Germany, the EU’s economic powerhouse and strongest anchor, is being urged to “show leadership” within the corridors of power or face the consequences. Analysts say the coronavirus crisis, which has swept across the globe, has forced Berlin to realise it will have to show strong leadership or the EU won’t survive.
James D. Bindenagel, professor at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Bonn, told politics news site Politco.co.uk: “If Germany doesn’t show leadership in Europe, there won’t be a Europe.”
German Chancellor Ms Merkel appeared to recognise her nation’s influence on the EU stage in comments she made recently during a speech to lay out Germany’s plans for EU presidency.
She told MPs: “Europe needs us, just as we need Europe.
“How Europe fares in this crisis compared to other regions of the world will determine both the future of European prosperity and Europe’s role in the world.”
Ivan Krastev, a European affairs analyst and chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, added: “For the first time, the Germans have recognised that we’re in a totally different world and they’re trying to find their place.
“It’s Merkel revising Merkel.”
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For weeks, EU member states struggled to put on a united front in the face of the pandemic, squabbling over money, medical equipment and drugs, border restrictions and trade curbs, amid fraught talks laying bare their bitter divisions.
Southern EU states, led by Italy, demanded far-reaching measures like issuing joint debt, clashed with the Netherlands, which acted as the bulwark of the fiscally conservative north and called for more restraint and narrowly focused measures.
It comes after Ms Merkel agreed with her counterparts in Portugal and Slovenia that the EU should focus on rebuilding the bloc economically and socially after the coronavirus crisis in the next 18 months when the three assume the rotating presidency.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement after the three held a video conference: “The trio’s joint programme focuses on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social rebuilding of Europe.
“The aim is to strengthen the EU’s resilience to pandemic crises in the long term.”