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EUROPEAN UNION

Merkel calls for a ‘real, true’ European army

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday made a clear call for a future European army, in an apparent rebuke to US President Donald Trump who has called such proposals "very insulting".

Merkel calls for a 'real, true' European army
Merkel speaking on Tuesday at the European Parliament in

Addressing European MEPs on her vision for the future of Europe, Merkel also called for a European Security Council that would centralise defence and security policy on the continent.

“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel told a session of European Parliament, drawing applause and some boos.

Merkel added that the proposal could be run in parallel to trans-Atlantic  cooperation within the NATO military alliance, but that “only a stronger Europe is going to defend Europe”. 

SEE ALSO: EU defence efforts musn't hurt transatlantic bond: NATO chief in Berlin

“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” she added.

Merkel also said: “I will propose the establishment of a European Security  Council with a rotating presidency.”

Merkel's call came as Trump again mocked French President Emmanuel Macron for his own suggestion to create a European army, a proposal that Washington fears could overshadow the NATO alliance last week, Trump slammed the idea in a tweet as “very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidises greatly!”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Sunday that any European army “will have to align with NATO forces” and not be in opposition to or competition with US forces.

'Deep wound'

Merkel's ambition for Europe came just days after she announced she would 
stand down after her term in office in 2021, weakened in Germany by her 
migrant policy.

In 2015, Merkel in a bold move kept open German borders to a mass influx of 
refugees, drawing the ire of EU partners in eastern Europe who refused to 
follow suit.

In her speech, Merkel indirectly defended her policy.

Europe “cannot be successful” without “European solidarity”, she said, adding that her government “took far too long to realise the issue of refugees was an issue for the whole of Europe and not just Germany.”

“Tolerance is the soul of Europe that is an essential component of what makes us Europeans,” she said.

On Brexit, Merkel called Britain's departure from the EU “a deep wound” as she thanked EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, in attendance in Strasbourg.

“We are all realising that it is ever more difficult to find a balanced outcome,” she said.

Member comments

  1. NATO is no longer viable as a defense of Europe. Too many changes have taken place since the end of World War Two. A more centralized European approach is needed, without the United States as the anchor. Germany, France and Poland, being the larger of the current European states, should take the United States place as anchors for a more unified European Defense Command. But with that comes responsibility. Germany and Poland would have to renounce their non-nuclear stance on both weapons and weapon delivery systems, including having their navies become effective world response fleets, capable of making sure the nuclear threat, doesn’t have a chance to get close. No more restrictions on troop levels, and delivery systems (i.e. tanks, planes cruise missiles etc.). Other states would have to be OK with Germany being it’s Pre-WW2 strength again. In peace of coarse.

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EUROPEAN UNION

The Euro celebrates its 20th anniversary

The euro on Saturday marked 20 years since people began to use the single European currency, overcoming initial doubts, price concerns and a debt crisis to spread across the region.

The Euro celebrates its 20th anniversary
The Euro is projected onto the walls of the European Central Bank in Brussels. Photo: Daniel Rolund/AFP

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen called the euro “a true symbol for the strength of Europe” while European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde described it as “a beacon of stability and solidity around the world”.

Euro banknotes and coins came into circulation in 12 countries on January 1, 2002, greeted by a mix of enthusiasm and scepticism from citizens who had to trade in their Deutsche marks, French francs, pesetas and liras.

The euro is now used by 340 million people in 19 nations, from Ireland to Germany to Slovakia. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are next in line to join the eurozone — though people are divided over the benefits of abandoning their national currencies.

European Council President Charles Michel argued it was necessary to leverage the euro to back up the EU’s goals of fighting climate change and leading on digital innovation. He added that it was “vital” work on a banking union and a capital markets
union be completed.

The idea of creating the euro first emerged in the 1970s as a way to deepen European integration, make trade simpler between member nations and give the continent a currency to compete with the mighty US dollar.

Officials credit the euro with helping Europe avoid economic catastrophe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Clearly, Europe and the euro have become inseparable,” Lagarde wrote in a blog post. “For young Europeans… it must be almost impossible to imagine Europe without it.”

In the euro’s initial days, consumers were concerned it caused prices to rise as countries converted to the new currency. Though some products — such as coffee at cafes — slightly increased as businesses rounded up their conversions, official statistics have shown that the euro has brought more stable inflation.

Dearer goods have not increased in price, and even dropped in some cases. Nevertheless, the belief that the euro has made everything more expensive persists.

New look

The red, blue and orange banknotes were designed to look the same everywhere, with illustrations of generic Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture to ensure no country was represented over the others.

In December, the ECB said the bills were ready for a makeover, announcing a design and consultation process with help from the public. A decision is expected in 2024.

“After 20 years, it’s time to review the look of our banknotes to make them more relatable to Europeans of all ages and backgrounds,” Lagarde said.

Euro banknotes are “here to stay”, she said, although the ECB is also considering creating a digital euro in step with other central banks around the globe.

While the dollar still reigns supreme across the globe, the euro is now the world’s second most-used currency, accounting for 20 percent of global foreign exchange reserves compared to 60 percent for the US greenback.

Von der Leyen, in a video statement, said: “We are the biggest player in the world trade and nearly half of this trade takes place in euros.”

‘Valuable lessons’

The eurozone faced an existential threat a decade ago when it was rocked by a debt crisis that began in Greece and spread to other countries. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus were saved through bailouts in return for austerity measures, and the euro stepped back from the brink.

Members of the Eurogroup of finance ministers said in a joint article they learned “valuable lessons” from that experience that enabled their euro-using nations to swiftly respond to fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic.

As the Covid crisis savaged economies, EU countries rolled out huge stimulus programmes while the ECB deployed a huge bond-buying scheme to keep borrowing costs low.

Yanis Varoufakis, now leader of the DiEM 25 party who resigned as Greek finance minister during the debt crisis, remains a sharp critic of the euro. Varoufakis told the Democracy in Europe Movement 25 website that the euro may seem to make sense in calm periods because borrowing costs are lower and there are no exchange rates.

But retaining a nation’s currency is like “automobile assurance,” he said, as people do not know its value until there is a road accident. In fact, he charged, the euro increases the risk of having an accident.

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