Tuesday

25th Apr 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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.

European right divided on EU values after Brexit

A day after the UK notified its exit from the EU, leaders of the European People's Party expressed a different vision of Europe's identity, with Hungary's Orban calling for a stop to the Muslim "invasion".

Tusk dragged into 'political' spy probe

EU Council chief appeared as witness in a Russian spy probe in Warsaw amid increasingly toxic political climate in one of the Union's largest states.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  2. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  3. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference
  4. Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years
  5. Nord Stream 2 to get €4.8bn from European energy firms
  6. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  7. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  8. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children