At the beginning of the German EU Council Presidency, Chancellor Merkel faces a difficult task: the controversial Corona development program. Today’s mini-summit is primarily about initial agreements – and clear announcements.
By Holger Romann, ARD studio Brussels
Neighbors’ expectations of strong Germany are high. And if it is up to the Chancellor, then at the special summit, at the end of next week, the most controversial points on both major projects in the EU should be clarified: the amount of the total budget and the reconstruction plan, as well as their exact funding. In order to prepare the ground for this, Angela Merkel not only wants to coordinate intensively with her compatriot and long-time minister, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, but also with the actual organizer of the negotiations, EU Council President Charles Michel.
Before the EU Parliament, which also has a say in the budget, at least, Merkel also wants to explain the political priorities of the next six months under German leadership and also to promote a swift decision there.
Von der Leyen wants “quick agreement”
Meanwhile, the Commission is also pushing the pace: A “quick and ambitious agreement” on the Corona stimulus package – known in the jargon recovery plan or NextGenerationEU – now have absolute priority, explain chief of government von der Leyen, and her Italian economic commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.
“With every day that we lose,” von Leyen recently warned at a joint press conference, one would see “how people lose their jobs and companies go bankrupt”.
It was also Leyen’s idea to invite her former boss and companion Merkel to Brussels a week before the important meeting of heads of state and government. This time in person and not just on the screen, as is common in Corona times.
The idea behind it: Merkel’s many years of experience as a crisis manager, both nationally and European, and the good personal touch of the German tandem should help the EU rescue mission to succeed. “We have known each other for a long time, we trust each other deeply,” said von der Leyen last week. You can speak very efficiently and clearly.
A lot of harmony could be a hindrance
Clear announcements, close agreements and attention to detail are, however, urgently appropriate in the meetings today and in the next few days. On the other hand, too much harmony or even dominance of the German double could be a hindrance.
There is still a lot of controversy among the member states over a whole range of sensitive issues. Above all, whether the majority of the grants for corona-damaged industries and regions should flow as a grant or better in the form of loans. Or, according to which criteria and under what conditions the funds are finally paid out. The so-called Frugal Four in particular, led by the Netherlands and Austria, still have considerable reservations about the generous concepts of Germany, France and the EU Commission.
According to observers, it is anything but certain that the breakthrough hoped for will succeed. According to Commission President von der Leyen, “strong political leadership” is now needed. Your guest from Berlin seems ready for this, but doesn’t want to be impressed by the time pressure alone.
Follow Merkel’s speech in the European Parliament from 2.10 p.m. in a special program in the first and in a live stream on tagesschau.de.