After French President Macron on Friday, Federal Chancellor Merkel received another guest at the Chancellery on Monday evening: as previously with Macron, she spoke to the Italian Prime Minister about the upcoming European Council meeting in Brussels.
EU leaders are due to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery and migration at the European Council meeting in Brussels on 24 and 25 June. Other subjects include EU relations with Turkey and Russia.
Better coordination in the coronavirus pandemic
At a press conference with Draghi, the Federal Chancellor said that at their dinner, the two leaders would be discussing the consequences of the pandemic. The issues here are the recovery plan and also improved coordination with regard to entry regulations. The Chancellor said that member states were still dealing with travellers from the UK in very different ways, for example. She called for improved coordination in this area.
As far as the pandemic situation was concerned, she and the Italian Prime Minister were among those adopting a more “cautious” approach, said Merkel, but they were both pleased to see that the situation was essentially improving at the present time. “Nonetheless, we’re fully aware of just how fragile this progress is,” Merkel warned, adding that although vaccination rates were increasing, herd immunity had still not been achieved.
Migration – improving the situation in migrant countries of origin
On the subject of migration, the European Council meeting will focus on the external dimension, in particular the situation in Tunisia and Libya as migrant countries of origin. Draghi said that both he and Merkel agreed on the need for the EU to demonstrate more of a presence in North Africa. The Federal Chancellor also stressed how important it was to “tackle the problem in the countries where the people were coming from. We need to replace illegal migration with legal migration”. According to Merkel, the key question is: “How can we make it possible for the people from these countries – especially in Africa – to go back home, particularly if they have no right to asylum?”
Merkel mentioned Italy’s numerous initiatives to arrive at a political solution in Libya. “I’m very grateful for this.” She also referred to the follow-up conference of the Berlin Process taking place on Wednesday, due to be hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Foreign Minister Maas at the Federal Foreign Office.
The two leaders also addressed the subject of bilateral relations. According to Draghi, the health crisis had resulted in closer and even more solid ties between the two countries. He thanked Germany for its help during the first phase of the pandemic, when many Italian patients were taken to German hospitals.
He also expressed his thanks to the Federal Chancellor for her commitment to the “Next Generation EU” recovery plan, pledging that the Italian government would continue to pursue its path of reform. “That’s the commitment this government has made and is set to maintain in the months ahead.”
This was Mario Draghi’s inaugural visit to the Federal Chancellor. He has been Prime Minister of Italy since 13 February 2021. Due to the pandemic, there were no military honours as would normally be customary for an inaugural visit, but the Federal Chancellor promised this would be made up for on a subsequent occasion. Draghi was President of the ECB from 2011 to 2019, before which he was Governor of the Bank of Italy from 2005 to 2011.