On 13 November, German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the European Parliament, joining the debate on the future of Europe that the European Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker initiated following the United Kingdom’s decision to secede from the community.
This came despite her recent announcement that she would not seek re-election or any political post after the current term, which some had suggested could diminish the importance of the speech. „She is still the Chancellor”, Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan had to remind in her defence the day before the speech, assuring that the deputies would „all be interested in her views on the future of Europe” and that she “absolutely still has influence”.
Merkel’s speech initially focused on the importance of values such as the rule of law and she mostly remained faithful to her earlier statements, which could be seen as a soft criticism of Poland and Hungary. She however also alluded to the tug of war between Brussels and Rome over Italy’s excessive budget project, asserting that Europe can only operate when its laws are applied. “Our common currency can only work properly when each individual member shares the responsibility”, she warned, adding that jeopardising the “European agreement” on one issue actually undermines more policy areas.
The Chancellor gave some attention to solidarity and called Europeans to express it in tackling the migration crisis and in combat against the climate change. “Solidarity means we have to overcome national egoism”, she reminded, stressing that it does not contradict looking after one’s own interest – “Quite the contrary” – she stated, hailing the benefits of finding common solutions for common tasks.
The “Queen of Europe” then went on to dwell on her vision of foreign policy, sharing a belief that Europeans can only defend their values and interests when working together. “The times when Europe could rely on others are past”, she declared, once more repeating that Europeans should take their future into their own hands. She however refused to limit herself to usual vague language and subtle opinions, explicitly calling for creation of a unified military for the Union instead.
“A common European Army would show the world that there will never again be war in Europe”, she quoted Jean-Claude Juncker, immediately clarifying that such an army would not be created against NATO, but rather as a supplement to the pact. These statements caused unusual uproar and applause in the chamber and the Chancellor had to stop every few sentences.
A divisive debate is likely to follow.
Photo: European Parliament in Strasbourg by Diliff via Wikimedia Commons, source, (CC BY-SA 3.0)