Populism, Russian election-meddling, Chinese economic power: the list of challenges facing the EU is long, says the German chancellor. In a wide-ranging interview, she set out what Europe needs to do to survive.
The European Union urgently and “without a doubt, needs to reposition itself in a changing world,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview with daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
“Our achievement of longterm peace is in danger … if we don’t manage to define and justify Europe for the future,” Merkel said. “China, Russia and the US are forcing us, time and again, to find common positions.”
Her impassioned plea for Europe comes ahead of the EU parliamentary elections, which take place across the bloc from May 23 to 26.
Asked about the rise of populism in Europe, she said that “it is indeed a time where we have to fight for our principles and fundamental values.” She said it was up to “each and everyone of us to treat with care this unique structure that we call the EU.”
Compromising and being able “to walk in someone else’s shoes” were key, she said.
Here’s what else Merkel said:
On Franco-German cooperation: “We do have scuffles, and we are different characters. We also have different ideas about our roles at times, it’s always been that way.” But she stressed that France and Germany are still able to compromise. “That’s how we achieve things for Europe.”
Often seen as the linchpin of European unity, the friendship between France and Germany has been tested many times, most recently with French President Emmanuel Macron’s fervent push for EU reforms being met by what many see as a reluctant German chancellor.
On the environment: Merkel insists her government has not underestimated climate change but admitted there was more to be done. She said it was legitimate for the students taking part in the Fridays for Future protests “to raise the pressure” and admitted that there was “a lack of political will globally” to push for progress.
On Brexit: Asked whether the EU was inclined to grant Britain an extension to the Brexit deadlinebeyond October 31, Merkel did not want to commit but said that “in order to complete the UK’s exit [from the EU] there would have to be a parliamentary majority for something in London, not just against something.”