Merkel warns hardening politics threaten EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is worried “it is getting harder and harder” to find compromises between European Union countries on hot-button issues like migration and the rule of law.

“It is imperative to do everything possible to find a way to keep Europe together,” Merkel said in a wide-ranging interview published in Saturday’s edition of German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Asked if the European Union can still build compromises amid growing nationalism in countries like Poland and Hungary, Merkel said, “it’s getting harder and harder at the moment and I’m quite worried.”

The political climate in Germany also “has become harsher,” she said, in part because of the influence of social media. “I fear that we are increasingly having problems with compromise-building, which is essential in democracy,” she said.

Merkel in 2018 announced she would not seek another term as chancellor, a post she has held since 2005. In last month’s general election, her center-right CDU/CSU suffered a major loss; the next government is likely to be led by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

The outgoing chancellor on Friday finished what is likely to be her last European Council meeting in Brussels, discussing the spat between the EU and Poland over the rule of law, as well as the energy-price crisis, health and migration. She urged her counterparts to seek compromises and de-escalate political conflict.

In her interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, which was conducted prior to this week’s summit, Merkel said that saving the eurozone and safeguarding free movement across the bloc, especially in the wake of the 2015 migration crisis, were the main legacies of her time in office.

“I became chancellor and inherited two major projects: the euro and freedom of movement in the Schengen area,” she said. “Both projects were not prepared for shocks.”

“When the euro came under pressure, we had no safeguards whatsoever,” she said, adding that reforms of the EU’s monetary and banking policy “were absolutely necessary to preserve this cornerstone of European integration and prevent it from collapsing.”

“I admit that we are not yet as far along in securing the Schengen area as we are in securing the euro area,” she said.

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