German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday laid out a vision of greater unity and democracy to ensure the European Union emerges stronger from the coronavirus crisis, which she called its biggest challenge.
Merkel told the European Parliament in Brussels that her priorities during Germany’s six-month presidency of the European Council, which began on July 1, include shoring up fundamental rights that the health emergency has threatened.
She also underlined the need for solidarity across the 27-nation bloc, which has been tested in recent months as governments sometimes acted alone to secure medical kit and close their borders.
“We all know that my visit today is taking place against the background of the biggest trial the European Union has faced in its history,” she said on her first visit in person to the chamber since the easing of coronavirus lockdowns across Europe.
“Europe will emerge from the crisis stronger than ever if we strengthen cohesion and solidarity,” she added, as parliamentarians – all wearing face masks – sat separated by empty seats.
Merkel said the depth of economic crisis caused by the pandemic meant that member states would need to compromise to sign off on a joint recovery fund before next month’s summer recess.
Fiscally conservative northern countries have failed to reach agreement with a high-debt group of southern countries hardest hit by the pandemic over the scope and structure of the the 750-billion-euro fund.
EU leaders will try to narrow their differences at a meeting on July 17-18.