David Cameron and Angela Merkel in Berlin: press conference

The Prime Minister gave a press conference with Chancellor Merkel in Berlin to discuss Europe and issues for the forthcoming G7 Summit.

The Rt Hon David Cameron

Chancellor Merkel

David Cameron is our guest here in Berlin. As you know, he won the elections in an impressive manner, and I’m happy that he is paying us a first visit. Also very happy that the Queen is going to visit Germany as well, and at this point I would also like to say that as regards to our bilateral relations, we have very close relations, this is underlined and characterised by today’s (29 May 2015) meeting. We discussed the entire range of topics that is the international agenda, starting with Ukraine, also the struggle against IS and the situation in the Mediterranean.

Of course there are a lot of approaches here in these regards. As regards to the forthcoming G7 summit, of course Germany and Great Britain are going to represent a joined position in this meeting, and we are going to incorporate this position in the European discussions as well. We also discussed about the British expectations and desires as regards to the EU referendum, the British membership in the EU, and the anticipated British changes to the EU, and of course the situation within the EU. We discussed the various items in the catalogue, it was not the first time that we discussed these topics today, but now we are embarking on a process that should be more specific than previously.

We in Germany have a very clear cut hope. Of course the decision has to be made by the British population. Our hope is that Britain is going to stay in the EU and I’ve already mentioned the number of challenges that we face. The single market is of course a core item in the European Union that generates prosperity and employment in Europe and we also have a number of commonalities with Britain in this regard, as regards the bureaucracy that we want to diminish and other items as well. And I am sure that we will find common positions in this area very quickly. There are other items where we need to negotiate more — more protracted basis. There are of course cases of social abuse of the social systems. The free movement but of course is also a topic and of course we’re also following very intensively what goes on in the legal area as regards the European Court of Human Rights.

Of course we have the desire to work very closely together. We would like to be a part of the process which is going on in Great Britain at the moment and we would like to be a constructive partner in this process. And on other occasions I also said wherever there’s a desire there’s also a way and this should be our guiding principle here as well. And it’s also of interest of course and that’s why I’m saying this. It is worth talking about the content, the substance and we also need to talk about what needs to be changed. Is it necessary to change the treaty? Can it be changed via a secondary process? But of course if you are convinced of a content, of a substance, then we shouldn’t be saying: “Well to change the treaty is totally impossible.” But as regards the Eurozone, for example, I was always anticipating that we should be focusing on the substance. And we shouldn’t really be concentrating too much on the formalities.

In this regard our time that we use for the discussion was very well-used and I’m very glad. I’m very much looking forward to our discussions in the future and in this regard this has been a very constructive and a very friendly conversation we had.

Prime Minister

Well, thank you, and good [inaudible] together so successfully and a pleasure because the relationship between the United Kingdom and Germany is so important to the success of both our countries. I’m particularly pleased to be here this morning and today, this afternoon with a fresh mandate for a further 5 years. Because I know that together we can get a lot of things done.

We’re 2 centre-right leaders and we have a similar outlook on many issues. We believe in fiscal responsibility, both at home and in the European Union. We believe in free markets. We believe in the Atlantic relationship. We believe in free trade. The trading relationship between Britain and Germany is one of the fastest growing anywhere in the world. And German companies now invest more in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. We both want to expand free trade globally and we now have the opportunity to work together to deliver a free trade deal with the United States which will bring greater prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s a testament to the deep relationship between the United Kingdom and Germany that the Queen will make her fifth state visit to Germany next month and I’m particularly delighted to be able to join Her Majesty on this visit to attend the state banquet here in Berlin.

Of course I’ll be back in Germany before then for the G7 Summit in Bavaria next weekend. We’ve talked about that today and it’s clear that there’ll be many important issues on the agenda. We need to discuss how we can tackle some of the big issues facing our societies. From combatting climate change to better preparing ourselves for the next global health emergency, to tackling the corruption that poisons so many countries around the world. We must talk about what more we can do to protect our countries from the threat of terrorism by defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria and by preventing our people in our own countries from being radicalised and threatening their fellow countrymen and women.

We’re also going to be discussing at the G7 I know what more we can do to support a political process in Libya, bringing stability to that country and helping to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean. And we will also continue to push for a solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. We both agree that the existing EU sanctions must be maintained until there is the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. And let me pay tribute to you, Angela, for the extraordinary work that you’ve done with François Hollande to help to bring those agreements about.

Finally, we spent a lot of time today talking about my plan to reform the European Union and to re-negotiate the United Kingdom’s place within it. This is an issue, as you said, Angela, that we’ve discussed many times before but today was an opportunity to start to really get down to business and work through each issue. And to discuss together how we can address the concerns that people in Britain and elsewhere have about the current state of the European Union. Of course, there’s no magic quick solution but as the Chancellor has said on this previously and again today, where there’s a will, there is a way.

The European Union has shown before that when one of its member states has a problem that needs sorting out, it can be flexible enough to do so. And I have every confidence that it will do so again. The European Union is better off with the United Kingdom as a member and I believe that Britain’s national interest can best be served by staying in the European Union on the basis of a reformed settlement. That is what we both want to happen and that is what we’ll work together in the coming months to achieve. Thank you.


