Sunday 22 September 2019

Merkel speaks her mind as race for chancellorship heats up


Speaking her mind: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/Pool via REUTERS
Speaking her mind: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/Pool via REUTERS

Justin Huggler

Angela Merkel's enthusiastic endorsement of France's call for a European army last week has left Germany wondering if her decision to name a date for her departure has freed the notoriously cautious chancellor to speak her mind.

Ms Merkel has spent the past year remorselessly deadbatting all Emmanuel Macron's proposals for European Union reform - to the extent that the French president, who had hoped to put the Franco-German alliance back at the heart of the EU, is said to be deeply frustrated.

But yesterday she backed Mr Macron's call for a European army in a speech to the European parliament even as Donald Trump laid into the French president over it on Twitter.

"The time when we could rely on others is past," she told MEPs. "We have to look at the vision of one day creating a real, true European army."

She appeared rejuvenated at the European parliament, telling MEPs who booed her: "This is great. I'm annoying some people."

Later the same day, she gave an outspoken defence of multilateralism in a speech to German business leaders in Berlin. "At a time when voices who remember the horrors of World War II are dying out, I am worried that the discourse we hear around the world is France first, America first, or Germany first," she said.

"It is only by working together that we were able to leave the horrors of World War II behind us. When we work together we have shown that we can all benefit."

Although she did not mention Mr Trump by name, the target of her remarks was clear. Ms Merkel told Barack Obama she only decided to run for a fourth term as chancellor to counter Mr Trump, according to a book published in the summer.

But since suffering heavy losses in last year's election and scraping back into power, she has been too busy fighting for survival to act as much of a counterweight to the US president on the world stage.

Irish Independent

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