Union faction leader Friedrich Merz has asked the traffic light government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to take on more leadership responsibility internationally. "We make ourselves smaller in our discussion in Germany than we are seen from outside, from many member states of the European Union, but also outside the EU," said Merz in an interview with the German Press Agency in Berlin. "That means: Germany must be ready to take on more leadership responsibility. Not leadership alone, but leadership responsibility for Europe."
"This European Union did well when Germany was willing to take on this leadership responsibility," said the CDU chairman. "This is due to our geostrategic location, to our situation as the most populous and also the economically strongest country in the European Union." During his trips abroad, he noticed again and again "how very different the expectations of us are and how very different the role of Germany is seen in the world from how we do it".
"We will not be able to completely detach ourselves from China"
With a view to the federal government's planned new China strategy, with which the relationship with Beijing is to be readjusted under the leadership of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), Merz said that China is an authoritarian country and at the same time an important trading partner. "We won't be able to detach ourselves completely from China. But we also have to look after our interests in relation to China."
Germany will not be able to become independent of China in the next few years. But China will also not be able to be independent of the rest of the world, said the CDU politician. "In this respect, the mutual dependence between China and Europe is likely to be greater than the one-sided dependence on Russian gas." Therein lies "a certain chance that we will gradually reduce dependencies, that we diversify our supply chains". Many companies do this, "and Germany as a whole should do the same."
"It would be good if there were a European China policy"
Merz said of the future China strategy: "It would be good if there was not just a German, but a European China policy." China has a Europe strategy - but Europe does not have a China strategy. In relation to Beijing, Germany and Europe would have to insist on strict reciprocity. "What we Chinese companies allow the Chinese state to do in Europe must also be allowed to European companies in China. Then there will also be a simultaneity of interests." Currently, European companies are not allowed to do in China what Chinese companies are allowed to do in Europe.
Referring to the Foreign Minister, Merz said: "Ms. Baerbock says a lot, also a lot of things that are right. It's just often not reflected in government policy." If she gave the chancellor public advice during his trip to China about what he should and shouldn't say there, "that is an obvious conflict in the federal government over foreign policy, even on questions of style."
"National security includes a National Security Council"
A few weeks ago, the Chancellor only pushed through the participation of the Chinese state-owned company Cosco in a terminal in the port of Hamburg against the resistance of several of his ministers. Baerbock then reminded him of the coalition agreement during a trip abroad.
Merz also repeated his call for the formation of a National Security Council. Germany needs a value-oriented, but also interest-based foreign policy. Part of this interest-driven foreign policy is "that we redefine our national security. And a National Security Council is part of national security. And it belongs in the Chancellery."