Merkel, Macron meet as Germany takes on high-stakes EU presidency
BERLIN, June 29: Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on Monday, just days before Germany takes on the rotating presidency of the European Union with an economy mired in the worst crisis since World War II.
Berlin's chairing of the 27-member bloc will be its last with Merkel in charge, and could be the one that defines the legacy of the leader dubbed the "eternal chancellor".
With the future of the bloc's relationship with Britain still to be determined, a crucial shift to a lower carbon world in the balance and crises from Libya to Syria all jostling for attention, there is no shortage of burning issues to tackle.
But it is the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought which will dominate and concentrate minds.
"This crisis that we're currently experiencing is different compared to any other we have experienced since the founding of Europe," Merkel, in power since 2005, told parliament in an address laying out Berlin's priorities for the EU presidency.
"Alone in Europe, it has claimed more than 100,000 lives. A few weeks of economic standstill was enough to endanger what we have built up over years."
With all to play for, member states are anxiously looking to Europe's biggest economy to take charge.
In an interview published Saturday, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said it was "very fortunate that Germany is taking over the presidency at this time of a major crisis."
Merkel's long experience and credibility "helps enormously," she told the Handelsblatt newspaper.
Besides its geopolitical weight and economic heft, Germany takes on custodianship of the bloc with a strong hand as it has so far withstood the health emergency better than most other member states. -AFP