Germany’s Merkel readies her pitch for early Trump meeting

by WorldTribune Staff, January 22, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is doing her homework on President Donald Trump in preparation for her first meeting with the new U.S. leader, according to German news reports.

Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in Germany’s fall elections, is said to have already drawn red lines, including any attempt by Trump to undermine the EU at a time when the 27-nation bloc is losing the UK and under threat from nationalist parties.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. /Reuters

Merkel’s message to the Trump administration will have to be that the EU is “strategic interest for Germany” and U.S. efforts to weaken it would mean “you’re treading on our lawn,” Thomas Bagger, head of policy planning at the German Foreign Ministry, said on Jan. 19.

“I think that’s the only message he’ll get and the only message he’ll listen to.”

Outgoing U.S. Presdient Barack Obama spoke with Merkel on Jan. 19 in his last phone call with a foreign leader before leaving the White House. Obama praised Merkel’s “strong, courageous and steady leadership” and pressed her to forge a link with the Trump administration.

“It’s a prelude to what’s likely to be a much more contentious relationship with Trump, who has called Merkel’s open borders for refugees a ‘very catastrophic mistake’ and cast doubt on the value of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EU,” Arne Delfs, Patrick Donahue and Brian Parkin wrote in an analysis for Bloomberg on Jan. 21.

The chancellery in Berlin has reached out to Trump’s transition team to suggest an early meeting.

“The chancellor is in a very good position to focus and positively influence the image of Germany and Europe with the incoming U.S. president,” Juergen Hardt, a senior lawmaker for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said in an interview. “Her experience and mastery of the issues will stand her in good stead.”

If Trump doesn’t host Merkel at the White House first, the two leaders will probably meet at the Group of Seven summit in Italy in May or at a summit of Group of 20 leaders hosted by Merkel in Hamburg in July.

“Merkel’s methodical, coalition-building approach – she’s a physicist by training – contrasts with Trump’s Twitter diplomacy and has helped keep her at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy for 11 years,” the Bloomberg analysis said.

Beyond Merkel’s post-election offer of cooperation with Trump based on shared U.S.-German values of “democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and the dignity of humankind,” the chancellor has remained silent in public on her attitude toward Trump.

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