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Merkel: Germany will stand 'side by side' with US

Rebecca Staudenmaier
November 9, 2020

In her first extended remarks about the outcome of the US election, Chancellor Angela Merkel has outlined how Germany hopes to move forward with projected presidential winner Joe Biden in the White House.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a statement in Berlin on the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election
Image: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/dpa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced hope for a return to stronger ties with Washington on Monday, following Joe Biden's projected presidential win.

Merkel's speech on Monday marks the chancellor's first extended reaction to the results of the US election after she offered her congratulations to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris this weekend.

What did Merkel say?

  • The chancellor again congratulated Biden on his projected win, saying "he has a great deal of experience with Germany and Europe."
  • "The friendship of our two countries has stood the test of time."
  • Trans-Atlantic ties with the US are a "treasure that we must preserve."
  • Both Germany and Europe must "take on more responsibility" in relationship with US.
  • Germany will stand "side by side" with the US on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and global terrorism.
  • Merkel described Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as an "inspiration" and symbol "of what is possible in America."
  • Merkel noted the historic significance of Monday November 9 — It is the anniversary of the 1938 anti-Jewish pogrom launched by the Nazis, as well as the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. The chancellor noted the role America played in the darkest and brightest chapters in Germany's history.

What are the key takeaways?

DW's chief political correspondent Melinda Crane said Merkel's speech was a "resounding affirmation of what she hopes will be possible with this new administration."

"The chancellor tends to be very measured and restrained, but that was a downright emotional speech [particularly] in the part where she talked about the treasure of trans-Atlantic relations," she said.

By starting off her speech by remembering the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, Crane noted the chancellor "linked those examples of tyranny to the healing role that America had played" in Germany.

In a rather "personal" touch from the chancellor, Merkel also dedicated a significant portion of her remarks to congratulating Kamala Harris, who would be the first woman and first Black person and person of Indian heritage to hold the role of US vice president.

Read more: US election: German-US relationship hangs in the balance

What is the state of US-German relations?

Relations between Germany and the United States became strained over the four years of Donald Trump's presidency.

Trump repeatedly criticized Germany over its defense spending, complaining that Berlin has failed to meet the NATO spending target of 2% of economic output.

In a move largely seen as punishment for Germany's defense spending, Trump ordered the withdrawal of thousands of US troops from bases across the country. It remains to be seen whether Biden will reverse the move.

Merkel and other German leaders are hoping for better communication channels and increased cooperation with Washington under Biden.

What issues still exist?

Although Biden has pledged to rebuild bilateral bridges in Europe that were broken or burned under Trump, some sticking points are likely to remain.

Nord Stream 2, the controversial gas pipeline project linking Russia and Germany, will continue to be a sore subject. Like Trump, Biden is also expected to oppose the pipeline, adding to the mounting pressure on Merkel to drop the project.

How have other German officials reacted?

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that Biden's projected win presents "many new chances" for cooperation between Berlin and Washington.

Biden's win also presents an opportunity for reviving the Iran nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of in 2018 under Trump.  "We need to come back together on this," Maas told public radio Deutschlandfunk.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he hopes for less "America first" and fewer one-sided decisions when it comes to trade.

Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk that under Biden, there's a "chance that there are no further escalations in tarrifs."