Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on Monday, days before Germany takes on the rotating presidency of the European Union with the economy in the throes of the most severe storm since World War II.
Berlin's chairing of the 26-member bloc will be its last with Merkel in charge, and could be the one that defines the legacy of the leader dubbed the "eternal chancellor".
EU heavyweight states push for joint supervisor against money laundering
Chancellor Angela Merkel fine after trembling spell
With the future of the bloc's relationship with Britain to be determined, a crucial shift to a lower carbon world in the balance and crises from Libya to Syria all jostling for attention, there is no shortage of burning issues to tackle.
But the COVID0-19 pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought have become a bull in the painstakingly arranged EU china shop.
"This crisis that we're currently experiencing is different compared to any other we have experienced since the founding of Europe," Merkel, in power since 2005, told parliament in an address laying out priorities for the EU presidency.
"Alone in Europe, it has claimed more than 100,000 lives. A few weeks of economic standstill was enough to endanger what we have built up over years."
With all to play for, member states are anxiously looking to Europe's biggest economy to take charge.
In an interview published Saturday, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said it was "very fortunate that Germany is taking over the presidency at this time of a major crisis."
Merkel's long experience and credibility "helps enormously," she told the Handelsblatt newspaper.
So high are the expectations that Germany's EU ambassador Michael Clauss said in jest they are making him "sleep badly, because I think the expectations are already a bit overstretched."
"We have to act as honest brokers, otherwise we won't have the support of the council."Agence France-Presse
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Paris on Thursday, a day after Berlin offered a glimmer of hope that an agreement could be reached to avoid a chaotic “no deal” Brexit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday there was still every chance for Britain's divorce from the European Union to take place with a deal although Berlin is prepared for a disorderly Brexit in case that does not happen.
French President Emmanuel Macron has assumed the mantle of peacemaker in the absence of the leaders of Germany, Britain and the US. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to stand down next year she appears to be avoiding involvement.
The European Union regretted a new wave of US tariffs on French and German products that came into force on Tuesday and said it would seek a trade truce with the incoming Biden administration. The tariffs are yet another chapter in a 16-year spat over subsidies
Authorities estimated there were at least 600 injuries so far, and Little Rock police were transporting people to hospitals as there were not enough ambulances to respond, according to local media outlet KTHV.
Thousands of people have gathered at flour distribution centres set up across the country, some as part of a government-backed programme to ease the impact of inflation.
The pope, 86, was taken to Rome's Gemelli hospital three days ago after complaining of breathing difficulties. He has responded well to an infusion of antibiotics, his medical team has said.