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On July 8th, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was in Brussels to take over the reins of the EU Council presidency from Croatia, where she presented the objectives of the German government at a plenary session of the European Parliament.

The chancellor said that this was the first time since the outbreak that she has traveled and had deliberately decided to make her first trip to “the heart of Europe.” Merkel emphasized that Europe needs to change to “preserve and defend its values” in these extraordinary times.

Merkel is convinced that the EU can work together to overcome the socio-economic shock caused by the epidemic, but that this requires strengthening solidarity and cohesion between Member States.

Together for Europe’s Recovery: Germany Takes Up the EU Presidency

The politician summarized the political objectives of the German presidency in five points:

  • Protection of fundamental rights
  • Cohesion between Member States
  • Promoting climate protection
  • Digitization
  • Europe’s role in world politics

Among the specific political issues, she mentioned the Brexit talks. She expressed her high hopes that the negotiating partners would be able to agree on future relations as early as autumn, but she also warned that a plan B needed to be prepared if there was no bargain.

MEP Katalin Cseh (of liberal Momentum) accused the EU governments of “postponing action against the Orbán government for ten years,” while exposing corruption and serious violations of the rule of law affecting EU funds.

In her response, Merkel emphasized that the concerns about the rule of law are also fundamental to the German presidency. She highlighted that she is concerned about the situation in Hungary and that one of the priorities of the German presidency is to get EU funds where they are really needed.

It is important that we defend the rule of law, which is one of our goals during the German Presidency. We will say our opinions openly, even if it is about Viktor Orbán and we have a different opinion about what is happening in Hungary,”

Merkel said.

Featured photo illustration via Viktor Orbán’s Facebook page