Merkel, after Biden victory, says EU and U.S. must work side by side

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday congratulated Joe Biden on his U.S. presidential election win and called for the European Union and United States to work “side by side”, but also said the EU must do more to provide for its own security.

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Merkel held up Biden, who was vice president under former president Barack Obama, as an experienced leader who knows Germany and Europe well, stressing: “We are allies in NATO, we share fundamental values...and interests.”

Eager to move on from President Donald Trump’s critical view of Germany, Merkel said her country, as part of the EU, and the United States must work “side by side” to tackle COVID-19, global warming and terrorism, and to champion free trade.

Trump previously called Germany “a captive to Russia” for supporting a Baltic Sea gas pipeline deal with Russia. Trump also threatened German auto makers with high tariffs on cars imported into the United States and criticised Berlin for not contributing enough to NATO.

“We Germans and we Europeans know that we have to take on more responsibility in this partnership in the 21st century,” Merkel said.

“America is and remains our most important ally. But it expects us, and rightly so, to make stronger efforts to take care of our security and to stand up for our convictions in the world,” she added.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said later Germany is willing to work together with Biden and take over more responsibility in areas where Washington may wish to scale back its engagement.

“The signal to Washington is clear: We are prepared not only to cooperate, but also to talk about Europe and Germany assuming a larger share of responsibility in fields where the United States may no longer wish to be as engaged as in the past.

“But this discussion,” Maas added, “must not be narrowed down to military issues only. It is not (just) about money, but also about political cooperation.”

Germany is ready to do its bit so that “the trans-Atlantic confrontation becomes a trans-Atlantic cooperation again”, Maas said, adding: “In the European Union, we will have to consider how we can strengthen the European pillar of NATO.”

Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Michelle Adair and Mark Heinrich