BERLIN (AP) – Leaders of Germany and France said Monday that they will use their influence as European Union powers to help broker a quick deal on a coronavirus recovery program for the bloc from 27 countries which leaves no country behind.
During their first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stressed their determination to work together to try to put European economies back on track while the ‘Germany resumes six month rotation. EU Presidency on July 1.
Already in May, Merkel and Macron jointly proposed to create a single recovery fund of 500 billion euros (561 billion dollars) which would be funded by shared loans from the EU.
This proposal was developed by the European Commission, which presented plans for a 750 billion euro fund consisting mainly of grants. It faces resistance from some countries, however, which oppose subsidies and are reluctant to donate funds unconditionally.
Merkel told reporters at a joint press conference with Macron in a German government villa outside Berlin that they did not expect their proposal to be adopted verbatim but that it indicated their direction.
“With our joint stimulus package we have made it clear that Germany and France want to play a role together in the months to come so that Europe is our future,” said Merkel.
“Expectations are high and we know that when Germany and France are united, Europe is not necessarily united. But if Germany and France do not agree, then it is not good for the unity of Europe. “
Macron called the crisis the virus and its economic and social consequences “a moment of truth” for Europe.
“We can make this moment of truth a moment of success,” he said, stressing the need for a European agreement on an economic recovery plan.
“We will do everything, with the chancellor, to obtain a budgetary agreement in July,” he said.
Macron reiterated that EU measures should include debt pooling and a € 500 billion package of subsidies that would go to the regions most affected by the virus crisis.
He also called on the EU to strengthen its sovereignty in a wide range of areas, including climate issues, the digital economy, food, health, industry and security.
The virus crisis has exposed Europe’s fragility and dependence, he said.
The group of countries that oppose the subsidies, nicknamed the “Four Bursars” – Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden – benefit from the strength of the EU’s single market more than the recovery will cost, he said.
“It is not in their interest to see some members … affected” by the crisis, he said.
Merkel said that whatever form the final recovery package takes, “it must be substantial.”
“There must remain a fund that helps countries that have been hit much harder by the crisis,” she said.
“There is of course still a lot of resistance to overcome, but I think what is really important for many states that may still be skeptical today is the desire that we go through the crisis together.”
Sylvie Corbet reported from Paris.
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