Dialogue, cooperation and multilateralism remain essential for society’s efforts to solve the pressing problems of our times, such as climate change and geopolitical tensions, said Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. “Sometimes in the 21st century people don’t talk to each other,” she said. “We always need to talk, including with our antagonists.”
Merkel make her remarks during a formal address and in response to a subsequent series of questions posed by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.
She said improvements in global living standards since German reunification three decades ago would not have been possible “without cooperation at the international level”. To find peaceful solutions, whether internationally or domestically, “we need to talk”, she said. “But people no longer wish to talk. There is no bridge. That leaves me profoundly worried. The lack of dialogue is greater than during the Cold War, when we had orderly communication.” Without dialogue, she added: “We will all be in our own digital bubbles. We need to overcome this.”
Merkel also defended multilateralism. “We as Europeans, I can say as a German, will stand up for multilateralism.” Referring to efforts by the United States to undermine the dispute mechanism of the World Trade Organization, she said: “The US president says that the WTO needs reform, but it also needs to work.”
Merkel made reference to the proposed Green Deal at the European Union level and outlined some of the steps being taken in Germany to end coal production and switch to renewable sources of energy. “These are transformational processes of a historical nature,” she said. “The whole way we have lived during the industrial age will need to change. We will need completely new value chains.”
Meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change could determine “the survival of the planet”, she noted. “We have a global agreement. Unfortunately, not everyone is with us, but many people are. Everyone must do their share.”
Changes in lifestyle, especially when it comes to mobility, will be easier for urbanites than rural residents. This divide poses a dilemma for policy-makers in democratic societies. “In Germany there are a huge number of people who are not convinced” about the need to address climate change, she said. “People in rural areas will have to tolerate greater disruptions to individual mobility. People are more willing to abandon that in the city than in rural areas,” she said. “When facts and emotions collide, some people can develop anti-fact policies.”
Engagement is also important on the international stage, she said. Referring to the Iran nuclear deal, she said: “If it is a flawed agreement, let’s not discard it if we have nothing better to replace it.” On the influx of Syrian refugees into Germany, notably in 2014-2015, she said the problem wasn’t allowing people to enter Germany, it was not having paid sufficient attention before that to the conditions that forced them to leave their homes.
Germany will assume the rotating presidency of the European Union during the second half of this year. In addition to overseeing progress on the Green Deal, the period will be marked by Brexit. “We will do all we can to maintain a spirit of cooperation with the United Kingdom,” she said.
In addition, two EU summits will take place – one with Africa and another with China. “We should listen to the Africans and help them rather than impose our ideas,” she said. As for China, “the European Union has not had a consistent policy” on the country. Discussions will also address climate change.