In her much-anticipated address to both Houses of British Parliament on Thursday German Chancellor Angela Merkel placed emphasis on the primacy of a “strong and competitive,” European Union as determining the strength of ties between the United Kingdom and Germany.
She also recognized the need for reform in the EU — an obvious reference to Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to initiate EU treaty changes before a promised in/ out referendum in 2017 on Britain’s EU membership — but only from within the EU; in other words, if the U.K. remained a “strong voice” within the EU.
“If we have that, we will be able to make the necessary changes for the future,” she said.
Ms. Merkel posed the argument sharply. “Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment.”
“Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed.”
Ms. Merkel’s response to Mr. Cameron’s plea for EU treaty changes is markedly different in both content and style from that of French President Francoise Hollande, who recently told Mr. Cameron in no uncertain terms that France would not support Mr. Cameron’s ideas on EU reform.
The German Chancellor, who first spoke in English and then in German, stressed the many gains of forming the EU — war between EU member states was now “inconceivable”, the “unparalleled success”, and the many other freedoms that European integration had delivered.
Ms. Merkel’s opening remarks were, significantly, on remembering those who died in the two world wars, and Germany’s role in both.
Acknowledging that it was a “special year” for Britain “to remember your dead, your losses and the untold suffering that Germany brought to you through those wars,” Ms. Merkel added, “As a German I bow my head to the victims of these horrible wars.”