German Chancellor Angela Merkel receiving Fulbright prize

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BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need Monday for international cooperation to fight the rise of nationalism and populism, citing the role the U.S. played after World War II in helping establish a free and democratic Germany and Western Europe.

Speaking after receiving the prestigious Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, Merkel noted how American aid to Western Europe through the Marshall Plan, its role in the Berlin Airlift when the Soviets tried to cut the city off, and President John F. Kennedy’s “legendary commitment” during the Cold War helped lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago.

Germany had “our American friends standing next to us relentlessly, standing up for a free Europe, making this free Europe strong, and we Germans don’t ever forget this,” she said.

Merkel accepted the prize from the Washington-based Fulbright Association at a ceremony in Berlin, the first time it has been held outside the U.S. The association cited her “remarkable, compassionate leadership and her strong commitment to mutual understanding, international cooperation and peace.”

In her address, Merkel cautioned that as the witnesses to World War II grow fewer the world is seeing an increase in “excessive populism and nationalism” and “we have to resolutely stand up against this type of thinking.”

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“We need to remind ourselves why the United Nations was established in the first place, why NATO, why the World Trade Organization and other international institutions,” she said. “It was because of the lessons that were drawn out of the horrors of the Second World War and excessive nationalism.”

Merkel didn’t specifically mention the “America first” approach of the U.S. under President Donald Trump or recent friction over his trade policies and other issues. But she did stress the trans-Atlantic partnership rested on shared values, providing the basis to overcome any problems.

“In spite of all the differences that one has, as one has in any kind of partnership … we need to talk with one another, we need meetings, encounters, lines of communications,” she said.

She said her guiding policy has been that “working for the common good also has a positive effect on the national good.”

“Patriotism for me always means think of our own vested national interests, but also together with the vested interests of others,” she said. “And this is why I will never tire of making a case for the strength of a multilateral, rules-based and values-based global order.”

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