“That Germany and France agree, does not mean that Europe agrees. But if Germany and France disagree, the agreement in Europe becomes especially difficult. ” With these words the German chancellor received this Monday, Angela Merkel, to the French President, Emmanuel Macron.
Berlin and Paris have once again presented themselves as the engine of the European Union, this time, at the gates of the German presidency of the bloc that begins on Wednesday, July 1. Merkel’s words highlight the special importance that the Paris-Berlin axis will have in approving and launch the millionaire reconstruction fund planned for the EU, the most urgent issue facing the block due to the pandemic.
Gathered at the Meseberg Palace, on the outskirts of the German capital, the image of the distant salute of the two rulers has recalled that the Old Continent is facing an exceptional crisis. One of the main issues addressed by Merkel and Macron has been the reconstruction of the EU economy when the health crisis is not yet over, as evidenced by the outbreaks of covid-19 in different regions of Europe. The management of the pandemic and its consequences has marked this new bilateral meeting of the two most powerful members of the community bloc.
Macron and Merkel proposed last May a financial rescue fund of 500,000 million euros to help the economies hardest hit by the pandemic. The European Commission’s proposal was to increase that figure to 750,000 million in a rescue tool that should be financed with the issuance of joint European debt. Two thirds of the fund proposed by the Commission would be conditionally free grants and one third would be made up of credits.
The so-called “frugal club”, with Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands up front, they reject that a large part of that injection of money, especially needed by the most indebted periphery -such as Italy or Spain-, is raised in depth and without being conditioned to reforms, as occurred in the last debt crisis of a decade. The decision in this regard should be taken at the next European Council summit in Brussels in the middle of next July, with Germany as the bloc’s president.
Merkel and Macron have been receptive to the demands of Madrid and Rome, They stress that this time the economic impact of the pandemic is beyond the responsibility of their governments. “It has to be a fund that helps countries, which are otherwise threatened with being affected much harder by the crisis,” Merkel said at the joint conference with Macron after acknowledging that the fund proposed by the Berlin-Paris axis faces “great resistance”.
“Expectations are high,” Merkel said of the six-month shift presidency that Germany will take up for the last time this week with her as head of the federal government. In a kind of last mission before withdrawing from the front line – Merkel has grown tired of repeating that she will not run again for next year’s German elections – the chancellor assumes that current EU presidency in a particularly constructive and optimistic. In line with her statements from the past few weeks,. Merkel has insisted on the idea that Germany will only do well if the EU does well. “We want to give positive momentum for the European future,” said Merkel. “Our future is Europe.”
Other topics that the two leaders have addressed are the role of the EU in the world, the position of the bloc in conflicts such as Libya or Syria, the community plan to tackle climate change, the post-Brexit relationship with the United Kingdom and the digitization of the economy and public administration. This last point is one on which Merkel has placed the most emphasis in this her last term as head of the German Government, and on which she will foreseeably put more effort during her semi-annual presidency of the EU.
Asked about the setback suffered by his party in the French municipal elections last Sunday, Macron preferred not to analyze his country’s “internal affairs” in the conference with Merkel. The result of the elections in France reminds us once again that the good harmony between Berlin and Paris could no longer be guaranteed in the not so distant future.