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EU divided: Juncker takes swipe at Merkel over border closures – ‘Victim of Berlin!’

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Jean-Claude Juncker, former President of the European Commission, hit out at Angela Merkel for blocking travel between Germany and his native Luxembourg back in March. Ms Merkel shut Germany’s border with Austria, Switzerland, France, Denmark and Luxembourg on March 16.

Mr Juncker, 65, claimed the decision suspend freedom of movement did not display true leadership and insisted European’s became “victims”.

In an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, he said: “This was not an upscale form of statesmanship.

“The borders were closed without thinking about the citizens who became the victims of such Berlin arbitrariness.”

The German Chancellor has confirmed travel restrictions throughout the Schengen zone will be in place until at least June 15.

In a speech in the Bundestag on Wednesday, the Ms Merkel said: “The goal is, if the occurrence of infections allows it – I want to say that again – that from June 15 onwards border controls in the Schengen area can be completely eliminated.”

The shutdown in Europe has caused an economic downturn across the whole of the continent.

Meanwhile, Mr Juncker was full of praise for Ms Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who proposed a £447billion (€500bn) bailout for EU member states hit hardest by COVID-19.

The fund which is yet to be approved by all 27 EU nations, will see debt shared across the bloc.

Financial resources will predominantly go towards southern countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including Italy and Spain – which has caused some opposition from northern European member states.

On the financial package, Mr Juncker said: “I think it is the right solution.

“This enables the EU to formulate an overall more solid answer, especially towards southern Europe.”

These debts will be managed through the EU budget over a period of 20 years.

Ms Merkel said: “We must act in a European way so that we get out of the crisis well and strengthened.”

The European Commission will present its own proposal for a Recovery Fund linked to the EU’s next long-term budget on May 27.

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Mr Juncker’s successor Ursula von der Leyen, said the bloc is working towards and economic solution for all EU members.

She said: “It acknowledges the scope and the size of the economic challenge that Europe faces, and rightly puts the emphasis on the need to work on a solution with the European budget at its core.

“This goes in the direction of the proposal the Commission is working on which will also take into account the views of all member States and the European Parliament.”

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