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Government statement

Europe should give a united response

In the run-up to the EU Council, the Chancellor called for solidarity in European immigration and asylum policy. In addition, she appealed for strengthening of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. Another key topic at the summit will be strengthening the economic and monetary union.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel spricht im Deutschen Bundestag. Mit Blick auf Migration und Asyl warb Merkel für solidarisches Handeln der Mitgliedsstaaten. Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel also reminded of the reference to Europe in the German Constitution: The commitment is "to promote world peace ... in a united Europe," said Merkel, and emphasised: "This tradition is what we stand for."

Tackle global challenges in solidarity

The topics of the European Council - the future of the economic and monetary union, innovation and digitalisation, competitiveness, the multiannual financial framework from 2021, foreign and security policy, migration - relate to all the major global challenges of our time: "And for all major global challenges, Europe should preferably give a united response," said Merkel. The Chancellor also expressed her gratitude for the fruitful cooperation in developing the "good Franco-German agenda" for the Council.

"This is about a strong economic and monetary union," Merkel said. "The Euro is now stable, the programmes are completed, and the countries have become more competitive," summarised the Chancellor, referring in particular to Greece. This has been a good effort and example of European solidarity - "in our own interests" according to Merkel.

However, reform is still needed for the economic and monetary union. Merkel highlighted the key areas of work for the 19 Euro member states and other interested countries:

• The further reduction of risks in the banking sector. Only then should a common safety net be developed.
• The further development of the ESM into a "kind of European monetary fund". Only through independent monitoring of programmes can there be more independence from the International Monetary Fund.
• A new investment budget to strengthen the joint European currency. This budget should harmonise the competitiveness of countries which share a currency. It could come into effect from 2021 - parallel to the multiannual financial framework. "In doing so, the performance of the best should be the benchmark, and not the average of all countries," said Merkel. Every member state remains responsible for its own budget. "Liability and control go together", there would not be a debt union, Merkel said.

The joint European foreign policy should be more coherent and more effective. Regarding possible US punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium, Merkel expressed the need for a united approach: “We consider the tariffs imposed by the United States to be unlawful," but at the same time she called for continuing the dialogue with the United States.

"Coalition of the willing" on asylum policy

With regard to migration and asylum, Merkel campaigned for member states to act in solidarity: "We are not yet where we want to be," Merkel admitted. Although the common European asylum system is not yet finalised, the Chancellor pointed out the joint successes: On five of the seven necessary legal acts on the common asylum policy, the member states are largely in agreement.

However, on two legal acts there is still need for discussion: for the Asylum Procedures Directive, it is about the "same standards for granting asylum in all member states". The second topic requiring discussion is the so-called Dublin IV Regulation, which includes the joint distribution of refugees in the member states.

European measures are working

Merkel pointed to the possibility of also making legal arrangements between states on asylum policies. “We have positive experience with this," said the Chancellor, and gave the declaration of western Balkan states as safe countries of origin as an example. In this context, she also reminded of joint European successes in asylum and immigration policy: The number of incoming refugees has decreased significantly, the situation has changed for the better. The Chancellor referred to the decline in arrivals by boat in the Aegean Sea of 97 percent since 2015, as well as in the central Mediterranean of 77 percent compared to the same period last year.

This underlines the effectiveness of the joint European efforts. As an example, Merkel cited:

• The EU-Turkey Agreement: "In many respects it serves as a model agreement."
• The Sophia mission to rescue people in distress at sea and to train the Libyan coast guard.
• The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. This is not yet adequately equipped. But it is working and must be developed further into a "real European border police".

In Germany too, the asylum figures have decreased, summed up Merkel, and referred to joint measures from the coalition agreement, including those on family reunification for subsidiary protection and "anchor centres" (one-stop asylum-seeker processing centres).

At the EU summit the key issue is the "external dimension" of migration. "We need to talk with African states." The other issue is to better organise and manage secondary migration. If rules cannot be agreed between all 28 member states, then a "coalition of willing countries" is required. But this may not take place unilaterally, without consultation, or at the expense of third parties, but rather in discussion with partners, said the Chancellor.

Commitment to NATO

On the future of NATO, the Chancellor emphasised: "We are convinced that this alliance is central to our common security."

She underlined Germany’s will to approach the goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024. According to the Chancellor - also in the European framework - the fundamental question of defence expenditure is about “not more or less than the future receipt of transatlantic alliance”.

The budgets for 2018 and 2019 already include a significant increase in expenditure for the defence budget, so that Germany can achieve a ratio of 1.5 percent by 2024. At the next NATO summit, there are further changes on the agenda. In addition to a further increase in operational readiness, the formation of two new commands will be decided - one of them in Germany.

According to the Chancellor, there is also agreement with the NATO Secretary General on the desired continuation of the two-pronged approach towards Russia. In addition, cooperation between the EU and NATO will be intensified.

Jun 28, 2018