PARIS (AP) — Germany's foreign minister said Wednesday that Europe must stand together if it wants to stay relevant as its population shrinks, the U.S. focuses more on Asia, and China's influence expands.
Sigmar Gabriel warned against retreating into survival-of-the-fittest nationalism and urged a more vigorous European role on the world stage — especially important as Britain's pending exit from the European Union threatens the bloc's international standing and future viability.
Gabriel picked a symbolic place for Wednesday's appeal: the center of Paris, where he attended a French Cabinet meeting and stood with his French counterpart to try to reinvigorate European unity in an address to a gathering of French ambassadors.
"If our children or grandchildren want to have a voice in the world ... it will be a common European voice," said Gabriel, a Social Democrat who also serves as Germany's vice chancellor.
In future crises, Europe may not always be able to "wait on the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers to come up with a road map" and then see that translated into a cease-fire, he said.
Germany has to offer its "capabilities" and be more engaged, he said. He acknowledged, however, that with Germany's militaristic past, the question of how the country can be more involved is complicated.
He urged a common European stance toward China, saying that "not only should there be a one China policy from us, China should have a one Europe policy that doesn't attempt to divide us."
Gabriel lamented what he called a "social Darwinist" attitude toward international politics from the Trump administration and some nationalist voices in Poland, driven by "the idea that not only is the world an arena on which one fights, but also that in the end only the stronger has the right to live."
"If the U.S. says, no, the rule of law is not the basis of our policies, but the rule of the mighty is, then that's a dangerous example. It makes the West weaker, because without the U.S. the idea of the West becomes weaker," he said.
He said that Germany and France should "stand up against" nationalist tendencies in places like Poland, where moves to control the judiciary are seen as undermining the EU's democratic values and European cooperation.
Gabriel met Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has also campaigned for a stronger European voice in the world.
Gabriel praised Macron's controversial efforts to reform French labor laws and change Europe-wide rules on so-called posted workers, who cross EU borders to work. He said those reforms would boost Europe economically.
"The Franco-German engine is reignited," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
Angela Charlton in Paris and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.