Merkel calls for extraordinary German solidarity with EU peers

German Chancellor Merkel checks phone at Bundestag ahead of EU summit on Brexit delay in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - The coronavirus pandemic means Germany needs to ready for "an extraordinary act of solidarity" with other European Union countries, Chancellor Angela Merkel said as Berlin prepares to take on the rotating EU presidency from July 1.

In an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and five other European newspapers, Merkel called the pandemic a "challenge of unprecedented dimensions" and urged EU members to maintain their internal market "and to present a united front in the world".

"I am counting on the member states to have a strong interest in common ground in such an extraordinary situation," she said.

Merkel said a proposed recovery fund, which would see the EU raise debt and transfer cash to the countries hardest hit by the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis, was a "special response for a special situation".

Germany supported Spain's economy minister, Nadia Calvino, to head the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, Merkel said, but added that the final decision rested with the Eurogroup itself.

On U.S. President Donald Trump's plans to withdraw troops from Germany, she said: "In Germany, we know that we need to spend more on defence, and we have achieved significant increases in this respect in recent years and will continue to do so for our military capabilities."

"American troops in Germany serve both the protection of Germany and the European part of NATO and the interests of the United States," she added.



(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Maria Sheahan)