"We need to keep acting patiently and sensibly"
In view of the rising numbers of new cases, and the decisions taken by federal and state governments at their meeting on Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on everyone in Germany to take the situation seriously. It is now vital at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic "to explain, to communicate and to reach everybody". She will be working hard to avoid any new nationwide lockdown, she stated. "I urge you all – respect the rules, which will have to be in place for the next while. We are all part of this society - let us take more care again to protect one another," said the Chancellor in her speech during the budget debate in the German Bundestag.
"30 years after reunification – a wonderful anniversary"
"We have achieved a lot," said the Chancellor, in recognition of the 30 years since German reunification. The anniversary is a reason for great joy and gratitude, she said. But reunification is not a process that is complete; it is still a challenge for Germany as a whole and will continue to "demand a great deal of time, effort and financial resources in future".
Responding swiftly and robustly to emergencies
The federal budget bears the mark of efforts to contain the pandemic. In spite of the new borrowing that totals 96.2 billion euros in 2021, efforts will be made to return as swiftly as possible to normal, constitutional budgets, said the Chancellor. The new borrowing is necessary, she stated.
During the crisis, the German government has worked to support companies and relieve the strain on citizens. Angela Merkel pointed to tax breaks, the ceiling on the Renewable Energy Act levy and measures taken to support families as examples. Billions of euros have been provided for fields that will be essential for Germany’s future, including artificial intelligence, and quantum and communication technology. The administration is to be digitalised and new education platforms put in place for schools. We must make a huge joint effort for our children, said the Chancellor.
Common climate action in Europe
By the end of the year, the German government aims to achieve agreement at European level on a more ambitious climate target for 2030. Germany supports the proposal of the European Commission that emissions of greenhouse gases be reduced by a minimum of 55 per cent of the 1990 levels by the end of the decade. Before Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union comes to a close at the end of the year, a unanimous decision of all EU member states is to be reached on this issue.
Addressing international challenges together
The international community is facing more demanding challenges, that can only be addressed together. "It is important that we stand up to re-nationalisation and protectionist trends. We can do little if we stand alone. The time of Europe has come, in my view," said the Chancellor.
A great deal of progress has been made on the EU’s trade talks with China. Germany’s Presidency will continue to work for fair terms of trade with China and for cooperation on climate action. At the same time, the EU will be demanding that human rights and freedom of expression be respected.
Angela Merkel praised the opposition in Belarus, and made particular mention of the role of women. She announced that she is soon to meet with opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Germany does not recognise the election of Alexander Lukashenko. From Russia, she demanded the transparent and complete investigation of the attack on Alexei Navalny.
Warning of the need for progress on the EU’s pact on migration and asylum
Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned of the need for progress on the EU’s pact on migration and asylum. "In the long term, if we cannot find a common basis among member states on the question of migration, it will impact severely on the ability of the European Union to act." Angela Merkel expressed her support for plans for a refugee centre on Lesbos, where responsibility would be shared by the EU and Greece.
In her speech Angela Merkel described relations with Turkey as complex, and demanded that these be constantly re-appraised. The country is, after all, doing a remarkable job in taking in and housing refugees.