France, Germany push for rapid EU recovery plan agreement

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, left, talk during a bilateral meeting at the German government's guest house Meseberg Castle in Gransee near Berlin, Germany, Monday, June 29 2020. The meeting takes place ahead of Germany's EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020. (Hayoung Jeon, Pool via AP)

BERLIN – The leaders of Germany and France said Monday they will use their influence as European Union powerhouses to help negotiate a rapid agreement on a coronavirus recovery package for the 27-nation bloc that leaves no country behind.

In their first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stressed their determination to work together to try and get European economies back on track as Germany takes over the the six-month rotating EU presidency on July 1.

Already in May, Merkel and Macron together proposed creating a one-off 500 billion-euro ($561 billion) recovery fund that would be filled through shared EU borrowing.

That proposal was expanded upon by the European Commission, which put forward plans for a 750 billion-euro fund made up mostly of grants. It’s facing resistance from some countries, however, that oppose grants and are reluctant to give out funds with no strings attached.

Merkel told reporters at a joint news conference with Macron at a German government villa outside Berlin that they hadn't expected their proposal to be adopted word for word but that it signaled their direction.

“Through our joint proposal for a recovery fund we have made clear that Germany and France want to play a role together in the coming months that makes clear Europe is our future,” Merkel said.

“The expectations are high and we know that when Germany and France are united, Europe is not necessarily united. But if Germany and France are not in agreement, then it doesn't speak well for the unity of Europe.”

Macron called the virus crisis and its economic and its social consequences “a moment of truth” for Europe.