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Merkel calls for 'extraordinary' act of solidarity

June 26, 2020

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country can afford to take on more debt to help the EU recover from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. "What's good for Europe is good for us," she said in an interview.

Angela Merkel
Image: Reuters/A. Hilse

Germany is in a good position to help fund a large-scale economic program to aid EU countries to recover after the coronavirus pandemic, and it is in its interest to do so, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Germany had a low debt ratio and can afford, in this extraordinary situation, to take on some more debt," she said in an interview with six European newspapers published on Friday, adding: "As ever, what's good for Europe is good for us."

Read more: Coronavirus: Does Berlin have the pandemic under control?

Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron last month proposed a €500 billion ($560.4 billion) recovery package financed by shared borrowing with other EU member countries — despite Germany's previous and long-standing resistance to joint borrowing.

She told the papers that the coronavirus pandemic had confronted the EU with "a challenge of unprecedented dimensions" and that Germany should "think not just about itself but be prepared to engage in an extraordinary act of solidarity."

Countries that had been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic should receive the most aid from any recovery fund, she said, mentioning Italy and Spain as examples.

Read more: European Commission unveils €750-billion recovery plan

No cure-all

When asked whether the EU's survival was at stake, Merkel stressed that all member states were likely to have "a great interest in the things that unite us." She conceded that the recovery fund could not solve all of Europe's current problems, including nationalist and populist tendencies in some states, but said "not having it would make our problems worse."

"For Europe to survive, its economy needs to survive," she said, pointing out the threat posed to democracy by problems such as unemployment.

Merkel's remarks come shortly before the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union passes to Germany on July 1.

The interview was carried by Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung, the UK's Guardian, Le Monde in France, Italy's La Stampa, La Vanguardia from Spain and the Polityka newspaper from Poland.