Angela Merkel has called for the creation of a European health union that would see a more integrated approach to healthcare across the EU.
Speaking after a summit in Brussels, the German chancellor said that cooperation between member states on healthcare had improved to some degree during the coronavirus pandemic.
But she told reporters that the crisis had convinced her of the need for a fully fledged health union.
The comments are the latest sign that a new front could be opening on the question of European integration, spurred on by the Covid-19 crisis.
Germany has held the rotating presidency of the European Council for the past six months and has sometimes pushed for a common approach towards the coronavirus.
Ms Merkel told reporters: “I enjoyed the council presidency, even though we were not able to do lots of things that we wanted to do.
“Coronavirus created lots of work for us. I would like to thank Ursula von der Leyen. She has had to contend with a disparate group of heads of state and government.
“There was a lot of confusion at the beginning, with different ways of reacting to the virus.
“Now the coordination has improved and it bears the [European] Commission’s stamp. The coordination of vaccines is a good example of that.
“After these six months, I am convinced of the need to work on a European health union to set an example for other important issues.”
In May, Ms Merkel and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, backed a proposal to increase Europe's “sovereignty” on medical products and pharmaceuticals.
“We strive for a strategically positioned European healthcare industry which will, in full respect of the member states’ responsibility for their social security and healthcare systems, upgrade the European dimension of healthcare and reduce EU dependency,” the text of the initiative read.
In addition, the Franco-German proposal said research and development of treatments and vaccines should increasingly be pooled at a European level.
If a health union comes to fruition, it is unlikely to be the work of Ms Merkel, who has said she will retire from frontline politics at the next German federal elections in September 2021.
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