Merkel open to EU treaty change to boost health powers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the start of a cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany, 21 April 2021. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday (21 April) that the European Union needs more power to coordinate the bloc’s response to health crises like the coronavirus pandemic, and did not rule out a treaty change to secure them.

The veteran leader is due to step down after German elections in September and she has sometimes struggled to coordinate coronavirus measures taken by regional leaders within Germany.

But her comments to an online meeting on the Future of Europe of fellow European conservatives raised eyebrows in Brussels, where the start of a large-scale public debate on the future of the EU has revived talk of reopening the bloc’s governing structure.

“I believe that Europe needs more competences in the area of health,” Merkel told the event organised by the European People’s Party (EPP), the umbrella group that includes her German party, the CDU.

Merkel cited as an example the idea of further empowering the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), which is modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

The German leader also criticised the attitude of some EU governments to the European Commission’s vaccination strategy, warning it was a mistake for some to turn to Chinese or Russian vaccines without the approval of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

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