Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) Speaking on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called for independent action by the EU.
‘Only when the European Union defines its own interests, as well as projects its power, can it survive,’ said Gabriel, warning that the continent was viewed as prosperous but weak. ‘Germany can no longer simply react to US policy but must establish its own position… even after Trump leaves the White House, relations with the US will never be the same,’ he added.
He was speaking at the annual Berlin Foreign Policy Forum organized by the Körber Foundation.
His speech echoed remarks by Chancellor Angela Merkel following the G7 in May where she said ‘We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands, of course in friendship with the United States, in friendship with Great Britain, with good neighborly relations wherever possible, also with Russia and other countries – but we have to know that we have to fight for our future and our fate ourselves as Europeans.’
In a wide-ranging speech, the Minister identified three areas of conflict with the United States, the Nord stream 2 pipeline, the unravelling of the nuclear agreement with Iran and now finally the question of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel without consulting its allies.
The US has been weighing moving its embassy to Jerusalem for twenty years. The Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed in 1995, but it has been waived every six months by US presidents since then.
Gabriel accused the US of ‘no longer seeing the world as a global community, but as an arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage.’
The background to the speech by the Foreign Minister was an opinion poll revealing that Trump's election has impacted trust in the transatlantic alliance, with only 43 percent of Germans now viewing Washington as Berlin's most important foreign partner, down from 60 percent a year ago,
He urged Europe to define and defend its own interests, warning that Washington's retreat from the world stage will continue even after Donald Trump's presidency.
‘The current withdrawal of the US under Donald Trump from its role as the reliable guarantor of western multilateralism is accelerating a change in the world order and has direct consequences on the perception of German and European interests,’ Gabriel said.
He said that the current US administration had taken an ‘extraordinary distance’ from its traditionally close relationship with Europe, which it now increasingly viewed as a ‘competitor’ or even an ‘economic rival’ rather than an ally.
Urging Europe not to sit back and wait but take its fate into its own hands, Gabriel warned that the ‘US withdrawal is not just about one single president, it won't change fundamentally with the next election’.
‘That's why there is no doubt that Germany and Europe, given this situation, need to take on more than before," he told a foreign policy congress in Berlin, adding ‘to speak frankly that’s a risk’ because Europe would no longer be able to blame America for things that go wrong.
French President Emmanuel Macron's election was a ‘a stroke of luck’ he said because he had understood EU's decline and had ideas on how to reform it, said the foreign minister.
‘That must be at the center of government policies,’ he continued, at a time when Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and Gabriel's Social Democrats are eyeing a potential new coalition government.
The foreign minister also said that he sees Germany and France as being the two driving forces in Europe. He added that he would like to see the French ‘become a bit more German” in financial matters, and Germany to “become more French in security matters.’
Trump's election has damaged trust in the transatlantic alliance, with only 43 percent of Germans now viewing Washington as Berlin's most important foreign partner, down from 60 percent a year ago, according to the opinion poll presented at the congress.
By comparison, France was seen by 63 percent Germans as the most important foreign partner, up from 60 percent 12 months ago.
The SPD Foreign Minister delivered a speech that was heavily tinged with pro-European thinking regarding the need for greater EU integration. It is highly likely that Chancellor Merkel will have difficulty convincing her own CDU party and their CSU allies of this. They are currently hemorrhaging votes to the AfD anti-Europeans and the FDP free market party.