The Chancellor travelled to Brussels to meet with EU chiefs, including EU Parliament President David Sassol.
“I am delighted that my first trip abroad since the outbreak of the pandemic is taking me to Brussels and, in doing so, to the European Parliament,” said Merkel, whose country took over the rotating EU presidency for six months on July 1st.
Strict border restrictions, business closures and lockdowns were put in place across Europe to stop the spread of the virus.
Now that restrictions are easing, politicians are trying to find a way forward to keep businesses and the economy afloat.
“In the coming months we will have the great task of trying to contain the pandemic and deal with its consequences,” said Merkel. “We are facing an unprecedented situation of economic collapse, and concern about jobs.”
In this context, Merkel reinforced her call for an ambitious recovery plan. She said that funding should not simply be invested to get back to where Europe was, “but also to take a step into the future”. She cited climate change and digital infrastructure as examples.
The leaders of the 27 EU member states will meet in Brussels on July 17th to discuss the €750 billion EU recovery plan, their first physical summit since the coronavirus lockdown began.
Merkel has urged nations to show unprecedented solidarity with hard-hit countries, warning that an uneven recovery could undermine the EU single market and end up harming stronger economies too.
But “member states' positions are still very far apart” on the matter, she admitted last week in a speech kicking off the EU-presidency.