EU must play global role in virus crisis, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a press conference following the discussion with the heads of government of the eastern German states, in Berlin, Germany, 27 May 2020. [Poll/EPA/EFE]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday (27 May) said the European Union should take more global responsibility in the coronavirus crisis, especially as ties with the United States were currently “difficult”.

In a speech outlining Germany’s priorities when it takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in July, Merkel said the economic and social upheaval from the pandemic has turned the world upside down.

She welcomed the European Commission’s proposed €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund for the bloc but said more should be done to help other countries.

Von der Leyen proposes €750 billion stimulus under member states’ grip

European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed on Wednesday (27 May) an unprecedented stimulus of €750 billion, mostly through non-refundable grants, with governments having a crucial role in deciding how the money will be spent.

“Especially in times of crisis I want the European Union to show solidarity on a global level too and take on more responsibility,” she told the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung think tank by video link.

“In many places, the pandemic will intensify existing conflicts and problems and will therefore also become a stress test for the European Union.”

She called on the bloc to speak up for the values of “democracy, freedom and the protection of human dignity”.

Europe could not tackle the world’s problems alone, however, and she said the United States remained Europe’s “most important partner”.

“Of course I’m aware that the cooperation with America is currently more difficult than we’d like,” Merkel said, pointing to differences with President Donald Trump’s administration on trade, climate change and the importance of international bodies like the World Health Organization.

Nevertheless, she said the transatlantic relationship was a “key pillar” of Europe’s foreign policy and security interests that needed to be upheld and strengthened.

Germany had initially planned to put relations with China at the centre of its six-month EU Council presidency before the pandemic pushed its way to the top of the agenda.

All eyes on Germany's 'crisis' presidency, expected to lead EU recovery

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has forced Germany to radically revise the priorities for its EU Council Presidency in the second half of the year. One thing is clear: the biggest EU country takes the helm in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, at a crucial time for the bloc’s recovery efforts. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The German leader, who is in the twilight of her chancellorship, said it was important for the bloc to maintain “constructive dialogue” with the increasingly assertive Asian giant — seen as both a vital trading partner and a major rival.

The European Union has “a great strategic interest” in working with China and “actively shaping” the relationship, Merkel said.

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