German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on Monday, two days before Germany takes on the rotating presidency of the European Union with an economy associated with the worst crisis since World War II.
Merkel said she hoped that EU leaders would agree on the bloc’s next budget and a coronavirus recovery fund at a summit scheduled for July 17-18.
“Myriad talks” remain, Merkeltold a joint news conference with Macron. “We hope we can find a solution, although there is still a long way to go.”
French and German leaders have called on the European Union to reach an agreement on a recovery plan from late July to start an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Macron and Merkel outlined the backbone of the fund of € 750 million ($ 840 million) proposed by the European Commission to strengthen the bloc’s economy.
The fund would offer grants – without repayment – to countries most affected by the pandemic, an important political U-turn for Berlin and a bitter pill to swallow for the bloc’s most financially conservative members.
“Our absolute priority”
With more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, the EU is keen to show solidarity after months of bickering that has supported public confidence and jeopardized the bloc’s global position.
Macron reiterated its position that an agreement on the EU budget and recovery fund could be found at the July summit. He said the fund should include € 500 billion in grants to the hardest hit countries.
“The Chancellor and I put it on paper: That’s our absolute priority,” Macron said. “Without this, Europe would not face the challenge.”
Merkel, who had initially rejected a Macron proposal for a recovery fund, lost Germany’s longstanding opposition to mutual debt to fund other member states when it became clear that the pandemic was an existential threat to the EU.
“It will not fail because of us,” she said of the Recovery Fund Summit
(AXADLE with REUTERS)