German EU Council Presidency: Merkel’s Leadership Vital to Steer EU Through Unprecedented Crisis

Written by | Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Germany takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union – for the last time under Chancellor Angela Merkel – at the time the bloc is facing immense challenges, notably global pandemic and ensuing recession. “It is no exaggeration to say that we are facing the greatest economic challenge in the history of the European Union,” German Chancellor recently said, knowing that Germany’s six-month stint at the EU’s helm already looks like mission impossible in its efforts to overcome the acute problems facing the bloc. Apart from dealing with the debilitating pandemic that’s also severely harming the world’s economic health, Germany will also try to rekindle the waning public faith in the EU project and bring to the end the neverending Brexit saga.
For historical reasons, Germany has publicly shied away from overtly wielding power in the EU. But, it clearly is Europe’s predominant power – with Ursula von der Leyen leading the Commission, German diplomats holding sway behind the scenes and German population size means it has the largest representation inside the European Parliament. And right now the EU needs firm leadership and Chancellor Merkel, who has been in charge of the German powerhouse for the past 15 years, is not shying away from that role. She has continuously referred to this crisis as ‚the most crucial moment in the union’s history‘. If the crisis – health emergency and economic recession – ends badly, not only would it tarnish Angela Merkel‘s reputation, but some warn it would lead the EU down a path from which it might never recover.
Speaking to reporters last week, Ska Keller, a German MEP and joint leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, said that “the biggest challenge” for Germany was “to be interested in the EU.” She also suggested that “so far, the current German government has not shown a lot of enthusiasm for the EU or EU legislation. In fact, on things like environmental legislation it has blocked things.” EU leaders are due to meet again later this month to finalise the €750bn recovery fund and MMF but some countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, oppose the current plans recently floated by the Commission. On this note, Keller said that “Germany will have to focus on the recovery fund and also on reaching a good agreement. The EU is already late on agreeing this and this will be a big challenge for the presidency. But there must be sufficient investment.”

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