President Macron, Merkel join forces on EU COVID-19 response

President Macron, Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will later today, launch a joint initiative for the European response to COVID-19, the Elysee Palace has said.

The Elysee did not give any further details about the nature of the initiative, but France and Germany have so far taken sharply different views on a potential European recovery plan.

France, Spain and Italy have been pushing for a major fund to provide grants and loans to restart the economies of the bloc’s worst-hit countries – with Italy and Spain those that have suffered most.

Germany and the Netherlands have been more sceptical.

Merkel and Macron would be holding talks by videoconference at 3:30 pm (1330 GMT) followed by a joint press conference at 5 pm, the Elysee said.

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The European Commission currently has the task of drawing up a compromise that can garner the consent of all 27 EU member states, set to be made public next Wednesday.

The full details are not yet known, but commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made clear it will be anchored within the next long-term EU budget, starting 2021.

The package is to be worth considerably larger than a 320-billion-euro (346 billion dollars) figure that circulated in recent days, according to a commission official familiar with the talks, and involve a large proportion of grants.

EU officials have previously spoken of an instrument worth at least 1 trillion euros.

EU countries already agreed on a half-trillion package of short-term crisis loan instruments.

The first credit lines worth 240 billion euros from the eurozone bailout went live on Friday. 

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