Merkel Predecessor Schroeder Urges EU Unity Amid Global Test

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder urged the European Union to counter strains that are testing the bloc’s unity to help it meet global challenges.

A Europe of “two-speed” integration is emerging, the Social Democrat said in a speech in London. The 27-country EU is being tugged in opposite directions by member states that seek more independence and a core linked to the euro that is growing together more rapidly, he told the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum yesterday, according to an e-mailed transcript.

“The gap has widened between countries that can and wish to integrate quickly and those that want to move more slowly, such as the U.K.,” said Schroeder, who was chancellor from 1998 until his defeat by Angela Merkel in 2005. In a world of shifting coordinates of power, “I am convinced that only a united Europe has a chance of survival,” he said.

Schroeder’s comments highlight the divisions that scar the EU after three years of sovereign debt crisis, austerity and spluttering economic growth. The 17-nation euro area has record unemployment amid a second year of recession, while U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on his country’s membership of the EU by the end of 2017.