Merkel tells German Protestants of G8 'step forward'

By Ecumenical News International
June 13, 2007

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Germany's biggest Protestant gathering that the results of the meeting she hosted of leaders from the Group of Eight industrial nations marked a "step forward" - writes Stephen Brown of ENI.

But Chancellor Merkel acknowledged that more remained to be done. "Praise and criticism are not mutually exclusive," she commented.

"You can say something has been achieved and still believe that much more needs to be done," Merkel said on 9 June 2007 in her first public engagement following the meeting of the G8 leaders in Heiligendamm in northern Germany.

"Heiligendamm was a good step forward. Nothing more and nothing less," said Merkel, addressing a forum of the Kirchentag, a once-every-two years Protestant church convention meeting this year from 6-10 June in Cologne.

The German chancellor highlighted the G8 agreement that future discussions on climate change should take place under the auspices of the United Nations. She earned applause when she said the results of the Heiligendamm meeting had been possible only because of pressure from peaceful demonstrations.

Merkel also underlined the need for developing countries to have fair access to the markets of developed countries, and said all nations needed to apply minimum standards.

"Globalisation will only succeed if there are minimum social standards and minimum environmental standards, and these standards are applied," said Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor.

She warned, however, "We have to stop acting as though it is possible to achieve a miracle that will change the world from one day to the next."

Religious leaders including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu had taken part in a rally during the five-day Kirchentag in which they called on G8 leaders to keep promises to Africa on poverty reduction, and for action on climate change.

"The important thing is this," said Merkel. "Can I say from all my heart that we are further forward after this summit than we were before? And my answer is a clear 'Yes'."

Merkel was joined at the Kirchentag forum by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh, and the Rev. Mvume Dandala, general secretary of the Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches.

Both Dandala and Yunus criticised what they said was the lack of support from G8 leaders for the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2000 to reduce world poverty and enhance living conditions by 2015.

Yunus said the UN goals had been an example of the "new thinking" that was needed in the 21st century. "This century is about finding new and creative ways to tackle the problems of the world, and leaving behind the old thinking of the 20th century," he said.

Dandala described the millennium goals as "an important sign that says we share a common concern, we share a common responsibility for the transformation of the planet". However, he added, "It looks like the plan is just something that is put there, and then all people go their separate ways."

The G8 countries are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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