CHANCELLOR MERKEL: Ladies and gentlemen, not only am I happy to have had a video conference with French President Emmanuel Macron today, as has become standard in the meantime during the pandemic, I’m also pleased that we’re able to hold the press conference today in a way that will allow you to ask the two of us questions, both in Berlin and Paris. So my warm regards to you in Paris.
We spoke today about how France and Germany can play a part in overcoming the pandemic crisis, which we agree is the severest crisis the European Union has ever faced. A crisis of this type requires the right kind of answers.
Franco German cooperation and friendship call on us to send this message, in awareness that there are 27 of us. But I believe that if Germany and France get the ball rolling, this will help us to reach consensus in Europe and support the process of reaching consensus. We need to take action. We need to take action at the European level so that we emerge sound and stronger from this crisis.
The Finance Ministers have already launched a large package of guarantees as regards the European Investment Bank, the ESM and SURE unemployment insurance for reduced hours compensation benefit. This has been approved by the Heads of State and Government. That was a tremendous contribution, a first step. We now want to implement this quickly.
But it is not enough. We already said at the time that we need a recovery fund. Germany and France have spoken in depth about what form this recovery fund could take.
What is the goal? The goal is that Europe will emerge united and mutually supportive from this crisis. We know that the virus affects our countries in different ways and that this is why we face a risk that the economic impact of this virus will undermine EU cohesion and that the cohesion we actually need no longer exists. That is why the recovery fund must play a part in enabling all countries in Europe to respond in the right way. This requires an extraordinary, one off exertion, one that Germany and France are willing to make.
Europe needs to stand together. We need rapid economic recovery. That is why we want to launch a temporary fund of 500 billion euro for EU budget expenditure. In other words, this would not provide loans, but rather budget funding for the sectors and regions hit hardest by the crisis. We firmly believe that it is both justified and necessary to now provide funding for this from the European side that we will gradually deploy across several European budgets in the future.
Naturally, all this needs to comply with the European treaties and European budget law and of course it also affects parts of the member states’ budget planning. It is thus crucial that a recovery fund of this type be based on a sound legal footing and reflect national parliaments’ budget autonomy.
However, we will set up the fund in this way. That means that the Commission will raise money so that the recovery fund and the medium term budgetary framework will then make up the overall EU budget and provide significantly more funding in the first years after the crisis – namely these 500 billion euro – in order to support the affected countries and sectors via the budget.
This exertion is necessary. We firmly believe that. This will lead to greater cohesion in Europe than is currently the case.
Furthermore, we will work very closely together on making the European Union fit for the future. Naturally, this funding will also be used to invest in digital transformation, the Green Deal and tackling the climate catastrophe, thus generating new momentum for the future. In the future – and this is also part of the Franco German initiative – we will work very closely together on health and the lessons we learn from this crisis.
All in all, I’m very glad that Germany and France can announce this initiative today. It is what I believe we need so that we can play our part in the future of the European Union.
Furthermore, after this pandemic we will run the member states’ Conference on the Future of Europe with the European Parliament and the Commission in a different way than we had originally planned, as we need to talk seriously about where there were shortcomings in Europe and what will define the future of the European Union. This can also include amendments to the treaties; it can include far greater integration. We are presenting the short answer to the crisis today, so to speak. The long answers will need to be discussed because Europe must be developed further.