German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the coronavirus pandemic has deepened inequality within the European Union (EU) and has called on member states to agree on an economic recovery package before the end of July.
Speaking in Germany's lower house of parliament — the Bundestag — on Thursday, Merkel said the EU's approach to the crisis will determine the region's place in the world.
“Europe needs us as much as we need Europe,” she said, adding: “The virus has revealed how fragile our European project is.”
Merkel also laid out her vision of Germany's presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year.
She said the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout remains “the biggest challenge in the EU’s history.” The German leader also warned that the union needs to work together to keep EU member states from drifting apart.
“The pandemic has also made it clear that Europe is dependent on other countries when it comes to medicines and protective equipment. This situation has laid bare deficits in terms of sourcing, stocking and distributing medical supplies,” she said.
Merkel added that the situation has also exacerbated differences in EU member states’ economies and budgets.
“As well as that, there is also the fact that while the pandemic has also affected everyone — some have been more affected than others,” she said.
“The medical and economic consequences of the crisis have deepened inequalities within the European community. The pandemic has shown us, our Europe is vulnerable.” She added that “unity and solidarity” is more important than ever.
EU leaders are debating a proposal for a 750 billion euro aid package designed to help the 27 member states to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
European finance ministers have previously struggled to agree a response to the economic impact of Covid-19.
Merkel said she would join her counterparts on a video conference on Friday to debate the proposal, which needs the backing of all individual EU member states. The German Chancellor said she was expecting an agreement on the recovery plan in July.
Merkel warned that the bloc must also take on more global responsibility and speak with one voice to China to represent its values.
“At this time, the world needs Europe's strong voice for the protection of human dignity, democracy and freedom,” Merkel said.