On 1 July, Germany will assume the Presidency of the Council of the EU for six months. The European Union will face many difficult decisions during that term, in areas ranging from economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis to reform of the asylum system. Foreign Minister Maas is therefore visiting a number of Germany’s European partners. In those countries, he will present the most important tasks of Germany’s Council Presidency and discuss the next stage of emerging from the COVID‑19 crisis:
We have given our Council Presidency the motto “Together for Europe’s recovery”. The COVID‑19 crisis has starkly exposed some of the EU’s weaknesses and dependencies. But the crisis has also clearly shown Europe’s strengths: the solidarity and readiness to compromise demonstrated by the member states; the social security in place to support its people. We now need to further expand those strengths, not dismantle them. The coming months will be about much more for Europe than major billion-euro packages. We stand before historic challenges, but the opportunity for change is also of a historic scale.
Austria needed as a pro-European partner
The focus for the coming weeks is on economic recovery following the major COVID-19 crisis. It is clear to Maas that courage and solidarity are needed now, above all else; no country is to be left behind. At the same time, however, the money should also be invested in areas that are important to the EU’s future. Germany therefore considers it vital to make strides on climate protection, digitalisation and innovation throughout Europe during its Council Presidency. The discussions about economic recovery, which will certainly not always be easy, require all sides to make compromises. And Germany will need Austria as a pro-European partner.
Germany and Austria have coordinated a great many elements of their approach in recent weeks as they incrementally open their borders, thereby setting important precedents for the reopening of borders and a safe summer of tourism within Europe. The coming weeks too will involve close liaison with Germany’s major neighbours and travel destinations to reestablish a responsible level of freedom of movement, with common standards and joint measures to ensure that people’s health is front and centre. These points are also on the agenda for today’s talks between Maas and his Austrian counterpart.
Bulgaria, a strengthened partner
In Sofia too, Foreign Minister Maas will be asking for support for Germany’s Presidency focuses. Like Austria, Bulgaria took steps early to control the virus and also took part in the European neighbourhood dialogues that Germany initiated. The Sofia visit will also cover the ongoing liaison efforts to advance the opening of borders and simultaneously protect the public.
Just like in Austria, potential for compromise on proposals relating to the EU recovery fund and the Multiannual Financial Framework will be crucial to the talks in Bulgaria. It is clear to Mr Maas that joint European action and European solidarity – in all areas and with all member states – will be the key to success.