Europe can make a difference in the world

WDR’s Europaforum Europe can make a difference in the world

"Emancipation in the context of crises" was the motto of this year’s WDR Europaforum. In an interview, Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke about the role of the EU in the world, and other topical challenges in the field of European policy. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Andreas Cichowicz, editor-in-chief at Norddeutscher Rundfunk, can be seen on two screens during their online discussion.

At WDR’s Europaforum, Chancellor Angela Merkel engaged in discussion with NDR editor-in-chief Andreas Cichowicz.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

The Chancellor’s discussion with the ARD journalists Andreas Cichowitz and Tina Hassel at the WDR Europaforum revolved around the role that the EU plays in the world. The EU aims to become more active and more independent on the international stage, but in the recent flare-up of the Middle East crisis, EU foreign affairs ministers were unable to agree on a common declaration. Hungary declined to join the other nations in supporting the declaration.

Unresolved problems are an incentive to keep working

The Chancellor declared that Europe cannot resolve all the conflicts in the world on its own. The Middle East conflict, in particular, is one of the “most complex”. “There is light and shadow and a great many unresolved problems. But that is an incentive to keep working.”

Nevertheless, the Chancellor sees examples of how Europe can make a difference – on Libya for instance. This was a case where the EU largely manged to identify a common European position. “We are a long way from having a situation that is resolved, but there is an interim government in place that is to prepare to hold elections.” The EU has also shouldered responsibility elsewhere in Africa, she said, particularly in the Sahel.

Greater EU competence in the health sector

Looking to the future, Angela Merkel believes it is right that a Conference on the Future of Europe has now begun. 

With regard to the pandemic, the Chancellor declared that the EU must be one unit that can change its treaty where this proves necessary. The pandemic has shown us that certain aspects of health policy can only be resolved at European level. Just because health is a matter of national competence for member states, and the treaties as they stand do not provide for any communitarisation, we cannot say that “certain aspects of health policy can never be communitarised”. 

Recovery fund the right response to the pandemic

Under Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the recovery fund was created. Chancellor Angela Merkel re-affirmed that this was the right response during the pandemic, and in the face of the economic consequences of the pandemic. 

The pandemic, she declared, cannot be compared to the euro crisis. During the euro crisis, for cohesion it was right to make the euro zone more uniform while putting in place crisis response instruments “that made us more resilient to actions on the international financial markets”. That was a difficult time for many member states.

During the pandemic, by contrast, countries like Portugal, Spain and Greece, that had just implemented their reforms, were hit through no fault of their own. “Common action was called for. And that is why the German side also took this unusual step.” We supported the idea of the EU borrowing and of setting up the recovery fund together. 

Close relations with France

The interview also looked at Franco-German friendship. Germany and France are the closest friends and partners, stressed the Chancellor. 

Franco-German friendship, however, is also unique in that “we are constantly forging common approaches from different viewpoints, different cultural backgrounds and different constitutional structures”. That is the good thing about it. And during this parliamentary term, she pointed out, this is an area in which particular progress has been made – the Treaty of Aachen has renewed and modernised the Elysée Treaty.

“Emancipation in the context of crises – Europe’s road to greater independence”  was the motto of the 23rd WDR Europaforum. Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed challenges in the field of European policy in the face of the pandemic with Tina Hassel, who heads ARD’s Berlin Studio, and NDR editor-in-chief Andreas Cichowicz.