German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she remains a “committed trans-Atlanticist” who wants strong ties with the US, even as she renewed her warning that reliable relations with her country’s closest post-World War II ally may be a thing of the past.
Following global reaction to comments she made Sunday, Merkel stood her ground for a second day, saying it was good that last week’s Group of Seven summit “didn’t paper over” a clash on climate change that pitted President Donald Trump against the other six leaders.
“The last few days have also shown me that the times when we could completely rely on others are to some extent over,” Merkel said in a speech at a climate conference in Berlin on Monday, echoing her language of the day before. “We are and remain close partners,” she said of the US and Germany, “but we also know that we Europeans really must take our destiny into our own hands.”
Merkel’s comments underscore a creeping geopolitical shift after G-7 leaders failed to convince Trump to stand by the global Paris climate accord. NATO leaders who were confident they had agreed with the US on a commitment to burden-sharing found themselves on the receiving end of the president’s ire at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.
The political gulf across the Atlantic is giving Merkel an opening to strengthen the European Union ahead of Brexit and to boost her stature as she runs for a fourth term. Her comments in Munich came at a party rally of her Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, where she projected herself as a force of stability in an increasingly unreliable world.
Merkel will have more opportunities to take the world stage and act as a counterweight to the U.S. as she prepares to host a Group of 20 summit in Hamburg in July. She received Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, will host his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, on Thursday, and is looking to reinvigorate German-French ties with Emmanuel Macron.
Trump’s run-ins with Merkel at the back-to-back summits injected the US president into the German campaign ahead of the country’s Sept. 24 election. Merkel’s Social Democratic challenger, Martin Schulz, accused Trump of “political blackmail” in an op-ed piece for Tagesspiegel newspaper on Monday.
“The new US president doesn’t rely on international cooperation, but rather isolationism and the apparent right of the strong,” Schulz wrote.
At the climate conference in Berlin, Merkel reiterated that the G-7 discord over the Paris agreement was “very unsatisfying,” but said that six of the seven global powers “expressed their firm decisiveness to support and implement” the accord.
Faced with a more unpredictable world, Europeans may now “move closer together and address what has been missing for so long, namely institutional reform and a way forward for the European Union, and the euro zone in particular,” Burkhard Varnholt, Credit Suisse Group’s deputy chief investment officer, said in a television interview.