Merkel at Biden – flood puts climate in the spotlight | free press


Washington (AP) – Angela Merkel looks stunned as she steps in front of the cameras at the German embassy in Washington.

During these hours, her thoughts were “always with the people at home,” in the flood plains in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, the chancellor said in a curtly ordered statement. “From here I also want to send you a token of sympathy and solidarity.” Merkel speaks of catastrophe and tragedy. She notices how much she changes the situation at home in Germany.

It is one of Merkel’s last major foreign trips and one of the most important visits to the US in her 16 years as chancellor. But the floods with many deaths, collapsed houses and flooded areas make the reason for your visit to the American capital almost in the background.

Merkel and new US President Joe Biden want to signal a new beginning after a period of disruption during the era of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. The climate between Berlin and Washington is good again, the message should be – even if individual conflicts persist. Even if Merkel no longer stands as a candidate for federal elections and leaves in a few months, important work can be done for her successor in the Chancellery during the deliberations in the US.

Do photos from home set the agenda?

The floods in Germany are likely to focus Merkel and Biden’s gaze much more strongly than originally planned on the mega-topic of the future, climate protection. It was precisely on this point that there were huge differences in Trump’s time: Trump had pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement.

Biden turned the exit on the first day in office. Under him, the US, the EU and other partners agree in principle that the fight against climate change is of the utmost importance. The president often calls the changing climate an “existential threat”. Such words would have been unthinkable under Trump – he doubted that climate change was man-made.

But there are still some differences with Biden in terms of climate. This can be seen from individual points: At their June summit in Britain, the G7 countries were unable to agree on a specific date to phase out coal. Merkel emphasized there that it was not Germany’s fault. And while the US relies on nuclear power, Germany is coming out.

Not only when it comes to climate protection, but also when it comes to other matters, things are still choppy between Washington and Berlin. Merkel and Biden were not expected to announce a definitive solution to the biggest current problem, the conflict over the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline. A senior US government representative had said ahead of the talks that she did not expect Thursday’s discussion to lead to a result or an official announcement.

In dealing with China and Russia, the looming situation in Afghanistan shortly before the end of the international military operation and the corona pandemic are also on Merkel and Biden’s list of topics. It was also hardly expected that Merkel would give up her opposition to a weakening of patent protection for corona vaccines. Biden is in favor of temporarily suspending patent protection in the global fight against the pandemic.

Also differences of opinion about vaccine patents

Before her difficult appearance on the storm in Germany, Merkel had met with Vice President Kamala Harris – a woman for whom the Chancellor clearly feels a lot of sympathy. Immediately after Biden’s election as president in November, the chancellor said she was looking forward to meeting Harris. She paid tribute specifically to Harris, the first wife and child of two immigrants to be elected vice president. She is “an inspiration to many people, an example of America’s possibilities”. Merkel herself was elected in 2005 as the first woman to head the federal government.

Then there are also warm scenes in Harris’s official residence, Number One Observatory Circle – Merkel wears an ocher blazer, Harris wears a dark blue jacket. The two did not shake hands, probably because of the corona pandemic. The handshake is no longer taboo in the US given the great progress made in vaccination and the low number of infections. But Merkel is considered extreme regarding Corona – and sees herself in a special role model role with the contact restrictions. Merkel and Harris set the tone at the start of the visit – both underline the importance of shared values.

In the four years that Trump was in office, the international image of the United States was badly damaged – mainly because of the “America first” policy. Suddenly, critics no longer saw the American president as the leader of the free world, but in Merkel. When she delivered a high-profile speech at the liberal elite Harvard University in May 2019 raising a passionate advocacy for international cooperation and its organizations, she was celebrated as a pop star.

Now the Chancellor has again received an honorary degree from Johns Hopkins University – it is the 18th such honor in her tenure. Merkel University had previously recognized Merkel as a “global leader of unparalleled determination and integrity”. The chancellor not only led Germany, “but was also a beacon for the world in times of crisis, from the great recession to the Covid-19 pandemic”.