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Merkel wants swift EU deal on COVID economic recovery to grow unity

BRUSSELS/BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday (Jul 8) called for a swift agreement on the European Union's mass economic stimulus to advance unity that would strengthen the bloc as it recovers from the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking to European lawmakers in Brussels as Germany assumed the EU presidency until the end of the year, Merkel called the pandemic the biggest challenge ever for the EU, where the euro zone economy is set to shed a record 8.7 per cent this year.

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"We all know that my visit today is taking place against the background of the biggest trial the European Union has faced in its history," she said on her first foreign trip since coronavirus struck in Europe.

"Europe will emerge from the crisis stronger than ever if we strengthen cohesion and solidarity," she added as parliamentarians – all wearing face masks – sat separated by empty seats.

Merkel said her priorities included shoring up fundamental rights that the health emergency has threatened. She also underlined the need for solidarity across the 27-nation EU, which has been tested in recent months as governments acted alone to secure medical kit or tighten their borders.

Merkel – the EU's most prominent leader – said the depth of economic crisis caused by the pandemic meant that member states would need to compromise to sign off on a joint recovery fund.

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"We want to reach an agreement swiftly, we have seen a great economic upheaval and we cannot waste any time," she said. "I hope we will reach an agreement before the summer recess."

Fiscally conservative and wealthy northern countries have so far failed to agree with the high-debt southern states hardest hit by the pandemic over the proposed 750-billion-euro (US$847 billion) fund that would be tied to the next joint budget worth another 1.1 trillion euros in 2021Read More – Source