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General debate in the German Bundestag

Getting others involved - in Germany's own best interests

Digitalisation and the question as to how Germany can master the challenges posed by a globalised world in the 21st century – those were the main focuses of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech in the German Bundestag. She also expressed her confidence that agreement could be reached on Brexit at the European Council meeting on Sunday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during the general budget debate in the German Bundestag. In the German Bundestag, the Chancellor said that it is important to resolve displacement and migration "in the international context and not to believe that any one country can go it alone" Photo: Bundesregierung/Steins

"Digitalisation is going to bring radical changes to every aspect of our lives," said Chancellor Angela Merkel. Time, she said, is of the essence, because Germany faces major competition at global level. It is crucial to ensure that people are at the heart of digital transformation rather than allowing people to be ruled by technology. The issue of "data ethics" is also pivotal, and more reflection is needed on this point.

Germany’s digital infrastructure is still not satisfactory, but the country is on the right road, she reported. By the end of 2019, 98 per cent of households should have a fast internet connection.

The German government will also be investing in artificial intelligence. Germany has ground to make good in this area. "We want to be one of the leaders again in all areas," said Angela Merkel. The German government will support private companies’ further training activities.

The Chancellor also pointed to the planned online citizens’ portal. In future, citizens are to be able to deal with over 500 different matters online. As of 2019, they will be able to deal with the first 100 administrative processes within the remit of the federal government online, and as of 2022 the system will be expanded to offer the other 400 – for instance changing the registration details of a motor vehicle. 

Coping with displacement and migration at global level

Angela Merkel also voiced her support for two multilateral agreements during the general debate in the German Bundestag: the United Nations Global Compact for Migration and the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees. These two agreement are "the right attempt to provide a response to global problems by working together at international level," declared the Chancellor.

When the wave of migrants arrived in Germany in 2015, it became clear that Germany cannot distance itself from the suffering of the people in the countries around Europe. Like so many others, the Chancellor admitted, the German government had done too little for the refugee camps in Jordan and Yemen, which was one of the reasons why the people set off for Europe.

Since then efforts have focused on finding a solution to this global problem. No country can go it alone. That is why it is in the national interest to address displacement and migration in the international context.

The Chancellor concluded, "Either we are one of the nations which believe they can resolve everything alone and think only of themselves. That is nationalism in its purest form. That is not patriotism. Patriotism is about getting others involved, in Germany’s own best interests, and accepting a win-win situation."

"We want to remain good friends and partners "

The withdrawal agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom could be finalised by the European Council meeting on Sunday, said the Chancellor. Until the end of negotiations one of the sticking points has been the Irish border issue, the question of the form of the future border between the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member state, and Northern Ireland which is part of the UK. "We attach great importance to ensuring that the UK cannot decide alone when the customs union comes to an end," said Angela Merkel.

At the same time she declared the importance of maintaining good relations with the United Kingdom after Brexit. This is in the "elemental interests" of the EU and of Germany, she said. On Sunday, the EU leaders hope to adopt the terms and conditions for Brexit when they meet.

Of the overall spending of the German federal government in 2019, put at 356.4 billion euros, a total of 3.24 billion euros is earmarked for the Federal Chancellery. The Chancellor’s budget speech is traditionally a chance to provide a round-up of the policies of the government.

Nov 21, 2018