Don't let euro zone debate turn nasty: German foreign min

BERLIN Mon Aug 6, 2012 8:19am EDT

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (C), accompanied by his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (R), attends a news conference in Moscow, July 5, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (C), accompanied by his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (R), attends a news conference in Moscow, July 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday warned politicians to rein in the language they use about the euro zone debt crisis after a weekend of ugly exchanges in the German press over Italy and Greece.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti told magazine Der Spiegel that he needed Germany's moral support but not its cash and that Berlin should "cut some slack" for those countries implementing budget cuts demanded by the European Union.

He also said governments needed to keep some room for maneuver independent of decisions taken in national parliaments - a thinly veiled attack on the role Germany's Bundestag lower house has played in slowing up action on the crisis.

Westerwelle's remarks looked like as much of an attack on ruling coalition allies Christian Social Union (CSU), whose leader Markus Soeder said on Sunday Berlin should cut Greece off by the end of 2012, before it was too late.

"The tone in the debate is extremely dangerous," Westerwelle said in a statement released in Berlin.

"We've got to take care that we don't talk Europe to death. We can't allow our actions to be reduced to attempts to raise political profiles domestically - and that goes for Germany too.

"The situation in Europe is too serious for that and there's too much at stake," Westerwelle added.

Westerwelle is one of the leading politicians in Germany's pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), junior coalition partners along with the CSU to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). The FDP and CSU are often at odds with each other.

"In this situation you have to apply the old mountain climbing rule," the CSU's Soeder said on Sunday. "If someone is hanging on your rope and pulling you down into the abyss with him, you have to cut the rope. We are at that stage now. If we don't cut the rope on which Greece is hanging in time, Germany could be in danger.

Soeder also told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that giving Greece aid "is like trying to water a desert". He also said: "At some point, everyone's got to move out of mum's house and for the Greeks the time is ripe for that now.

Monti warned that if the euro became a factor in European countries drifting apart "then the basis of the European project will have been destroyed."

"The tensions that have accompanied the euro zone in recent years already carry the psychological marks of a break-up of the euro zone," he said.

"If governments were fully tied to the decisions of their parliaments without having their own room for maneuver, then Europe would be more likely to break apart than come closer together."

Both Westerwelle and a government spokesman on Monday dismissed the latter remarks, saying there was a need for more democratic backing in Europe and not less.

"There can be no discussion about parliamentary controls of European policies," said Westerwelle. "We need a strengthening of the democratic legitimacy in Europe and not a weakening."

(This story corrected paragraph eight to show Westerwelle one of FDP's leaders, not leader)

(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Chris Cottrell and Patrick Graham)

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