Chancellor Angela Merkel will call for a stronger European Union in a speech in London that may disappoint Prime Minister David Cameron, according to a German government official with direct knowledge of her preparations.
While Merkel will use her address tomorrow to echo Cameron’s calls for reform of the EU, she will stress that all changes must be carried out to strengthen and not weaken the 28-nation bloc, said the official, who asked not to be named because the diplomacy before the trip is private. Only through a stronger EU can Europe remain competitive in a globalized economy, Merkel will say, according to the official.
“The expectations of the British press are clearly too high,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said in Jerusalem yesterday when asked about the chancellor’s speech. He declined to comment on the specific content of her address.
Merkel, 59, Germany’s first woman chancellor, its first from the former communist East and the first to be born after World War II, will allude to both world wars in her speech, said the official. She will refer to how the EU has helped to overcome wartime divisions, the official said.
Cameron, 47, who has pledged to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership by the end of 2017 if he wins re-election next year, is under pressure from the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party and from members of his Conservative Party who have voted against the government on European matters.
Cameron let it be known that he wanted Merkel to help him counter euro-skeptics in his own party by supporting his drive for an overhaul of the EU, including the repatriation of powers from Brussels, said the German official. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats wanted her to deliver a clearly pro-EU speech, the official said.
In calling for competencies to be returned to member states with the condition that the EU is strengthened, Merkel may end up disappointing both Cameron and Clegg, according to the German official.
“We want to work with the German government along with other European countries in terms of advancing EU reform,” Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, said in London yesterday when asked about the government’s expectations for the speech. “Do we actively talk to our German counterparts around that? You know that we do. In terms of Chancellor Merkel’s address, that will be her address.”
Clegg, speaking to reporters in London today, said that improving the EU’s competitiveness was the most important challenge, “and certainly a lot more productive than threatening to leave all together.”
“My message, and I hope this will be echoed in Angela Merkel’s own message, is that’s the kind of thing we’ve got to focus on,” said Clegg. “In these visits you don’t tell someone what they want to say.”
Merkel will address lawmakers from the House of Commons and the Lords in the Royal Gallery, the first speech to both houses of Parliament by the chancellor of a reunited Germany. She will then hold talks separately with Cameron and with opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband before having an audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Merkel will deliver her speech in German, the official said. She had been planning to give her entire speech in English, though will now limit the English component to a couple of sentences, according to the official.
Cameron and Merkel will spend their 90-minute lunch meeting discussing a wide range of EU issues including economic reform, deepening of the single market and EU-U.S. trade talks, Gray told reporters in London today. They will also talk about foreign policy issues including Ukraine, Iran and possibly the Middle East, he said.
Merkel’s views are influenced by the debt crisis that brought the euro area close to breakup between 2010 and 2012. In response, euro members must strive to “deepen” the currency union and coordinate economic policy so Europe “unites its strength and focuses on the big challenges,” Merkel told lower-house lawmakers in Berlin on Jan. 29. “To do that, we also have to strengthen European institutions,” including by “developing further” EU treaties, she said.
London’s reliance on the financial industry is a friction point with Merkel, who champions global regulation of markets and debt reduction. After “irresponsible excesses of the markets” stoked a global economic crisis in 2008, all financial centers must now submit to “appropriate regulation” and work remains to be done, she said in her Jan. 29 speech.
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