Angela Merkel on Europe 'We Are All in the Same Boat'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands behind a window with the reflection of an EU flag on Monday, June 3.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands behind a window with the reflection of an EU flag on Monday, June 3.

Part 2: Merkel Addresses the Euro Hawk Scandal and Arms Exports

SPIEGEL: Then let's examine your plan. Should the European Commission become a sort of European government?

Merkel: In some areas, such as agricultural policy, the national governments are already hardly capable of making decisions on their own today. At this point, I see no need to transfer even more rights to the Commission in Brussels in the coming years. Instead, French President François Hollande and I want to see improved coordination in the areas of policy that are critical to strengthening our competitiveness. We are referring, for example, to labor market and pension policy, as well as to fiscal and social policy. Economic coordination in Europe is far too weak and has to be strengthened, which is not the same thing as giving more authority to Brussels.

SPIEGEL: Are you in favor of having the president of the European Commission elected directly by the people?

Merkel: I'm cautious in this regard, even though I know that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) adopted a resolution to that effect at its convention. A Commission president elected directly by the people would have to be provided with a completely different level of power than is the case today. This, in turn, would throw the entire structure of the EU out of balance. The European Parliament and the European Council should be jointly responsible for the election of the president.

SPIEGEL: That's already the case today. Why shouldn't the parliament decide on its own who should lead the Commission? Because it would deprive you of power?

Merkel: It's true that this is already the case today, and I don't want to change that, either. I believe that it is beneficial to the balance among all institutions for the heads of state and government to play a role in this decision, as well.

SPIEGEL: If we take democracy seriously, we ought to say: the sovereign decides. And the sovereign is the parliament.

Merkel: Because I want the Commission president to be given a coordinating function over the policies of the national governments, I think it's essential that the national heads of state and government have a voice in his or her appointment.

SPIEGEL: But that's precisely where the democracy deficit in the EU lies. Citizens are supposed to do their part and participate in the European elections, but in the end the parliament doesn't even have the power to decide whom to appoint to head the Commission.

Merkel: You greatly underestimate the European Parliament. It has considerable power, as we are now witnessing in the debate over the EU's financial framework for the coming years. A proposal by the Council is needed, but so is the parliament's approval. At some point, it might make sense to give the parliament the authority to introduce bills, but right now I don't think it's a good idea for us to spend our time on theoretical discussions about what the European structures will look like in 10 or 15 years. The citizens of Europe and me face far more pressing issues. These include which products and services we intend to produce as our contribution to world growth, how we want to earn our money in the future, how we can simplify the process of starting a company, thereby generating jobs, and how we can ensure that all countries -- as was in fact agreed upon 10 years ago -- will finally spend 3 percent of their gross domestic product on research, and much more. Once we have answered these questions, we will also learn how the EU institutions work most effectively.

SPIEGEL: But the frustration over a non-transparent EU is also affecting you. A party like the new euro-skeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) wouldn't exist if people were satisfied with the EU.

Merkel: There are many parties in Germany, founded for the most varied of reasons and with a wide range of goals. The Pirate Party is an example we've witnessed in this legislative period, and the Green Party is one we've seen in the past.

SPIEGEL: That sounds as if you were taking the AfD very seriously.

Merkel: I devote my efforts to making the right decisions for our country, and it's been my experienced that this is what convinces people.

SPIEGEL: Will the Bundeswehr become part of a European armed force one day?

Merkel: Our armed forces are controlled by the parliament. The parliamentary restriction lends stability to our decisions, but it also requires different decision-making processes than in other European countries.

SPIEGEL: So a joint armed force is unlikely?

Merkel: That's right, because completely different issues will be at stake in the foreseeable future. Partly because of limited financial means, we will have to cooperate a lot more militarily. We have to dovetail NATO and the European security and defense policy more effectively and achieve a true division of labor on issues of defense, but that too will not be easy, because, of course, the defense industries in the individual countries are competitors.

SPIEGEL: If you are asked at a party gathering why your administration is wasting more than half a billion euros on the Euro Hawk surveillance drone, which apparently doesn't work, how do you respond?

Merkel: The defense minister has announced that he plans to submit an extensive report this week on the project since it began more than 10 years ago. I won't anticipate that report. We have already seen, with some defense projects as well as major civil projects, that timetables and cost estimates are evaluated differently at the end than at the beginning. In general, we have to improve the ability to plan major projects.

SPIEGEL: It wasn't just that the Euro Hawk turned out to be more expensive than planned, though. In the end, it emerged that it was completely unusable.

Merkel: I'm not going to anticipate the defense minister's report.

SPIEGEL: Are you pleased with Thomas de Maizière's management of the crisis?

Merkel: Thomas de Maizière is taking the time necessary to provide the Bundestag with the most comprehensive summary of the situation possible. Besides, it won't be much longer before he submits his report.

SPIEGEL: The most controversial part of your foreign policy is the delivery of weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Why are Arab potentates getting German tanks?

Merkel: When it comes to export licenses for weapons, we adhere to precisely the same principles that guided early German administrations, and they too approved shipments to Arab countries. Of course, we have always known that most of these countries are not democracies, but we also know that they are important partners for Germany and the EU on a large number of regional and international issues, such as the fight against international terrorism. We always evaluate these issues on a case-by-case basis and consider all aspects. In addition, we have a commitment to a few countries…

SPIEGEL: …to supply weapons?

Merkel: We have a commitment to provide some countries and regions, in Africa, for example, with training missions so that they will be able to assume responsibility to cope with potential conflicts on their own. This also includes the discussion of arms issues.

SPIEGEL: You seem to have a clean conscience on this issue. Why then do you make these decisions behind closed doors, in the secret Federal Security Council? Why don't you provide more transparency?

Merkel: There are good reasons for our long-standing policy of meeting secretly in the Federal Security Council, especially in terms of our foreign policy as it relates to our partners. Moreover, before we reach a final decision, we have to account for the understandable business interests of the companies involved. We cannot publicize every inquiry before a final decision has been reached. To establish the necessary transparency nonetheless, it has been a tradition for decades to present a detailed arms export report to the parliament and then to the public once a year. Many now feel that once a year isn't enough, and that such information should be presented earlier and more often. In the next legislative period, I am willing to discuss whether final decisions should be published shortly after they have been reached. Besides, when lawmakers submit inquiries on these matters, we already inform them directly about final decisions by responding to their questions.

SPIEGEL: Your foreign minister has proposed the creation of a secret committee in the Bundestag that would then have to be informed in a timely manner.

Merkel: At the moment, this type of information is provided without a secret committee. But as I mentioned, in the next legislative period I will be willing to discuss the possibility of reporting on arms exports more frequently than once a year in the future, while at the same time continuing to make allowances for matters of foreign policy as well as the concerns of companies.

SPIEGEL: Chancellor Merkel, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by René Pfister, Martin Doerry and Konstantin von Hammerstein. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

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euroisnotonlygerman 06/04/2013
1. Pax germanica? No thanks!
Are the southern europeans homeless a side effect of the new pax germanica? Yes that is for sure. will we forget it? No, we will never forget it. When Germany needed help all the world have contributed and what is the result: indifference! Each passing day the German image is sinking and no Europeans want to live on this domain so hideously marked by History. You can keep talking, but your acts will be the ones to endure in History. The balance is inevitable in everything in life and balance in Europe will come when Europeans feel that this country will have no more to do with the rest of Europe, once more for the third time...
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