Closing borders is not an option
"In the 21st century, closing borders is not a sensible option," said Chancellor Angela Merkel in her government statement to the German Bundestag. No country can go it alone against international economic competitors, in the refugee crisis, or in the fight against terrorism. "That is why, in these difficult times above all, we must resist the temptation to revert to acting as nation states."
Open borders within the EU and a common European currency are two of the most important European achievements, and Germany benefits in particular from these. We must retain them and protect them, said the Chancellor.
Solidarity with France – the fight against IS
Angela Merkel recalled the dreadful terrorist attacks in Paris. "After the abhorrent attacks in Paris it is only natural that we stand firmly shoulder to shoulder with our French neighbours."
The so-called Islamic State (IS) is a global threat to peace and security. We must stand resolutely together and tackle the common threat. In Germany’s military engagement in Syria and in efforts to bring about a political solution, however, said the Chancellor, "Assad cannot be part of a long-term solution."
Germany has been in the sights of international terrorism for some time, not only since the decision was made to engage at military level against the IS, said the Chancellor. But, she stressed "Our way of life, our liberty, our rule of law are so much stronger than any form of terrorism."
The European Council meeting on 17 and 18 December will look at joint steps to tackle terrorism. It is important that Europe cooperate: the way the individual states share information is to be improved, and steps taken to make it more difficult to finance terrorist organisations, explained Angela Merkel. The agreement to store air passenger data will help improve security.
Ukraine conflict – sanctions ought to be extended
With a view to the Ukraine conflict, the Chancellor said that the Minsk package of measures agreed in February had in fact helped de-escalate the situation, even if hostilities have not been completely ended.
She underscored, "Any lifting of the sanctions on Russia is dependent on the Minsk package being fully implemented – and that has not yet been achieved." That is why she and Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be advocating that existing sanctions be extended and the Minsk agreements respected in their entirety.
United Kingdom – an active partner within a strong EU
In her speech, the Chancellor also touched on the United Kingdom’s reform wishes. The German government is constructively involved in negotiations, she said, but, "We do not wish to call into question the fundamental achievements of European integration and we shall not be doing so."
Freedom of movement and non-discrimination vis à vis the citizens of other EU member states are non-negotiable, she said. Germany would like to see the United Kingdom as an active partner within a strong EU. Without the UK, the European Union would lose much weight.
Angela Merkel continued, "Europe must stand on sound economic foundations if it is to cope with all the other challenges facing it." It is thus of elementary importance that the EU Single Market be strengthened. Progress must be made on the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union.
Protecting the EU’s external border crucial
Referring to the refugee crisis, the Chancellor said that the measures already adopted must now be rigorously implemented. Above all it is essential to protect the EU’s external borders. The European Commission has made important proposals for a European border agency and coastguard.
The proposals not only point in the right direction, she said. "The scale of the proposals would have been inconceivable only a year ago." She will be working to ensure that they "are discussed and adopted as swiftly as possible". The Chancellor also called for a permanent allocation mechanism for refugees in Europe.
Turkey remains a key partner in the refugee crisis, said Angela Merkel. It is important here to make progress on the provision of the three billion euros pledged by the EU. The better the living conditions for refugees in Turkey, the fewer will set off from Turkey for Europe.
With a view to the conference on Syria to be held soon in London, the Chancellor said, "The British Prime Minister, my Norwegian counterpart, the Emir of Kuwait and myself will hold a conference on 4 February at which we will endeavour to raise as much money as possible for UNHCR and the World Food Programme for 2016, so that they are not faced month for month with the question of whether or not they have enough money. This state of affairs is simply unacceptable, said Angela Merkel.