Sunday

3rd Jul 2022

Merkel: EU needs Britain in order to reform

  • Britain should not get its hopes too high about Germany's support for EU opt-outs, said Merkel (Photo: gov.uk)

Chancellor Angela Merkel, the first German leader to address the British Parliament in almost 30 years, made a strong case for why the EU "needs" the UK on Thursday (27 February).

Both the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron and, reportedly, the Labour opposition party, are envisaging a referendum on British EU membership if they win elections next year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice in the EU," Merkel said in English.

After having liberated the continent from Nazi rule, Britain "does not need to bring proof of its commitment to Europe and freedom," she added.

She thanked the 1.7 million British servicemen who served in Germany and said her country was "grateful" to Britain for trusting in German democracy after the horrors of the Second World War.

"We owe it to Churchill, de Gaulle, Adenauer that conflicts of interest nowadays are resolved at table, not on the battlefields," Merkel said, referring to Europe's wartime and post-war leaders.

But with all the focus on what unites Germany and Britain, ranging from foreign policy to EU budget cuts, Merkel from the very outset downplayed expectations raised by British politicians that she will back Cameron's push a complete overhaul of the EU.

"Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment," she said.

"Others are expecting the exact opposite, that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be disappointed as well."

EU reform, yes, but "step by step," not in "great leaps," the Chancellor noted, switching again to English and quoting from the speech of German President Richard von Weizsaecker, who spoke in the British Parliament in 1987.

On freedom of movement - a thorny issue for Cameron who seeks to curb the access of people from other EU countries to social benefits - Merkel said it was "one of the greatest achievements" of the European project.

"But it is also true that in order to maintain this and gain the acceptance of our citizens, we need to muster the courage to point out the mistakes and tackle them," she noted.

She did not shy away from pointing at the financial sector and its responsibility for the euro-crisis.

"Never again should taxpayers have to pay for the mistakes of banks and financial institutions. The financial industry has a responsibility for the common good. I say that on purpose here in London, because the City of London is of great importance for the European financial market and for the economy of all EU countries," the Chancellor said.

MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship

Two MEPs have withdrawn their nominations from the MEPs Awards over the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis's participation as a sponsor — currently involved in an alleged bribery scandal in Greece.

EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Interpreters at the European Parliament are fed up with remote interpretation, citing auditory health issues given the poor quality of the online sessions.

Opinion

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us