The former German chancellor has told Die Zeit newspaper that she does not regret the decisions she made regarding German energy supplies. She did however acknowledge that more should have been done to counter Russia.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her decisions around securing energy for Germany during her 16-year tenure.
In an interview with German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Merkel said that those who question decisions taken in different times often fail to take into account the context surrounding them.
Why did Merkel not stand in the way of Nord Stream 2?
The former chancellor said that it was never the government's role to approve the pipeline, which would allow the transfer of Russian gas to Europe via pipelines under the Baltic Sea connecting Russia to Germany.
Merkel argued that it was German companies' role to approve the pipeline's construction, rather than the government's. The only way the government could stand in the way of that would have been by passing into law an act against the pipeline, which Merkel argued would have "dangerously worsened the climate with Russia."
She also reminded that at the time, there was an energy crisis due to a recession in supply from the Netherlands, the UK and Norway. US gas exports were also not an option at the time.
Merkel stressed that although recent decisions on energy make sense, given the situation with Russia, they would not have made sense when she was chancellor.
When asked whether she should have taken such decisions anyway, Merkel said: "No, especially since there would have been no acceptance for it at all."
'Self critical' on stance toward Putin's Crimea annexation
Nevertheless, the chancellor shared some self-reflective thoughts with Die Zeit. She told the newspaper that the way the world reacted to Russian President Vladimir Putin's 2014 annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine was not harsh enough.
Merkel listed the international reaction to the 2014 annexation, ranging from expelling Russia from the G8, to NATO's stationing of troops in the Baltic sea, as well as NATO members agreeing to increase their defense spending to 2% of the respective Gross Domestic Product.
"But we should have reacted more quickly to Russia's aggressiveness," the former chancellor concluded.
When asked about the potential end she envisions for Russia's war in Ukraine, Merkel said it could only end at the negotiating table.
Merkel let them enter Germany even though other EU member states were officially responsible for them under the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that asylum-seekers must be registered in the first safe EU country they enter. Instead, Germany allowed people to cross the border first and have their asylum claims checked later.
Nearly half a million people applied for asylum in Germany in 2015, and another 750,000 the following year.
When asked about the driver behind this divisive decision, Merkel stressed it was "in line with our fundamental rights and values." She noted that she was also influenced by the reaction by some members of Germany's society, who at the time welcomed the arriving refugees at train stations.
"But there are situations in which you can't avoid controversy," she said.
Getting 'to the root causes' of the problem
Merkel also recalled the measures she took to "get to the root of the causes of flight," citing the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement. Highly controversial at the time, the agreement involved returning refugees who made it to Greece without a right to EU asylum to Turkey.
In return, the EU would accept the same number of Syrian asylum seekers waiting in Turkish refugee camps and resettle them around the bloc. The EU also pledged to provide some €6 billion in funds to Turkey to support the almost four million Syrian refugees in the country.
After the deal was announced, the EU was criticized for selling out with regard to its humanitarian values and outsourcing its migration policy to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just as he was becoming increasingly authoritarian.
Offering further reflection, meanwhile, Merkel said in the interview:
"Of course I am learning. That's why, in retrospect, I would work much earlier to ensure that a situation like the one in the summer of 2015 does not have to arise in the first place. For example, with an increase in the contributions to the World Food Programme, for refugee camps in neighboring countries particularly affected by migration, as we then did."