"No country can weather the crisis alone, in isolation," declared Angela Merkel in the German Bundestag. In her government statement, she briefly outlined the main lines of European policy before the virtual meeting of the European Council on 19 June and the start of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 July.
With a view to the tasks facing Germany when it takes over the Presidency, the Chancellor said," Europe needs us, just as we need Europe." Europe is not only a historical legacy, but "a project that will lead us into the future".
With the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Germany is shouldering a special responsibility at a time in which the European Union is facing "the greatest challenges in its history". The initial reflexes in the face of the pandemic – in Germany as elsewhere – was to take a national approach rather than a European approach. That was not a good idea, said the Chancellor, and pointed out, "A global pandemic slows joint international action and mutual support."
In this context, the Chancellor pointed to the joint Franco-German proposal for a 500 billion euro economic recovery programme for Europe. The programme would strengthen the new EU financial framework over the years to come, and invest in the worst hit regions in Europe in particular, equipping them for the future.
The Chancellor said she would be working to ensure that the European Council reaches an agreement as soon as possible both on the multiannual financial framework and on the recovery fund. The current European economic data make swift, decisive action essential, she said.
The Chancellor stressed that the recovery plan for Europe is limited only to the pandemic, is targeted, and would be in force for a limited period. The European Commission would be given the one-off authority to issue bonds on the market on behalf of the European Union, and to use this to award crisis-related grants. This would build on a secure legal basis, which requires unanimous voting in the Council and respects the budget laws of national parliaments.
On 19 June the members of the European Council will attend a virtual meeting in the form of a video conference. They will discuss the planned EU recovery fund in response to the COVID-19 crisis in conjunction with the new multiannual financial framework or budget of the European Union. Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron recently presented a relevant Franco-German initiative. Find out more here.
For the German Presidency, announced the Chancellor, the government has not lost sight of the other major challenges of the moment, in addition to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. She named three priority areas:
Every six months the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union passes from one member state to the next. Croatia has held the Presidency for the first six months of 2020, and Germany will take over for the second half of the year. During this time, Germany will head the Council of the European Union and chair all meetings of the Council. You will find FAQs here, and have a chance to test your knowledge.