Together against the coronavirus

“Our presidency has been characterised by the pandemic,” said Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the start of her presentation to the virtual Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC) on Monday. In accordance with the motto of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union – Together for Europe's Recovery – we have “learned over the months that is better to work together to find ways out of the crisis.” Up until now, she said, the European Commission has only had a coordinating role in healthcare. However, she said, she would like to see the gradual Establishment of a healthcare union.

“The pandemic has also had a terrible impact on our economies,” said the Federal Chancellor. The EU member states will have to deal with the economic consequences for years to come, she added, and so new resources and new ways of reacting to this are required. In addition to the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the European Council is to provide a recovery fund called Next Generation EU. Merkel said that incorporating the European Council’s findings from July of this year into the budget package is proving to be “about as difficult as squaring a circle”. She called on all those involved to take responsibility: “This will not work without compromise and that compromise is needed from all parties.”

A lot of work for the European Council in December

Federal Chancellor Merkel stressed that: “we will have to work right up to the last day.” Yet to be held on 10 and 11 December, she said, is a “very important council session. Some good decisions are hopefully still to be made at this session.”

Above all else, she mentioned here the agreement on ambitious climate targets. The European Commission has set itself ambitious targets, she said, of at least a 55 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. Deliberations on this were about to begin in the European Council, she added. With its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Germany regards itself as responsible for securing an agreement, Merkel said.

Final leg of negotiations with the United Kingdom

Negotiations on future relations with the United Kingdom were described by the Federal Chancellor as another area requiring intensive work over the next few weeks. “We will direct all our efforts at the last stage of negotiations.”

As regards the migration and asylum package, which is currently being discussed by EU interior ministers, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that “a constructive climate” prevails, but it will be very difficult to make progress.

The Federal Chancellor also cited a number of foreign policy issues that will play a key role after the council session in December, including relations with Turkey, the USA and China. A scaled-down virtual Africa summit will also be held on 9 December, she said. Hopefully in the next six months, under the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, it will be possible to reschedule a physical meeting between the African Union and the European Council, Merkel said on Monday.