The Strategist

Germany: We should wean Europe off the US

05/31/2017 - 14:38

Foreign Minister Zigmar Gabriel is skeptical about American-European relations. Nevertheless, the German Federal Government stressed the importance of transatlantic relations on Monday. Despite this, the EU has to restart to gain more independence.

The White House via flickr
The White House via flickr
America had been a bright ideal for Merkel once. Now, however, she declared the end of a reliable relationship between the US and Europe. The words spoken at the weekend are noteworthy for Merkel, who never loses control over her words, the more so those close to her at the beginning of her tenure saw her as a "transatlantic romantic".

"We Europeans really need to take their destiny into their own hands", Merkel said during a meeting with CSU head Horst Seehofer. One way or another, Merkel has repeatedly told it in relation to Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory. What was unexpected is that she added: "Gone are the days in which we could rely completely on others, I realized this recently".

These words sounded at the failed G7 summit. The "Big Seven" is a group of states with developed industry, about which Merkel always said that they have common values first of all. It will be the first time for the circle of these friendly states, when disagreements should be openly mentioned. Trump, who doubts climate change, did not want to speak out on the Paris agreement. In addition, this week he is going to inform the world whether he will come out of a global agreement on joint climate protection.

"Deeply shaken"

The fact that the German Chancellor does not have more patience on Trump was taken with great attention by the world. Many European commentators consider this to be the end of the Trans-Atlantic alliance. Opponents of Trump in the United States said that it was he who was to blame, while his supporters berated the "unwisdom" of Merkel. The French newspaper Le Monde said that Germany is really "deeply shocked" because it has always been betting on Americans and Britons.

The federal government tried to counter-balance the impression that Merkel turned her back on transatlantic relations. It's right to openly name the differences precisely because they are so important, said Steffen Seibert, a government official. He called Merkel "a deeply committed supporter of the Transatlantic Union".

The CDU expert Norbert Röttgen stressed the need for transatlantic relations in the Trump era. There is a deep convergence of values and interests between the US and Europe, Röttgen said. "Trump is not the United States at large; he is only acting President now." Like Merkel, Röttgen relies on Europeans' greater autonomy: "We must bring more European unity, more will and ability to act in this alliance - and above all, Germany must do this, because we occupy a special place in Europe, which implies a special responsibility". He described efforts to maintain peace in the Middle East as a possible joint transatlantic project. "The Europeans must prepare a proposal here."

Foreign Minister Zigmar Gabriel (SPD) is more skeptical about the US-European relations. "Anyone who accelerates climate change without paying enough attention to environmental protection, who sells more and more weapons to zones of military conflicts and does not want to politically solve religious conflicts, threatens peace in Europe", Gabriel told Rheinische Post. The short-sighted policy of the American government is contrary to the interests of the European Union. "The Trump administration wants to abolish the agreement on climate protection, supply weapons to crisis regions and prohibit entry to people who hold certain religious beliefs", Gabriel said. - If we, Europeans, do not strongly oppose this today, the flows of migrants to Europe will continue to increase. Anyone who does not oppose such a US policy will become an accomplice, "he explained.

This is by no means the first step towards independence, which Germany is taking towards its so-called "older brother" of the United States. In 2002, during the election campaign, then-Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said "No" to the war in Iraq.

There are signs in the European Union that also indicate an increase in autonomy. Representatives of Germany in the European Parliament especially insist on raising the level of collective security within the EU. "For decades, the US has subsidized our stability, we are accustomed to relying on the fact that, in a serious case, they will pull our chestnuts out of the fire", said Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, vice-president of the parliament.

These times have passed. Now Europe must turn from a consumer into a producer of stability. Head of the European People's Party in the Parliament, Manfred Weber (CSU - CSU), agrees. "Europe should be able to protect itself in the future", Weber stressed. "We Europeans have been resting on the Americans' chest for too long. We must become so strong in the military sphere that no one can become a challenge for us. "Times when Europe could rely on the protection of the United States, have passed, he said.