German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called for a swift agreement on the European Union’s mass economic stimulus to advance unity that would strengthen the bloc as it recovers from the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking to MEPs in Brussels during a plenary session, as Germany assumed the EU presidency until the end of the year, Merkel called the pandemic the biggest challenge ever for the EU, where the euro zone economy is set to shed a record 8.7% this year.
“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 foreign trip since coronavirus struck in 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 underlined the need for solidarity across the 27-nation EU, which has been tested in recent months as governments acted alone to secure medical kit or tighten their borders.
Merkel highlighted five areas that Europe needs to work on if it wants to emerge unified and strong from the current crisis: fundamental rights, solidarity and cohesion, climate change, digitisation and Europe’s role in the world. “Germany is prepared to show extraordinary solidarity”, she underlined, to build a Europe that is green, innovative, sustainable, more digital and competitive. “Europe is capable of achieving great things if we work together and stand together in solidarity”, she concluded.
“The challenge ahead for all of us could not be more extraordinary”, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “But we can emerge stronger thanks to Next Generation EU. Germany chose the word: together. That is the engine of our union”. She underlined that Europe needed both, a new EU long-term budget (MFF) and Next Generation EU. The Commission will do its utmost to make sure we will reach agreement, she said.
via Reuters /European Parliament