Merkel focuses on foreign security policy in European Parliament address

Claudia Dalby reports at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed MEPs under the theme of the Future of Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for the creation of a “real, true, European army” and a European security council, in an address to the European Parliament on 13 November. Her speech focused on "solidarity" and "tolerance", words which were repeated often as being “at the soul of Europe.” She spoke on the importance of community and national independence for European countries, but that “solidarity means we have to overcome nationalism and egoism” which “no longer have a tradition in Europe”. Merkel’s statements echo those made by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the week, who said “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism” in front of over 60 heads of state in an armistice commemoration speech on 11 November. Merkel noted that such a European army would be separate from NATO, but that we need to establish a “European Intervention Force so that we can tackle issues on the ground” as the “time that we can rely on others has passed”. The “deep wound” of Brexit was only briefly mentioned, and the focus of her speech was on foreign security policy, digital taxation and immigration policy. “We need a border protection force”, she said on the topic of the migration crisis, adding that Europe is “infringing” on the principle of the Schengen area if a common European asylum policy is not established. Merkel remarked on the “economic and social problem” of climate change, which had been voted on that morning by the Parliament. It made binding an EU-wide renewable energy efficiency target of at least 32% for 2030. The Strasbourg Chamber was rowdy after Merkel’s root for a European-wide military. While the Parliament heard applause at intervals of Merkel's speech, heard in the chamber was a faint but distinct sound of booing, significantly ruffling the audience. Merkel briefly addressed this, saying “This is great, I’m annoying some people”. As her speech ended, a ‘Non-Inscrit’ (meaning a member of party not recognised by the Parliament) MEP held up a banner with the German words of ‘Merkel must leave’. After her speech, representatives from each political party of the parliament were permitted to respond. Following Merkel’s recent announcement that she will step down as Chancellor in 2021, many members used their speaking time to thank her for her leadership, as well as comment or criticise some of her political decisions, such as Germany’s migrant policy, taxation and climate justice. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker echoed Merkel in his address as he has called for a European army in the past. He also addressed the need for Europe to improve its relations with Africa, noting that Europe “depends on Africa” and that “working with Africa is not charity, we need a partnership.” Merkel was the 12th EU leader to address MEPs out of 18 total, as part of a series on the future of Europe in anticipation of the European elections. Ireland has 11 representative MEPs. Vice-President of the European Parliament MEP Mairead McGuiness was in attendance, as well as MEPs Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Séan Kelly. Presidential candidate Liadh Ni Riadha did not attend.