Merkel, Macron urge strong recovery fund for Europe

German and French leaders hope a deal to be reach already in July

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday called for a "strong" and "efficient" coronavirus recovery fund for the EU, urging a deal to be sealed next month, news wires reported. The two leaders met for talks at the German government retreat in Meseberg, days before Germany takes on the EU’s rotating presidency.

Berlin's chairing of the 27-member bloc will be the last with Merkel in charge, and could be the one that defines the legacy of the leader dubbed the "eternal chancellor". With the future of the bloc's relationship with Britain still to be determined, a shift to a lower-carbon world in the balance and deteriorating US-China ties all jostling for attention, there was no shortage of issues to tackle.

But it is the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought that will concentrate minds. Both leaders made a push for €750bn recovery fund proposed by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. They had sketched out the backbone of the fund but it has run into opposition from so-called "frugal nations" like the Netherlands and Austria.

"We hope we'll find a deal (in July), even if the road is still long," Merkel said. "What is important for me is that we come out of the debate with a strong instrument. There will of course be changes that must be discussed. But it must remain a fund that... really helps countries that are hardest hit by the crisis."

Macron had blunt words for the hold-out nations, warning that it would "not be in their interest to see certain members -- in particular, members of economic significance in the European economy -- affected" by a scuppered deal. "So it's solidarity to have this transfer but also it is in their own interests."

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