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Together for Europe’s recovery

Germany has assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU for six months: no easy task in corona times

Helen Sibum, 28.06.2020
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel © picture alliance/dpa

As a former research scientist with a doctorate in physics, Angela Merkel knows very precisely that small things can release enormous force. And yet she shares with people all over the world her surprise at the intensity with which the coronavirus has struck societies and economies. “A virus with a diameter of 140 nanometres has become a global force to reckon with,” said the Federal Chancellor at the end of May during a speech to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) in Berlin. And in the same way that the virus has cast doubt on many accepted certainties, it has also compelled the German EU Council Presidency to change direction. On 1 July Germany assumes the rotating Council Presidency for six months. This represents an opportunity to play an even stronger role in shaping Europe and define thematic priorities.

Europe can emerge stronger from the crisis than it entered it.
Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor

However, jointly mastering the crisis will now inevitably become the central focus of the Council Presidency. Therein lies an opportunity, says Angela Merkel. “One thing is already clear to me: Europe can emerge stronger from the crisis than it entered it. If we are to fulfil this aspiration, we must in my opinion be guided by one leitmotif: European cohesion and solidarity.” In addition to dealing with the consequences of the pandemic, however, it will be important to pay attention to the future global challenges that Germany had anyway wanted to address: these include not only climate protection and a sustainable economy, but also digitalisation and Europe’s role in the world.

I would like to see the European Union show global solidarity.
Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor

Looking beyond the region itself will shape the Council Presidency – even if at the same time the economic reconstruction of Europe and the preservation of European cohesion must succeed. “I would like to see the European Union show global solidarity and assume greater responsibility as well,” says Merkel. “In many places, the pandemic will exacerbate existing conflicts and problems and will thus also test the European Union’s ability to act in foreign and security policy. This makes it all the more important for us to champion around the globe the values that we stand for within the European Union – solidarity, democracy, freedom and the protection of the dignity of all human beings.”

“Trio Presidency” with Portugal and Slovenia

The EU’s relationship with China, for example, will play an important role during the Council Presidency, which Germany has dovetailed closely with its two successors, Portugal and Slovenia, as a Trio Presidency. Partnership with Africa is also to be deepened. Summit meetings with both China and the African Union are planned. To a certain extent, however, a 140-nanometre virus will influence when and in what form they can be held. Nevertheless, it will not be able to stop exchange taking place.

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