Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice chancellor and incoming foreign minister, warned Thursday that the European Union could disintegrate. Hostility to the 28-nation bloc has gained a new dimension, he said in a speech to the Bundestag, the German Lower House.
Mr. Gabriel, who will swap his role as economics minister for foreign minister on Friday, upset expectations this week by announcing he would not run for chancellor in the country’ s coming elections. Martin Schulz will be the Social Democrats' candidate and Mr. Gabriel will instead take up the post of foreign minister.
In a government statement about the annual economic report on Thursday, Mr. Gabriel said that the upcoming French elections would be a tough trial for Europe. “After Brexit, if Europe’s enemies win in the Netherlands or France, it could spell the end of the European Union, the greatest civilization project of the 20th century,“ he said, according to a report by Reuters news agency.
This would leave Germany isolated and alone. “That would mean we would lose even more partners beyond the United Kingdom and the United States,” Mr. Gabriel said. “I can’t emphasize how bad that is.”
Mr. Gabriel also made a plea for fairness when looking ahead to the general election on September 24. “We are competing politically but we aren’t enemies,” he said, “But there are people who are making us into enemies.” He said people should behave decently and with mutual respect even amid campaigns.