A question first to both of you, given the state of the corruption allegations against FIFA, do you believe that Sepp Blatter should resign? And Frau [inaudible], guten tag, what chance do you believe that David Cameron has in achieving his reforms, given the opposition that you and so many other leaders have towards the treaty changes that he’s seeking? And, Prime Minister, the one question I’m repeatedly asked as I follow you around Europe is, “Why is David Cameron insisting on treaty change when almost everybody says it simply isn’t going to happen?” Why not now admit that actually you’re not really looking for treaty change, you’re just looking for the promise of some kind of minor textural amendment, possibly sometime in the future?

Prime Minister

Well, lots of questions in there. Perhaps I’ll start with Sepp Blatter. Yes, in my view he should go. You cannot have accusations of corruption at this level and on this scale in this organisation and pretend that the person currently leading it is the right person to take it forward. That cannot be the case. Frankly, what we’ve seen is the ugly side of the beautiful game and he should go. And the sooner that happens the better. The faster that organisation can start to rebuild its credibility, which is going to be so important because so many people around the world want to see this game properly managed, properly looked after, so we can all enjoy the World Cups of the future.

Taking your second question, look, there’s the — as Angela said, what matters is the content. It’s the substance of what needs to change. Now my view is clear that the substance requires changes to the treaty. But let’s get this substance sorted out first and discuss that and then move ahead and move on and make the changes that are necessary. And I was very heartened by what the Chancellor said in terms of where there’s a will, there’s a way. And if content requires changes in treaties then you can’t let that stand in the way of what needs to be done.

I’m clear that what we want here, is for changes that address the concerns that people have, and I’ve set out what those concerns are, and as we address those then I think people will see that it is right for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union, and I’m pleased with the way these visits have gone so far. I’ve been to Holland, been to France, been to Poland, now here in Germany, I’ve met with the president of the Commission. And this is about starting a process. Of course it’s going to be difficult, of course there’s going to be disagreements, of course there’s going to be days when it looks like it’s going well, and days where it looks like it’s going badly, and I said that to you back in Riga. But the important thing is to get it underway, and then you can judge it at the end of the process, rather than taking the temperature of the process every day on the way through.

Chancellor Merkel

With FIFA, they should have transparency, and that is absolutely necessary so we can enjoy the wonderful game of football. And that the dirty side, as David Cameron was saying, should be removed, and I think this is in the interest of all fans of football, and we’re talking about billions of people.

As regards your second question, I think I was already saying this, and I can reiterate it, as to the formality, do I need a change to the treaty, do I need a secondary change? That basically is something that we need to consider when we talk about the substance. And in Europe we have a principle whereby a country that has a desire, then of course you try to accommodate the various desires and wishes. And of course there are red lines, and of course we have principles like the free market, the free trade, and those issues are not at stake. But of course, we can accommodate these desires, and we have in Germany certain desires, and if we — and if the way that Great Britain differs from other EU countries ways, of course that needs to be researched.

And I’m going to have a constructive approach. I want to find a solution. And if I reflect on how we started the discussions on the budget and how we were able to find a solution, I think this is a very good example of sometimes merging positions that seem to be impossible to merge. And I can sense among my colleagues, and indeed I was also talking about the Commission president, and David Cameron, have already had discussions with the Commission president, and we need to face these questions.


Madame Chancellor, Prime Minister, Deputy Chancellor Gabriel today writes in a [inaudible] paper, we need in Europe more courage [inaudible] particularly France and Germany need to be at the vanguard, need to lead the way. Chancellor, do you share that view? And Prime Minister, what do you think of this two-speed Europe proposal, where France and Germany would be the pacemakers, as it were.

Chancellor Merkel

I share this view [inaudible] our countries who are part of the Schengen agreement, we have countries that have knocked that out like Denmark and Great Britain in various aspects, so in this regard the Europe of 2 speeds is effectively our reality today. And as regards the Euro crisis, we made proposals, and I’ll talk about the fiscal proposals that are obligatory and binding for Eurozone countries, and as regards the 2 speeds, well, basically, we ought to be open to anybody, we should not exclude anybody, but if somebody says, “I’m not going to take part in one project or another project”, then of course we need to consider, we need to have a principle of an enforced pace. And there are some countries that are discussing about regulations on a finance transaction rule, and this is going to continue and France and Germany are going to render impulses, but it may be in other areas other countries are going to render these impulses. But our experience teaches us that if and when France and Germany make proposals, then we have a high degree of agreement coming from other countries. But of course, the positions are different, we already have the different speeds, and I have no problem with that at all to have also this principle of different speeds in the future.

