Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was voted in as the Christian Democratic Union leader in December, cast doubt on Europe’s ability to compete with the global superpowers and called for a push on artificial intelligence in order to cope with the “challenge” of keeping up.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s concerns come as she pushes calls for a European Army in response to growing global instability caused by sabre-rattling superpowers.
The CDU chief told Politico: “What I see and feel is that the world is reordering itself, that old certainties are falling away. I see the challenge for Europe in setting the standards in this process.
“I’m not entirely sure that we are aware of this challenge and sufficiently prepared for it.”
The former Minister President of the Saarland state made the statements on the eve a planned merger between Siemens and Alstom to create a European rail industry superpower was blocked by the European Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.
Supporters of the merger argued that Europe needs a company strong enough to compete globally and against competition giants China.
The 56-year-old, who was elected as chair of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) back in December, claims Europe must change in order to prosper in a “contest of systems” with China and the United States.
And the only way the EU can avoid trailing behind Russia, China and the USA is to place a higher importance on technology.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said: “We need to be at the forefront of technological development again.
“We have a time-critical window on AI, and there is an opportunity there, especially in terms of application orientation. But we will only get this off the ground with sufficient momentum if we do it on a pan-European basis.”
Tipped as Germany’s next chancellor, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s party wants to use May’s European Parliament election to contribute to a majority of “constructive European forces” in the EU legislature.
She added: “Europe cannot be only the receiver of strategic decisions of others, that is China or the USA. We have to be strong ourselves to shape the global rules. This includes discussions about industrial policy and future technologies.”
The CDU boss previously warned that the EU’s military needed to step up to the plate, while predicting that external borders would need extra protection for many decades to come in the face of a sustained migrant crisis.