Merkel says Europe must step up as diplomatic player

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made waves on Sunday when she said that the United States and Britain are no longer reliable partners.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump. (File photo)

Europe must step up as a player in world affairs, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday, signalling that the EU needs to take control of its destiny in the era of US President Donald Trump.

"Transatlantic ties are of paramount importance to us ... but the current situation gives more reasons for ... us to take our destiny in our own hands," said Merkel.

Europe must become a player active in international affairs.

Merkel had made waves on Sunday when she told a rally in southern Germany that the United States and Britain may no longer be completely reliable partners.

A day later, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also lashed out at Washington, saying the Trump administration's "short-sighted policies ... stand against the interest of the European Union."

Germany's startling assessment came after Trump's first tour abroad, when he snubbed pressure from G7 allies to sign up to upholding the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The US leader also berated 23 of NATO's 28 members — including Germany — for "still not paying what they should be paying" towards the funding of the alliance.

Despite her dismay at the direction Trump is taking, Merkel was also at pains to underline the importance of US relations.

She dismissed any talk that Germany was shifting away from its old ally and pivoting East, after she hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks and with meetings planned later this week with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Trump lashes out at Germany

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday censured Berlin for the US trade deficit with Germany and reiterated it must pay more for the NATO military alliance.

His comments follows a volley of criticism from Germany after the president concluded his first official tour abroad on Sunday.

"We have a massive trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay far less than they should on NATO & military," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"Very bad for (the) US. This will change."

During his trip, Trump rejected pressure from G7 allies to commit to abiding by the 2015 Paris climate accord and berated 23 of NATO's 28 members — including Germany — for "still not paying what they should be paying" toward the funding of the alliance.

Threatening retaliation

Trump launched a salvo against German car exports to the United States last week, saying that "the Germans are bad, very bad" during a meeting with senior European officials in Brussels, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported.

He had begun attacking Germany and Merkel during his election campaign last year.

In keeping with his nationalist economic agenda, he hit out in particular at Germany's substantial trade surplus with the US, threatening to introduce customs duties in retaliation.

After a frosty meeting with Merkel in Washington in March — which he initially described as "great" — he launched a diatribe the following day, accusing Germany of owing "vast sums of money" to NATO and the United States.

For her part, Merkel had called on Trump after his election to uphold the values of Western democracy following a divisive presidential campaign.

TRTWorld and agencies