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Merkel: Coronavirus biggest challenge in EU’s history

German Chancellor calls for stronger cooperation, but remains reluctant to back shared debt instrument corona bonds

Ayhan Simsek   | 06.04.2020
Merkel: Coronavirus biggest challenge in EU’s history

BERLIN

The EU is facing its biggest challenge since its foundation due to the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, following her “crisis cabinet” meeting, Merkel called for even closer cooperation between the EU member states to battle the political and economic fallout from the coronavirus, but remained reluctant to back Spain and Italy’s proposal for shared debt.

“When we faced crises in the past, I have always underlined the following: Germany will only do well in the long run if Europe does well. This has never been more relevant than today,” she stressed, dismissing criticisms that Germany did not show solidarity with other EU member states worst-hit by the coronavirus crisis.

“The answer can only be more Europe […] a strong Europe, a good functioning Europe […] with all of its parts, all the member states,” Merkel said.

Germany reluctant on Corona bonds

On Sunday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on EU leaders to develop a new Marshall plan for Europe, create a new shared debt mechanism to support economic recovery and reconstruction in countries hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Merkel, who long opposed pooling debt with common crisis bonds, did not make any comment on Monday on the proposed “corona bonds”, but suggested using the existing European Stability Mechanism to support countries like Spain and Italy with credit lines. 

She also backed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s recent short work week initiative, to financially support companies in countries like Italy and Spain.

Merkel’s remarks came a day before a key videoconference of Eurozone finance ministers, who will discuss proposals to fight the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis. EU member states Italy, Spain and France continue to be the hardest-hit countries from the coronavirus pandemic.

Since appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 184 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by the U.S.’ Johns Hopkins University.

Nearly 1.3 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the global death toll topping 70,700, and over 271,000 recoveries.

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