Germany's chancellor spoke on a wide range of topics in her first trip to Brussels since the pandemic caused lockdowns across the continent. But top of her agenda was the economic recovery from the coronavirus outbreak.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on fellow EU member states on Wednesday to pull together in order to make a success of the €750 billion ($847 billion) recovery package proposed by the bloc. Addressing the European Parliament, she called for a holistic approach to recovery efforts.
"In the next months it is essential to try to contain the pandemic and to overcome the consequences. Those are health-related, social, and economic consequences," Merkel said.
She called for solidarity and unity within the EU, as she addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, and sought to drum up support for the multi-billion euro recovery package to tackle the coronavirus and its economic impact.
"I believe in Europe. I am convinced by Europe," Merkel said. "No one can make it through this crisis alone. We are all vulnerable."
Other pitfalls ahead
Merkel also spoke of the dangers of nationalism and called for a more aggressive plan on tackling climate change. These would be among Germany's top priorities during its six-month presidency of the of the Council of the European Union, she said.
Merkel met the presidents of the three main EU institutions, including her former defense minister and CDU ally, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as part of her first trip abroad since the coronavirus broadly halted European travel.
Strict border restrictions and limitations to people's movement were enacted across the continent to slow the spread of the virus, but many have been eased in recent weeks.
Now the bloc is seeking a way out of the financial turbulence sparked by the pandemic, with the EU's economic recovery topping the agenda during Merkel's trip.
No-deal Brexit concerns
Merkel also said Germany would continue to push for a new partnership agreement with Britain, but the EU should be prepared for an abrupt split of ties from 2021.
"Progress in negotiations thus far has been slim, to put it diplomatically," Merkel said. "We have agreed with the UK to accelerate the pace of the talks ... I will continue to push for a good solution but we should also prepare for a possibility of a no-deal scenario."
Her appearance in Brussels coincided with the latest round of talks between EU negotiators led by Michel Barnier and a British team led by David Frost.
Difficult talks ahead of summit
The meeting took place ahead of next week's summit involving the EU's 27 heads of governments. The EU is pushing for a consensus on the bloc's €750 billion ($846 billion) stimulus deal from those talks after a similar conference at the end of June did not result in any concrete agreement.
Despite the EU voicing hope for a July breakthrough at its previous summit, the so-called "frugal four" — the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Austria — have been critical of certain aspects of the deal, primarily the pooling of liability for the grants across the EU.
jsi/msh (dpa, Reuters)