Merkel vs. Trump: German Chancellor Says Europe Will Choose Its Own Destiny, Defends Catastrophic Refugee Policy

DPA and Steve Quayle

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday fired back at US president-elect Donald Trump’s denunciation of her liberal stance on refugees and his dismissal of the NATO military alliance as “obsolete.”

“I think we Europeans hold our destiny in our own hands,” she said.

“We know what his position is,” Merkel said in response to Trump slamming her refugee policy as a “catastrophic mistake.”

“My position is also known,” she added.

In an interview with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London, Trump also threatened to impose a hefty tax on German carmakers for selling vehicles in the US market that were produced elsewhere and warned that other nations would follow Britain in leaving the European Union.

“We 27 members should stand together,” Merkel told reporter in Berlin, arguing that Europe’s economic strength and institutions would help it tackle tough problems such as terrorism.

French President Francois Hollande echoed Merkel, saying that Europe “does not need outside advice to tell it what to do,” the Le Figaro newspaper reported.

Outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN he thought Trump’s criticisms were “inappropriate” and called Merkel “extremely courageous” for her decision in September 2015 to allow about 900,000 refugees stranded in Hungary to travel to Germany.

While Merkel has dispatched one of her top advisers to the US for consultations with the incoming administration, the government said there were still no plans for a meeting between the chancellor and Trump.

Trump is, however, planning meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president-elect’s comments calling NATO “obsolete” because it has failed to deal with terrorism sent ripples of worry across a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he held talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg early Monday in which “the statements of president-elect Trump have, of course, been met with concern.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said he hoped that Trump “changes his opinion” with regard to his criticism of the EU and the 28-nation NATO alliance once he knows how they function.

Still, Trump’s commitment to signing off on a trade deal with Britain once it leaves the EU was warmly welcomed by British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.

“I think it’s very good news that the United States of America wants to do a good free trade deal with us and wants to do it very fast and great to hear that from president-elect Trump,” Johnson said.

Shares in German carmakers tumbled on Monday after Trump threatened the industry with a 35-per-cent import tax on vehicles brought to the US, notably from Mexico.

While Volkswagen stock dropped by about 2 per cent in afternoon trading on the Frankfurt Stock Market, shares in BMW and Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, were down 1.89 per cent.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he thinks little Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on German carmakers.

“Those who rely on economic growth must also rely on free trade and not on protectionism,” he told German public broadcaster ZDF.

Germany’s vice chancellor and minister for economic affairs also urged calm.

“Considering such positions, I can only advise not to panic, but rather to wait and see what happens,” Sigmar Gabriel told the Bild newspaper.

The incoming president, who has touted a pro-American business agenda industry, advised German car giant BMW to drop its plans for Mexico and instead set up shop in the US.

He also bemoaned that the German automotive industry has a “one-way street” relationship with the US, noting that there are a lot of Mercedes sold in the US, but Germans don’t buy a lot of Chevrolets.

Gabriel countered Trump’s demands to see more US-made cars on German streets by saying: “Then the US has to make better cars.”