Merkel's successor takes aim at Trump over sanctions threats

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the Christian Democrat Union, during a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 24, 2019.


By JOHN MICKLETHWAIT AND PATRICK DONAHUE | Bloomberg | Published: January 24, 2019

Chancellor Angela Merkel's successor as leader of the Christian Democratic Union party chided President Donald Trump for upending global agreements and pressuring allies.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum that support for a major Russian gas pipeline, Gazprom's Nord Stream 2, must take into account security interests in eastern Europe. But she took aim at U.S. pressure, including against the pipeline, more broadly.

"The way in which at least the American administration makes policy in general at the moment, with a lot of sanctions, with the fact that international agreements are scrapped, is not a good way to cooperate," Kramp-Karrenbauer said in Davos, Switzerland.

The transition to the post-Merkel era is under way in Germany at a time when the network of international relationships that have underpinned its prosperity are under threat. Trump's aggressive stance on trade is forcing the government to reassess business links with both Russia and China, while the pipeline has riled European allies concerned about weakening Ukraine.

The challenge for Kramp-Karrenbauer is to establish her credibility on those issues without further undermining the authority of her mentor, Merkel, during her last years in office. On Brexit, Kramp-Karrenbauer said she sees little scope to negotiate with the U.K. on the Irish backstop, a sticking point holding up Britain's departure from the European Union. On Italy, she identified fiscal policy and migration as two areas that divided Berlin and Rome.: "In both areas, we have to find answers -- and it's a slow process."

The new CDU leader made her debut at the global forum a day after Merkel, who plans to stay on as Germany's chancellor until 2021 at the latest, held forth with business leaders in Davos on global central banking, calling on a return to conventional monetary policy.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, elected leader at a CDU convention in December after a tight contest, said that while she had a more socially conservative lean than Merkel, the two saw eye-to-eye on Germany's economic progress. That particularly applies to developing the digital economy and improving competitiveness, said 56-year-old Kramp-Karrenbauer. She's faced skepticism within the party that her leadership would merely continue that of Merkel.

"When it comes to social issues such as the role of the family, I'm certainly more conservative than Angela Merkel. But on the big questions on what direction and where Germany should develop, when it comes to the economy, then we have very similar views," Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

A former premier of the western state of Saarland, Kramp-Karrenbauer was plucked from regional politics by Merkel to become party general secretary a year ago, a move that put her in position to be the chancellor's favored successor.

It was the second time that the CDU chairwoman took aim at the U.S. this month. At a party retreat 10 days ago, she dismissed letters sent by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, to companies involved in Nord Stream threatening them with possible sanctions.

"The American ambassador operates in a, shall I say, somewhat unusual diplomatic manner," she told reporters in Potsdam, outside Berlin.

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