German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered a grim appraisal of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first meeting with leaders of the G-7 group, saying Sunday that Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. and urging the region to “take our fate into our own hands.”
Merkel drew international headlines Sunday when speaking at an election campaign rally in Munich, just hours after concluding the tense and fractious annual meeting of the leaders of the G-7 group of wealthy countries. “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over,” she told the crowd on Sunday. “I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
Merkel, who concluded her speech by taking a drink from an oversized beer glass, added that while she would attempt to remain on friendly terms with all nations — ”even Russia” — in the end, the citizens of the EU would need to shape their own fate. “We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”
Ivo Daalder, a former United States ambassador to NATO, said Merkel’s comments were hugely significant. “This seems to be the end of an era, one in which the United States led and Europe followed,” he told the New York Times.
By Monday a spokesman for the German Chancellor said she was still “deeply committed” to Germany’s relationship with the U.S., but maintained she would not hold back from offering a critical view when necessary. “Because trans-Atlantic relations are so important to the chancellor, she also believes that it’s the right thing to do to frankly point out differences — like those that emerged during the last couple of days,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Despite the gesture at damage control on Monday, Merkel’s comments are hardly unique in Germany. In fact, her sentiments were echoed and intensified by her main political rival Martin Schulz in a speech late Sunday. Schulz said that no leader should allow themselves to be insulted “the way this man, like an autocratic leader, believed he could inflict humiliation on Brussels. I reject with outrage the way this man takes it upon himself, to treat the head of our country’s government.”
Before Trump’s G-7 meeting, Germany’s Der Spiegel news magazine published a widely shared editorial which called the U.S. president a “laughing stock”and “a danger to the world”
There has been no response to Merkel’s comments from the White House.
Merkel also offered a harsh appraisal of Britain. But the U.K. is seeking to assuage the worries of Europe’s most powerful leader, promising that the two countries will retain “a deep and special partnership” despite their imminent departure from the EU.
U.K.’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd, came out strongly on Monday to try reassure the German leader — and the rest of Europe — that her country will remain a close ally, even after Brexit.
“As we begin the negotiations about leaving the EU, we will be able to reassure Germany and other European countries that we are going to be a strong partner to them in defence and security, and, we hope, in trade,” Rudd told BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “We can reassure Mrs Merkel that we want to have a deep and special partnership so that we can continue to maintain European-wide security to keep us all safe from the terrorists abroad and those that are trying to be nurtured in our country.”
At the G7 meeting in Sicily last week, all seven leaders agreed on a number of topics, including looking at further sanctions against Russia, cooperating more closely on terrorism and monitoring the situation in North Korea. However, while six of the seven nations renewed their commitment to the 2015 Paris accord on climate change, the U.S. wavered, with Trump saying he would make a decision on whether or not to withdraw later this week. Axios reported Sunday that Trump has told confidants that he is planning to renege on the agreement.
Merkel described the G7 meeting as “six against one” and “very difficult, if not to say very unsatisfactory.” Trump had a slightly different take on his time in Europe.
Prior to the G7 meeting, Trump attended a NATO summit in Brussels, where he scolded fellow members for not paying their “fair share” to the mutual defense fund. He also shoved the prime minister of Montenegro out of his way for a photo op, and called Germany “very bad” over its robust car sales to the U.S.
Merkel, who is seeking her fourth term in next September’s elections, is now looking closer to home to help the issues facing the European Union. The victory of pro-EU Emmanuel Macron in France last month has given Merkel a strong ally in her bid to make Europe’s 27-member strong union work together more closely.