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Merkel's vision of a tolerant Europe

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Merkel's vision of a tolerant Europe

Merkel's vision of a tolerant Europe
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The German Chancellor may have announced her future retirement from front line politics but Angela Merkel was centre-stage for a packed out European parliament plenary. Outlining her vision of the future of Europe, amid the chaos of Brexit and a rise in populism she called for unity, including a European army, but above all, her vision was underlined by tolerance:

"It becomes more and more important for us Europeans to stand together. And that's why within the EU we need more than ever before the respect of the other and their interests. More than ever before we need the understanding that tolerance is the soul of Europe, that tolerance is a core part of who and what we are as Europeans and that only with tolerance we can develop the willingness to see the interests and needs of the other as our own."

Despite this rallying cry Merkel's record on austerity came for some particular scathing criticism from those on the left.

"She never gave a big speech in Germany to defend the euro zone, she never explained to people why it's a, first of all, also in the deeply German interest to stabilize the euro and the euro zone," remarks Udo Bullmann, German Socialist MEP. "And if you looked at the right-wing development, the extremists' development in Germany, you could see that the Alternative für Deutschland started as an anti-euro movement and developed towards an extremely and right-wing and xenophobic party," Bullman continues.

But Merkel's approach has won over some in the centre for its balancing effect.

"I think Mrs Merkel has been one of the pillars of European integration," says Sophie in't Veld, Dutch Liberal MEP. "She has been a very, very important factor of stability. At the same time, the whole European Union cannot rely on one person, of course. That would be unhealthy."