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Merkel urges EU unity to counter coronavirus crisis

June 18, 2020

The EU is facing its biggest challenge in history, Angela Merkel has told German lawmakers. The coronavirus pandemic has shown the bloc's fragility she said, as Germany prepares to assume the rotating presidency.

Angela Merkel
Image: Reuters/A. Hilse

In an address to the German Parliament on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined the issues she believed would dominate Germany's forthcoming 6-month presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Merkel said the coronavirus represented the biggest challenge that the EU had faced in its history. "The pandemic has revealed how fragile the European project still is," said the chancellor.

"Europe has shown itself to be vulnerable. Cohesion and solidarity have never been as important as they are today. "

Facing the challenge

The impact of the pandemic has also shown Europe needed to take more responsibility globally. Authoritarians, she said, had been using the crisis to their advantage.

"They want to undermine the rule of law. They want to harm people's dignity. They want to undermine people's human rights and civil rights."

In particular, the spreading of disinformation represented a global challenge for Europe.

"This is something we need to stand up against, not just here," said Merkel.

Coronavirus hoaxes abound

What else she spoke about

Merkel also said the EU's relations with China would be a key issue. The chancellor said she favored "open-minded dialogue" in which Europe spoke with one voice, in particular on the issue of Hong Kong.

Other themes covered by the chancellor were digitalization and the shift to a climate-neutral economy.

Why this is relevant now

Merkel spoke ahead of an EU summit Friday that was expected to focus on settling the bloc's budget in the years to come, as well as the bloc's reconstruction program for the economy emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Merkel told her conservative parliamentary group that she did not expect full agreement on either issue in the coming days.

But, in the speech to the Bundestag, the chancellor said she did hope for final agreement on the recovery plan by the end of July.

"It would be best if we could reach an agreement before the summer break," said Merkel, calling for member states to compromise so that a deal could be ratified across the bloc by the end of the year.

The presidency of the Council of the European Union passes among member states on a rotating basis and lasts for a six-month period, with Germany taking the role from July 1 until the end of the year.

rc/rt (dpa, AFP)