21st Apr 2021

Merkel and party chief clash over Covid-19 measures

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel was earlier forced to reverse plans for a stricter Easter lockdown. In 2021, the pandemic has seen a decrease in her CDU party's popularity, ahead of the September general elections (Photo: Council of the European Union)

German chancellor Angela Merkel and the recently-elected chairman of her Christian Democratic party (CDU), Armin Laschet - who hopes to succeed Merkel - have clashed over Covid-19 measures as an increasing third wave of infections grips the country.

Laschet, who is also state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, on Monday (29 March) defended his more relaxed approach to measures, which Merkel pointedly criticised on television over the weekend.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Laschet hit back against the criticism, saying it "doesn't help us if the federal government and states are pushing responsibility to each other", AFP reported.

Merkel on Sunday in a flagship TV interview called several states out for failing to impose "emergency brake" rules requiring tougher restrictions for regions that reach a threshold for high infection rates.

She criticised Laschet for "choosing an implementation that carries too much room for manoeuvre".

"We must now implement the appropriate measures with great seriousness," Merkel said, according to the national DPA news wire.

The chancellor added that if this did not happen, she would have to think about overriding state regulations "in the very foreseeable future".

"We need action in the federal states," Merkel said, adding: "We need to take the appropriate measures very seriously. Some states are doing it, others are not yet doing it".

Laschet, who was elected as CDU chief in January, however, said that all 16 state premiers are "taking this very seriously".

"Everyone wants the number of infections to go down and everyone has taken the appropriate measures for their state, which are very different," Laschet said, according to AFP.

"I am sure that if we get additional proposals the state leaders will follow them," Laschet told reporters, according to Bloomberg.

Laschet and the premier of Saarland, Tobias Hans, also CDU, said the easing of restrictions would go hand-in-hand with a ramping up of rapid antigen tests to trace and control third wave infections.

Hans, for his part, plans to end a lockdown in Saarland - opening up entertainment and sports facilities - as early as 6 April.

At a marathon meeting between regional leaders and Merkel last week, they had agreed to stick to national rules including strict lockdowns and curfews in areas with more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days.

However, under Germany's federal system, ultimately the 16 states decide their own rules, and some have not imposed curfews and plan reopening measures.

Merkel had already announced a reversal of earlier, stricter, lockdown plans for Easter, citing logistical problems in implementing it.

The rapid spread of the British coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 has led to a sharp increase in new cases.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency reported 9,872 new cases in 24 hours on Monday and a national incidence rate of 134.4 per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

The growing infection rate and sluggish vaccine roll-out have pushed the popularity of Merkel's CDU-CSU alliance down, which now polls at 25 percent, only six months ahead of a general election.

The stakes are increasingly high politically for the conservative alliance in the pandemic, as the September elections and the post-Merkel era are approaching.

The Bavarian state premier, Markus Söder, who is also touted to run for the chancellery, backed Merkel's plans for federal rules that bring the regional states in line.

He told the news programme, Tagesthemen, on Sunday that he could imagine assigning the federal state more power to "enforce clear rules" with an amendment of the pandemic law.

Any new federal powers would raise constitutional issues, and are also a politically-sensitive in a republic that, after World War Two, was rooted in strong federalism with checks on the national executive power.

EU sharpens vaccine export tool, amid third wave

The UK seems to be targeted as it has received 10m vaccines since January from the EU but has not exported back. Several EU countries are cautious about the tighter curbs fearing it could harm global supply chains.


What if Covid-19 had happened under Jean Monnet?

Jean Monnet went from his father's Cognac business, to masterminding the First World War shipping channels, to founding the EU. The bloc could do with some of his business acumen right now.

News in Brief

  1. European 'Super League' falls apart
  2. Concern growing Russia to recognise Ukraine 'republics'
  3. Spain withdraws judicial appointments reform
  4. Dozen EU countries confident of July adult-vaccination target
  5. EMA: Johnson & Johnson jab benefits outweigh risks
  6. Prague asks EU and Nato states to expel Russian diplomats
  7. Global CO2 energy-related emissions to rise 5% in 2021
  8. Ukraine: Russia 'will soon have 120,000 troops at border'


Italy's mafias - boosted by Covid, now eyeing EU's billions

Italy's various mafias are allegedly exploiting the chaos caused by the Covid-19 emergency to infiltrate even deeper into sectors where they are already present, such as healthcare, mortuary services, and waste disposal (both medical and non-medical).

EU missed March vaccination target for priority groups

The EU failed to reach its target of having at least 80 percent of the elderly and healthcare workers vaccinated by the end of March. According to estimates, 55 percent will be vaccinated by the end of June.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. EU negotiators strike deal on climate 'law of laws'
  2. 'Dire' suffering continues in Ethiopia war, EU envoy says
  3. Study: EU 'largely lost leadership' on media freedom
  4. Facebook users in EU get more Covid disinformation than US
  5. EU sends vaccines to Balkans, in wake of China and Russia
  6. Biden's withdrawal and Afghan migration to EU
  7. Europeans are Russian pipeline addicts
  8. Czech leader downplays Russian bomb attack

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us