German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the European Parliament, Strasbourg this week (Wednesday) for an historic address to the Parliament with the French President François Hollande. It was the first such joint address by German and French leaders since 1989 when President François Mitterrand and Chancellor Helmut Kohl debated the end of the Cold War with MEPs.
Before addressing the plenary chamber, I joined my EPP Group colleagues for a special meeting with Chancellor Merkel at which she spoke of the need for solidarity and understanding and for courage in pursuing our goals in other areas of EU policy.
“When EPP governments are in place, we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said, commenting on the recent election results in Portugal. She also highlighted the success of Ireland in exiting the EU-IMF bailout programme and spoke of how countries can emerge stronger after a crisis, having implemented the necessary economic reforms.
A great deal of our discussion centred on the ongoing refugee crisis, to which the Chancellor paid particular attention.
“Europe must face globalisation and solve these issues in a truly integrated manner. Walls and fences will not save Europe. Solidarity and teamwork will help to fight the root causes of the problem,” she said.
She also emphasised that Europe and its international partners will need to involve Russia as part of the solution to the situation in Syria. However, on a separate issue, she stated that the Minsk Agreement must be implemented in relation to Ukraine.
She also strongly advocated for a reinforced digital agenda and trade agreements, such as the EU-US trade agreement, to drive growth and jobs in Europe.
In her speech to MEPs, Chancellor Merkel reminded us that “we are stronger together than we are separate”, a statement that was true when the Berlin Wall came down and is as relevant today.