Walter (Member of British Parliament)

29.04.2011 – Interview conducted by Merida Mathen

Q1. We have talked a lot today about the UK-German relationship, also on a European level. Obviously in the past, people have talked about the special relationship between the UK and the USA. Do you think there could be a time when the UK and Germany develop a special relationship?

Well, historically the UK and Germany did have a special relationship, if we go back to before the First World War; there was actually quite a strong UK-German relationship not least because of the Royal Family and so on. I see no problem in the future with an evolving a special relationship between the UK and Germany. I think the relationship between the UK and the United States is one that is weakening all the time because the United States is a very different country to what it was fifty or sixty years ago.

Q2. We also talked about the differences between the European nations and why it is therefore difficult to have a coherent foreign policy. Do you think it is possible for all twenty seven member states to fulfill their national interest within the European Union or do you think that over time it is becoming more a more diminished especially for smaller member states?

No I think that over time there will be greater convergence. We live in world a role that is economically interdependent and that must mean that eventually we will become politically interdependent especially in within Europe. Therefore a lot of the things which are dreams or designs of the various European treaties will evolve anyway. Now whether they will evolve exactly as the treaties set the framework for them to evolve or whether there will be some kind of organic development, maybe cultural or whatever, we will only become closer together because that is the nature of what is happening, because people can communicate more easily, people can travel easily and therefore there will some kind of convergence.

Q3. What do you think are the main challenges for the European Union at the moment and what direction do you think Europe should go?

 Well I think the main challenge for the European Union institutions is their lack of resonance with the people. I think they have become very detached from the peoples that they are supposed to be serving. The European parliament does not have a genuine dialogue with the people that it represents. National Parliamentarians have a much closer dialogue. The newspapers within our member states will always look to national politicians for solutions, they would never think of asking a member of the European parliament yet the European parliament does have the powers but doesn't have the democratic legitimacy still, even though it is technically elected by the people.

Q4. The UK has their first coalition government in many decades but coalition governments are a norm in Germany. Do you think that the UK can learn any lessons about running a coalition government from Germany?

It would be arrogant of me to say no, but actually our coalition came about just simply because there was a necessity to find a mechanism to create a government after the last election and it seemed entirely logical that the two largest parties from the previous opposition should form the alternative government and that's exactly what happened.

Q5. And Bill Cash was quite forward in his view that he wasn't so happy about the Liberal Democrats being part of the coalition, but what's your view on that given that without the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives would have to run a minority government or be out of power completely?

Well obviously we have had to make concession to the Lib Dems but at the end of the day the alternative was not to have a conservative government at all. We have a conservative government where all the major offices of state are held by the conservatives so I'm reasonably content.

Q6. And finally can we get a prediction for the AV referendum next week?

I think the turnout will be very, very low, even with the local elections because the turnout in the local elections is usually very low and I think, my prediction is, that the country will vote no.