EU crisis: Panicked Merkel admits she faces huge battle to unify splintering bloc
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The German Chancellor hopes to reinvigorate the bloc when she takes over its rotating presidency. With Brussels on the brink of chaos, the veteran leader will be at the helm of the EU’s decision-making process until the end of the year. Leaked government documents have revealed she has a number of crises to overcome, such as the bloc’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and post-Brexit trade talks.
Mrs Merkel has told colleagues in Berlin her first task is to heal the divisions that have arisen across the bloc during discussions over a recovery fund that will provide aid to the most pandemic-stricken regions and industries.
According to draft government programme for the six-month period: “During the German EU presidency we will do everything in our power to master this task together in a forward-looking way and to make Europe strong again.”
Europe is facing its worst recession since the end of the Second World War after governments were forced to shut down their economies to halt the spread of COVID-19.
The EU must also agree on its next seven-year budget, with the €1trillion plan already a highly controversial topic amongst member states.
And then there is the post-Brexit trade talks, which must be concluded by the end of the year after Boris Johnson refused to extend the transition period.
Daniela Schwarzer, director of the DGAP foreign policy think-tank, said the health and economic crises that the bloc faces are likely to drive a wedge between even the most united capitals.
She said: “Still, Berlin must help make 2020 the year in which the EU gets set up to cope with the future.”
But Ms Schwarzer added the focus on recovery would allow the bloc to push forward with its green and digital agendas.
Alongside the big ticket issues, senior German sources have said Mrs Merkel would strike to tackle the EU’s lop-sided trading relations with both China and the United States.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday an EU-China summit in Leipzig which was cancelled should be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Mrs Merkel has already placed pressure on her 26 EU neighbours to support the €750 billion bailout package put together by the European Commission.
She stood firm behind the proposal put forward by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
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The blueprint calls for the EU to collectively raise €750 billion on the international markets before distributing €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans to pandemic-stricken regions and industries across the bloc.
Mrs Merkel yesterday told reporters: “Talks won’t fail because of us.
“But there will be no new proposal.”
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One of her first tasks will be marshalling EU leaders ahead of a summit on July 17 and 18, where they will discuss the recovery package.
French President Emmanuel Macron, after a meeting with his German counterpart, said: “We have reached a moment of truth for Europe.
“With this resolute Franco-German commitment, we can turn it into a moment of success.”
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