As Angela Merkel’s fourth and final term slowly but surely draws to a close in 2021, the long-serving German chancellor has called to zero in on the European Union, the bloc serving as Germany’s “life insurance", as she says in her typical matter-of-fact tone during a sit-down with the Financial Times.
Europe on Path to Be 'Good Place for Research and Education'.
“Germany is far too small to exert geopolitical influence on its own, and that’s why we need to make use of all the benefits of the single market", Merkel, who for many has personified the European bloc, explains at length, admitting though that President Trump is right about such collective bodies as the World Trade Organisation and the UN being in need of a reshuffle.
Addressing the Brexit repercussions, Merkel still opts for an optimistic tone, contending that Britain’s divorce from the EU is essentially a “wake-up call” for the EU and a motivator for the bloc to become “attractive, innovative, creative, a good place for research and education".
Next, she next touches upon the EU’s digital single market and reforms targeting the banking union – a plan to standardise crisis management and control over European banks, and doubling down on capital markets to integrate Europe’s fragmented equity and debt markets.
Germany, though, she admits, is a tad “hesitant” on a banking union, with the chancellor citing their “principle that everyone first needs to reduce risks in their own country today before we can mutualise them".
Technology and new globally applied digital standards, Merkel says, should become a focal point for Europe’s most burning agenda, with the German head of government jumping at the chance to hail the General Data Protection Regulation as evidence of the EU potentially coming to be viewed as a body making the rules.
Merkel also emphasises the importance of the EU proceeding to fill in its technological gaps.
“I believe that chips should be manufactured in the European Union, that Europe should have its own hyperscalers and that it should be possible to produce battery cells", she says.
‘Sovereignty Over Own Data’
Merkel expresses a “firm belief” that Europe can offer an alternative to both the US and Chinese take on data protection, arguing that “personal data does not belong to the state or to companies".
“It must be ensured that the individual has sovereignty over their own data and can decide with whom and for what purpose they share it", Merkel ascertains.
Europe Slipping Down US List of Priorities
Merkel separately addresses the divisions between Europe, Germany in particular, and the US, stressing the latter’s focus on Europe “is declining” and that it “will be the case under any president” since “President Obama already spoke about the Asian century".
Bringing up the commitments Germany has vowed to fulfil, Merkel insists that NATO and transatlantic ties “remain crucial” for her, particularly “as regards fundamental questions concerning values and interests in the world".
Addressing the importance of boosting military capability, Merkel assumes there may be regions outside NATO’s primary focus where “Europe must, if necessary, be prepared to get involved".
“I see Africa as one example", she says further mentioning the German defence budget's 40-percent increase since 2015, calling it “a huge step from Germany’s perspective".
‘Threat’ Due to Economic Breakthroughs?
Merkel, while singling out transatlantic cooperation, notes Berlin would in no way follow the US in “decoupling” its diverse ties with China. She points out that she would “advise against regarding China as a threat simply because it is "economically successful” while drawing parallels with Germany:
“As was the case in Germany, [China’s] rise is largely based on hard work, creativity, and technical skills,” she says, acknowledging at the same time that there is a need to “ensure that trade relations are fair” without ruining “all interconnected global supply chains . . . because of this economic competition”.
She highlights the importance of competition as a stimulus for a greater share in the market stressing it “is wrong to simply exclude someone per se".
As for the results of her 14-year tenure, Merkel shies away from making judgements, saying she “does her job” without thinking about “her role in history".
When asked about "durchwurschtel", or “muddling through", as critics at times refer to her term, the chancellor, who earlier faced a crisis when she took in 1 million immigrants in 2015, says with visible irritation that the word is not part of her vocabulary.