Washington (AP) – The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which covers China and Russia, the looming situation in Afghanistan and the fight against the corona pandemic – these will be the foreseeable main topics during meetings between Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden be in Washington.
Biden will receive Merkel at the White House in the afternoon (8 p.m. GMT) – as Europe’s first head of government since taking office in January. For Merkel, who wants to withdraw from politics after the federal elections, it will probably be a farewell visit to Washington.
New Beginnings of German-American Relations
The visit should mark a new beginning in German-American relations after a low point in the era of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. Biden is seeking to restore relations with Germany and other US allies who have been under severe strain under Trump. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki had said before Merkel’s visit: “Your visit will reaffirm deep and lasting bilateral relations between the United States and Germany.” Biden had invited Merkel to the sidelines of the G7 summit last month.
The most controversial topic of the talks will be the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. It is intended to bring Russian gas to Germany, beyond Ukraine. The US and some Eastern European NATO partners fear that Europe is too dependent on the Russian energy supply and therefore reject the project. Washington and Berlin have been trying to find a compromise for weeks. According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, they have come closer on many points.
Focus on Nord Stream 2
The US side does not expect a solution to the conflict now at the Biden-Merkel meeting. A senior US government official said she expected Biden to voice his concerns. However, they do not assume that this discussion will lead to a result or an official announcement. The “very productive” talks between representatives of the German government and the US on the subject would continue in the coming days. Merkel was also skeptical whether a final solution would now be forthcoming.
The US administration representative said a “Washington Declaration” should be published after Merkel’s and Biden’s meeting, “outlining their common vision to work together to address political challenges.” She also stressed: “Germany is one of our most loyal allies.”
To fight the corona pandemic, before Merkel’s arrival in Washington, numerous organizations called on the chancellor to abandon her opposition to weakening patent protection for vaccines. Biden has spoken out in favor of temporarily suspending patent protection in the global fight against the pandemic.
Will the access restrictions be lifted?
The federal government’s transatlantic coordinator hopes for an agreement on the corona-related travel restrictions for the US. “The US should relax corona access restrictions to the Schengen area,” said Peter Beyer of the “Rheinische Post” (Thursday). The EU has decided to make it easier for travelers from the United States to enter the European Union. In the opposite direction, however, strict conditions still apply. Foreign Minister Maas said on Wednesday that he does not expect any movement on the matter during Merkel’s visit to the United States.
Merkel will first have breakfast with US Vice President Kamala Harris. After that, a meeting with representatives of the American economy is scheduled. The chancellor will then receive an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University and will also deliver a speech. The university praised Merkel in advance 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”.
Dinner with First Lady Jill in the evening
In the evening, US President and First Lady Jill Biden will host a dinner in honor of the Chancellor. According to the White House, Merkel’s husband Joachim Sauer will also participate. Then Merkel and her delegation want to fly back to Germany.
Biden’s predecessor Trump saw Germany more as a competitor and less as an ally. The Republican had repeatedly criticized German defense spending, the German trade surplus and Nord Stream 2.