What role will Europe and Germany play in future in the world? What does the digital economy mean for our prosperity? Angela Merkel’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos was a call for a world in which conflicts can be resolved by working together.
"Germany wants to continue to do its bit to resolve the problems of the world in future," assured Chancellor Angela Merkel. We must find shared responses to challenging questions, she pointed out – at European level and worldwide.
What is needed is European foreign and defence policy
Europe has relied for far too long on the United States of America, said the Chancellor. "We must get used to taking our fate into our own hands," she declared. This is all the more necessary, because a large number of global conflicts "are taking place on our doorstep". Europe also needs a common foreign policy to enable it to better hold its own against major powers like the USA, China, India and Russia.
When it comes to protecting the external borders of the European Union there are already good approaches for achieving common solutions, including the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. "We just felt we were safe," said Angela Merkel with a view to the many migrants and refugees who reached Europe in 2015. That is why Europe simply sat back for so long. Now the challenges must be identified and solutions found with Europe’s neighbours.
Cooperation rather than protectionism
In many countries, including Germany, populism and polarisation are on the rise. The euro crisis and migration in recent years have strengthened these trends in Europe.
Apparently many people are now concerned, said Angela Merkel, as to "whether multilateral cooperation is really able to resolve the problems of the people honestly and fairly". Everywhere we look, we see doubts, whether we can be sure nobody will be left behind in the wake of digitalisation and global change. But this, she underlined, is precisely when it is important to seek multilateral rather than unilateral solutions that.
"Since the days of the Roman Empire and the Great Wall of China we have known that isolationism does not bring security." Although multilateralism is a time-consuming business, cooperation among countries is still the best way to solve problems.
Prosperity for all in the digital era
What must Europe do in future? "Above all we must develop our economic strength," declared Angela Merkel in view of international competition. But, we must ensure that nobody is left behind – otherwise we risk seeing deep rifts developing in our societies.
And that starts at national level. Germany’s population in particular is aging rapidly. How can we prepare everybody for digitalisation?
Data are the crucial resources of the 21st century. In the final analysis it is crucial who owns these data. China has strong state coordination with the institutions that gather data. Europe is very philosophical in the way it debates these issues, but too few practical results are being achieved.
Cooperation on the part of EU member states with institutions offers an opportunity to make a fair contribution and prevent the privatisation of data.
Angela Merkel also advocated further reforms within the European Union and the euro zone. The banking union must be completed, the euro zone strengthened and Europe developed as a good place to invest. The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) could be further developed to a monetary fund, naturally without any prejudice to the "economic competence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)".
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a non-profit foundation that organises a meeting in Davos once a year. The 48th annual meeting is taking place from 23 to 26 January 2018. The theme of this year’s meeting is "Creating a shared future in a fractured world". More than 3,000 representatives of the worlds of business, politics and civil society are expected to attend.