Working together for a better Europe

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Germany/United Kingdom Working together for a better Europe

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech to the two Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster focused on further developing the European Union. Germany and the United Kingdom should work with their partners to make the Union more effective and more viable, she said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to both Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the members of both Houses of Parliament in London.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

The Chancellor’ speech had been awaited with great anticipation in the United Kingdom, where fundamental debate has been raging for some time over the future of the European Union (EU). She aimed to share her ideas on the European Union with her hosts – the promises and the weaknesses, as Angela Merkel said at the beginning of her speech.

The United Kingdom has an ambivalent stance on the EU. While the UK plays an active role in many policy fields, it takes a sceptical view of closer political integration. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a review of the way authority is split between the EU and the individual member states. The country is subsequently to hold a referendum on whether or not it wishes to remain in the European Union.

Thanks to the United Kingdom

The Chancellor said she very much appreciated what an honour it was to be invited to address both Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster. "This parliament made a huge contribution to the development of the rule of law and democracy in Europe and in the world."

Two hundred, one hundred or even seventy years ago the close and cordial relations between today’s European partners would have been unthinkable. In 2014, the year that commemorates the outbreak of the First World War, we should look back at the events that have changed Europe dramatically.

"What would have happened to Europe if the United Kingdom had not put up such courageous resistance?" The country upheld the hope of the peoples of Europe for a better future in liberty. "The United Kingdom has no need to furnish proof of its commitment to Europe" – taking this quote from the former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker, the Chancellor picked up on the speech he gave in the Palace of Westminster in 1986.

Germany is grateful to its partners for placing their trust in a democratic Germany in the wake of the two World Wars. Also as allies: since the war, 1.7 million British soldiers have served in Germany.

Relations between Germany and the UK are close and based on trust. The two states are actively involved in the European Union, in NATO, the United Nations, the G8 and in numerous other international bodies. The United Kingdom, like Germany, is committed to international climate change mitigation.


Almost like a miracle – European unification

With European unification, the people of Europe learned from their bloody past. The founding fathers paired the will for reconciliation with the courage to make changes. And that is why today 28 member states can work together as equals to shape Europe. "Positive change is possible," declared the Chancellor. But if we fail to move forward we might easily find ourselves slipping backwards.

Events in Ukraine have demonstrated how grateful the citizens of the EU should be for what has been achieved. The EU will stand by the Ukrainian people.

Angela Merkel recalled the EU’s anniversary summit meeting in 2007 in Berlin. At that summit meeting the participants pledged to keep renewing and updating the political shape of Europe.

The pledge of peace, liberty and prosperity

The pledge of the European Union to bring peace still applies today. While it is true to say that a war between EU member states is unthinkable today, the case of the Western Balkans showed us how close the threat can still be. Today these states have European prospects – and thus the hope of a peaceful future.

In many parts of the world Germany and the United Kingdom are working together for peace. As allies within NATO and the EU, they are pushing for improved consultation and coordination between the two organisations. The UK is also "one anchor, perhaps the most important anchor" for relations with the United States of America.

The European Union’s pledge to bring liberty too, must be regularly reasserted and underpinned. Freedom of opinion, freedom of belief, freedom of the press, and also the basic freedoms of the common market, are vital preconditions for democracy and prosperity.

Everybody benefits from a Europe without borders. In order to retain freedom of movement, and ensure that citizens accept this principle though, it is necessary to take action to remedy unintended developments.

Only free trade can ensure the prosperity of European citizens. The ability of the Union to do business and to compete must however regularly be strengthened.

The mistakes made in Maastricht – to put in place a currency union without an economic union – must be corrected. It cannot be our aim merely to "weather the crises somehow or another". Instead, we must aim to emerge from crises stronger than we were before.

Tackling the great tasks ahead together

"The European Union must become stronger, more stable and more competitive than it is today." To this end we need strong European institutions, but also strong member states.

Europe must benefit from growth on other continents. Germany and the UK are working together for the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the USA – partly with a view to creating and securing jobs in Europe.

The EU must also advance its interests in international climate change mitigation.


For treaty modification and sound budgets

What the EU needs most is "closer and more binding economic-policy coordination". For this, said the Chancellor, the treaty provisions of the economic and monetary union must be modified specifically, swiftly and on a limited scale.

All policy fields must be measured against the contribution they make to strengthening European economic power. Excessive red tape should be abandoned, to improve the playing field for innovation and entrepreneurship. This is an area in which Germany and the United Kingdom are working together.

In negotiations over the next EU budget Germany and the UK pooled forces to call for a concentration on "what is really necessary and on investing in the future". One focus is on investing in science and research.

It is important to clearly formulate the political will to embrace change – then we will also find the "necessary legal ways" to achieve these goals.

Responsibility for the future

Even if opinions diverge on individual points – Germany and the United Kingdom share the goal of a strong and competitive European Union.

If Germany and the United Kingdom act resolutely and in unison, they can stand up for their values and their interests in the world, and be an example for other regions of the world to follow. That is why, "we need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice within the European Union", said the Chancellor.

She declared that she was looking forward to moving Europe forward, along with the UK, for the good of the generations to come.

After her speech the Chancellor met with Prime Minister David Cameron, before being received by Queen Elizabeth II for a private Audience in Buckingham Palace.