Europe can no longer rely on US for protection: Merkel

Europe can no longer rely on US for protection: Merkel

Europe must take its fate in own hands: Merkel/ German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Europe can no longer rely on the United States for protection, urging European Union member states to take the bloc’s destiny in their own hands.

“It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands, that's the task of the future,” the German leader said at an award ceremony in Aachen, a German resort city near the border with Belgium, where French President Emmanuel Macron received the prestigious Charlemagne Prize for his efforts in boosting EU integration and cohesion.

Merkel’s comments came two days after US President Donald Trump declared that his country was pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying Washington would not only reinstate the anti-Iran sanctions lifted as part of the deal, but would also “be instituting the highest level of economic” bans against the Islamic Republic.

The JCPOA came out of years of negotiations between Iran on one side and the P5+1 group of countries -- the US, UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany -- on the other, in July 2015.

The American leader announced his controversial decision after his European allies, including the UK, Germany and France, and a number of other countries failed to convince him not to pull out from the landmark accord. Trump also threatened all countries, the US allies included, with sanctions if they violated the US-embargoes against Iran, worrying Washington’s traditional allies in Europe.

Merkel's remarks also echo those of President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who noted earlier on Thursday that the White House “had lost vigor, and because of it, in the long term, influence,” urging that Europe should take over the role of the US as the self-proclaimed global leader.

For his part, Macron, who has been insisting on his flagship reform proposals for the eurozone since he came to power in May last year, exerted further pressure on Merkel to agree with his proposals, most notably a common eurozone budget and finance minister, saying to her, “Don't wait, act now.”

“If we accept that other major powers, including allies, ... put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy, security for us, and sometimes even make us run the worst risks, then we are not more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion,” he said, in a clear attack against Trump's decision to withdraw from the hard-fought Iran nuclear deal. 

“We need to choose, build, speak with all so as to construct our own sovereignty that will be the guarantor of stability in (the Middle East),” Macron stressed, whose other ambitious proposals for the eurozone include a joint military “rapid reaction force” and an EU tax on the revenues of technology giants.

Merkel, however, said that discussions on the eurozone were “difficult” between Berlin and Paris, underlining that disagreements still dogged many proposals for further integration of the bloc.

But she acknowledged that “the European economic and currency union must be made more sustainable.” The German leader also vowed that EU member states would make the eurozone “more crisis-proof.”

Although Merkel said that she expected agreements on a banking system, she remained silent on the French president’s call for a common eurozone budget.

In January last year, Trump described the UK’s referendum in June 2016 to withdraw from the EU as a “great thing,” arguing that the bloc was heavily influenced by Germany.

EU leaders have since been rattled by Trump's comments on Europe, which they say are aimed at destroying the integrity of the bloc by advocating other nations to follow Brexit.

The EU, Russia, China and Turkey have rallied behind Iran


Meanwhile, the EU, Russia, China and Turkey have rallied behind Iran, trying to salvage the international nuclear pact after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark accord.

Reuters quoted a source at the French presidency as saying Wednesday that France and its European allies will work hard to safeguard the interests of their businesses in Iran.

"We will obviously do everything, in conjunction with our businesses, to protect their interests," the source said.

Trump announced on Tuesday he would reimpose US economic sanctions on Iran to undermine what he called "a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made." 

"The deal is not dead. There's an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio on Wednesday. 

He said French President Emmanuel Macron would speak to his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, later on Wednesday.

The contact would be followed by meetings next week, probably on Monday, involving the Iranians and European representatives from France, Britain and Germany, Le Drian added.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire described Trump's decision on Iran as a mistake, saying Washington should not consider itself the world's "economic policeman."

The 2015 agreement, worked out by the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and Iran, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. 

Trump said Tuesday that he would reinstate nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose "the highest level" of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany "will try to keep alive this important agreement, which ensures the Middle East and the world as a whole are safer."

Russia's acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said Moscow remained committed to the Iran nuclear deal, Interfax news agency reported.
China voiced regret over Trump's decision and vowed to "safeguard" the agreement. "China regrets this decision made by the US," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

Geng said China will maintain "normal economic and trade exchanges" with Iran despite Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

"China calls on all relevant parties to assume a responsible attitude" in order "to return at an early date to the right track of implementing the deal," he said.

The spokesman reiterated Beijing's opposition to unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Washington will be the loser from Trump's decision to leave the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Erdogan told CNN International in an interview to be broadcast in full on Wednesday evening that he feared fresh crises would break out in the region as a result of the move.

"We don't need new crises in the region," he said, adding it was Washington who risked losing as Tehran would fulfill its side of the bargain and stick to the accord.

"The US would be the ones to lose," he said. "Iran will never compromise on this agreement, and will abide by this agreement to the end... that's what I think. However, the US will lose in the end."

Erdogan rebuked Turkey's NATO ally for ripping up the agreement, which was signed under the administration of his predecessor Barack Obama. "This is not how the international mechanisms work," he said. 

"International covenants and international conventions cannot be annulled at will. If any document bears your signature, you need to respect that. You need to abide by that," Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Erdogan said even if the US may be able to enjoy windfalls from rising oil prices as a result of the move it would have a negative effect on the world economy.

"Many of the countries, in poverty, will be hit even harder and deeper," he said. 


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