Prime Minister

I agree with exactly what the Chancellor has said. We already have a Europe of different speeds, and sometimes of slightly different destinations. Britain’s not in the Euro, not going to join the Euro; Britain’s not in the Schengen group and doesn’t intend to join that group. But when it comes to things like the single market, Britain is one of the fastest to implement directives and make sure we’re complete in the single market, when it comes to pushing for ambitious trade deals with fastest growing areas in the world, you’ll find Britain in the vanguard making the arguments the fastest and the most aggressively. What Europe needs to be, it needs to have the flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a bloc. I think it’s started to find that flexibility, but I think that we should encourage that flexibility, not be frightened by it; see it as actually a strength of the Europe that I want to build rather than somehow see it as a weakness. It’s a strength to be able to accommodate the different nation states with their different desires and their different beliefs about what the right outcome is.


Prime Minister, following your meeting in Warsaw this morning, the Polish Prime Minister’s office has made clear that they oppose moves to cut benefits for migrants working in Britain, and consider it to be discriminatory. Will you have to compromise on the 4 year residency rule that you set out? And Chancellor, you talked about the abuse of free movement. Do you share Britain’s specific concerns that migrants who come to work and have their salaries topped up by the taxpayer — do you think that’s a legitimate cause of concern?

And if I may, on your comments about FIFA, do you now think that the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids should be reopened? Would Britain still be willing to host the 2018 World Cup? And Chancellor, do you have full confidence in the 2006 World Cup bidding process? Thank you.

Prime Minister

First of all, on my discussions with the Polish Prime Minister — look, we agree that this is not about trying to get rid of freedom of movement. It’s right there is freedom of movement to go and take a job and live in another European country. That’s one of the fundamental tenets of the European Union and many British people take advantage of that, going to work and live in other European countries. We have to make sure though that our welfare systems are not acting as an unfair or unnecessary draw to countries.

So that’s not about discrimination, it’s about making sure that there’s a proper national determination of welfare systems. And I had good discussions with the Polish Prime Minister this morning, and I think made some good progress.

On the World Cups, I’ll be guided, I think, by Greg Dyke who I think has spoken very clearly and very frankly about his issues. I think we should let him lead on the footballing side of all of this. I will restrict my remarks to FIFA, where I think that you’ve got an organisation that’s now tainted by the accusations of corruption, and you have to ask yourself, who can provide the leadership to take this organisation forward? And I think it’s unthinkable to believe that Sepp Blatter can be the person to take that organisation forward, and that is why change is needed, and the faster that change comes, the more people can have clarity about what needs to happen next. But on footballing, I will be guided by Greg Dyke, who seems to be speaking a lot of sense on these issues.

Chancellor Merkel

We are going to discuss the details that you were querying, just one remark. As regards the free movement, we have it in the European Union, and of course there is another prerequisite, we do not have a social union within the European Union, we have different situations, we have minimum wages that vary dramatically, and we have social systems that vary dramatically. So the question of free movement needs to be connected with the question of employment, and the question as to how are we going to obtain a fair access to social benefits? And this is the reason why this is considered and heard by the European Court at the moment, and we are going to follow any judgement, any decision, with a lot of attention. And there may well be a situation where Germany has to say, yes, we need to change something.

So we’re going to look at it very carefully and we’re going to discuss this very attentively. As regards FIFA, I can only say in very generic terms the transparency needs to be established, the corruption needs to be fought very quickly — as quickly as possible. And all the other questions need to be resolved by FIFA itself.


A question to Prime Minister David Cameron: You have very high expectations that you created in your country as regards a change to the treaty and special conditions for Great Britain. If you happen not to succeed with your desires, will you advocate an exit from the European Union?

And Madam Chancellor, which dangers might be harboured by Britain exiting the EU?

And another question on the FIFA corruption scandal: Will you give a recommendation to your other national associations to perhaps reflect on their participation in the World Cups in Qatar and Russia?

Chancellor Merkel

On the second item, I can say that I’ll have no intention to give any recommendation on this. Secondly, as regards the question, “What if?” well, this is a speculative question and I tend to not give an answer to speculative questions. And hence I emphasise again, we didn’t talk as to what is going to happen if — or what is going to happen when we are discussing how to find a solution. And I was giving examples where we have already found solutions and that’s my assumption, that we’re going to find more solutions in this area as well.

Prime Minister

What I’d say is, look, I don’t go into a negotiation expecting to fail. I go into a negotiation hoping and expecting to succeed. I set out the things that need to change, the concerns Britain has about ever-closer union. This doesn’t work for us. The concerns we have about wanting to drive competitiveness in Europe, the concerns we have about wanting to — making sure there’s real fairness between those countries that are in the single market and won’t be joining the single currency and those that are in the single currency and want to integrate further.

And of course the concerns about immigration and about welfare, which are really the number one concern for the British people, who want to see this properly and sensibly addressed in the European context. And I’m confident we can achieve these things. I’ve always said, if I was to achieve none of these things then I rule nothing out, and I meant what I said by that. But I expect and hope and believe that Europe can show the flexibility that when one of the larger countries, a big contributor, a major European player has some problems and issues, that those issues can be properly addressed. And I’m confident that they can.

I don’t think there’s anything to add on the footballing issue, though of course, perhaps, there’s an opportunity to say that we should have no more penalty shootouts; that I think in future we should just keep playing for as long as it takes so we level the playing field between Britain and Germany, the 2 greatest footballing nations on Earth.

Published 29 May 2015