Berlin: Henry Kissinger is rumored to have once asked: “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?” The former United States secretary of state denies ever having posed this question. Regardless of whether Kissinger uttered it or not, in recent years, foreign policy figures in Washington have certainly known whom to call over pressing European issues: German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Indeed, Merkel has gained a reputation as a stable and respectable fixture in foreign affairs. She is also widely seen as an ardent advocate of liberty and human rights. With German general elections set for September 26, however, Merkel’s 16-year-reign is ending soon, as she is not running for reelection.
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Before her tenure is up, Merkel will be making one last visit to the US to meet with President Joe Biden in what will likely be her last major trip abroad. The two leaders are set to come face to face in the White House on July 15. Both nations are looking to bolster the trans-Atlantic bond after Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump took the US on a unilateralist course, affronting allies all along the spectrum.
The visit, therefore, will be all about strengthening trans-Atlantic ties. Merkel’s trip is one of her few foreign visits since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Biden and Merkel will most likely discuss the ongoing risk posed by the coronavirus and its fallout. According to US government sources, they will also talk about the “threat of climate change, and promoting economic prosperity and international security based on our shared democratic values.”
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“Angela Merkel is in the final stages of her tenure and as such her trip is partly a farewell visit,” trans-Atlantic relations expert Markus Kaim of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) told DW. “The US is anxious about the political vacuum she will leave behind.”
With Merkel’s days in power numbered, she has little scope to effect real political change. Kaim does not expect Merkel to push through any far-reaching policies but instead focus on smaller issues, such as easing US travel restrictions.
“Everyone is waiting for the US to open its border to travelers from the Schengen zone; these restrictions are not only bothering tourists but also hurting businesses,” Kaim said. Lifting this travel ban, he added, would be a way for the US administration to give Merkel a sweet send-off.