Can Germany ‘afford’ a gay foreign minister? Or will it hurt relations with Muslim countries?
– two often-debated questions in Germany after the recent federal elections. Following the victory of the conservative-liberal coalition, it is customary for the head of the smaller coalition party (the liberals) to become vice chancellor and foreign minister.
The head of the liberals is Guido Westerwelle. Now, in my opionion, there is a lot that is wrong with Westerwelle becoming FM: Be it his inexperience and previous indifference to international affairs, his political stance and style, as well as his apparent gaucheness on the international stage.
The more central question for many commentators, however, seems to be whether Westerwelle as an openly homosexual political can represent Germany as a Foreign Minister in Muslim countries.
Why wouldn’t he?
Diplomacy is probably the most pragmatic policy field. Quite regularly, countries or groups who are in the midst of the fiercest political conflicts, still maintain diplomatic relations. Just think of the close political contact of the US and the USSR throughout the Cold War, despite their existential ideological battle. You see the point: diplomacy is about interests and therefore mostly blind to ideology.
Why would that be any different with two countries that maintain friendly relations like, say, Germany and Saudi Arabia? Simply because of the sexual orientation of one country’s representative? Should the Saudi foreign minister be criticised at home for shaking the hand of a homosexual, his answer would simply be: do you want to jeopardize trade relations with one of our most important partners?
A statement from an official of the Turkish foreign ministry seems to confirm this. He told the Turkish paper Milliyet that, while there is no rule of protocol in case Westerwelle as German FM would bring his partner, “a middle way will be found”.
As much as I disagree with Westerwelle representing my country from a political point of view, I would love to see his appointment create some cracks the foundation of the alleged Gay/Muslim faultline.