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Die gegenwärtige Krise schaffen wir ohne die EU nicht


Botschafter Christoph Israng, der französische Botschafter Roland Galharague und der stellvertretende Außenminister der Tschechischen Republik Aleš Chmelař schrieben gemeinsam über die Herausforderungen an die EU während der Corona-Pandemie. 30. April 2020, Tageszeitung Právo.

We will not overcome the crisis without the European Union

The worldfaces a pandemic without precedent and Europeans rally to protect their citizens, cure their populations and help countries and regions most affected. Inspite of all efforts, the Europeans face a common challenge that gets more severe by the day looking at the human toll – in medical, economic and social terms.

In this crisis, solidarity among European member states saves lives. The German and Luxemburg hospitals take in Italian and French patients in need of urgent care – and the Czech Republic has offered the possibility to France. France and Germany have sent twice the amount of medical material to Italy than China. The Czech Republic sent protective equipment to Italy, Spain, Slovenia and North Macedonia. German doctors support their colleagues in Italy, many countries send medical equipment.

At the European level, we have decided to close the external borders of the EU and the Schengen area. We have paid careful attention that the controls put into place at the internal borders do not hinder the free flow of goods necessary for the supply of the population. Together, we have made available 300 million Euros for research on Covid-19. To respond to the joint call for action from health actors, the EU is joining forces with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway and Saudi Arabia to host a pledging event. World-leading scientists and health experts say €7.5 billion ($8 billion) is now needed to develop solutions to test, treat and protect people, and to prevent the disease from spreading. The European Commission has proposed to set up an emergency support instrument of 2.7 billion Euros, on top of the 2020 budget. The European Central Bank has launched an emergency program of 750 billion Euros to meet the financial needs of the business sector.

The Heads of States and Governments have taken important measures to coordinate our efforts in the field of public safety, protecting Europeans and mitigate the social-economic effects of the pandemic:

1. Setting up the first common reserve of medical equipment and creation of common rules for the acquisition of individual protection equipment. The equipment shall be made available quickly after the signing of contracts between Member States and producers. This also applies for a coordinated effort to increase the production capacity. In addition, a licencing requirement has been introduced for exports outside Europe.

2. Common efforts to repatriate European citizens

The European governments have facilitated the repatriation of their citizens from third countries, not only for their own citizens, but also for those from other European States. Since the beginning of the epidemic in China last winter, France has repatriated 150 European residents from Wuhan, including Czechs. Since early March, more than 5.000 third country residents of the European Union have been returned home by Germany (including Czechs on 37 German flights) and many thousands by France (including Czechs from Tahiti). The Czech Republic has helped to repatriate Germans from Columbia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Egypt, as well as French citizens from the Philippines. The European mechanism for civil protection (MEPC) has co-financed the return flights of about 50.000 Europeans, and is still organizing flights to help those European citizens around the world who need to get home.

3. Facilitation of transport in Europe of goods and merchandize, thanks to priority lanes at internal border crossings especially for the supply of hospitals, shops and firms, but also for persons where necessary, especially cross-border workers or European citizens returning home. The restauration of full freedom of movement in the EU implies a coordinated and collective effort.

4. Crisis reaction in form of re-allocation of 55 billion Euros in the EU budget-line on cohesion policy.

5. Support for the companies and workers in suspending the State aid constraints.

6. Temporary suspension of the Stability Pact to allow Member States to deviate from the budget rules combatting the pandemic.

Finally, after two difficult but successful negotiation rounds, our Finance ministers have set up the most important support program for the European economy ever. The stakes were high and the discussion complex but consensus was achieved. France and Germany have united their efforts to find a solution to mobilize the necessary resources to ensure the restart of our economies: besides the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European budget and the European Stability Mechanism will be mobilized to ensure the protection of workers, companies and states. Negotiations are also ongoing with a view to putting together an innovative Recovery Fund to help Member States out of the economic consequences of the crisis. While not a member of the Euro zone, the Czech Republic will benefit from the solidarity program SURE for the „Kurzarbeit“ (volume 100 billion Euros) and the enlargement of the guarantee fund of the European Investment Bank (+ 200 billion Euros). More globally, all instruments safeguarding support for the economies of the Euro zone will contribute to the stability of the continent, thus also the Czech Republic.

One should not forget that the European Union has no competence in the health area and has not been designed to meet such a severe pandemic! It has to adapt like the great majority of states in the world to meet this sanitary challenge.

We Europeans are taking decisions of a size unprecedented in the history of our Union. The signal is clear: We do not hesitate to be inventive together to protect the most affected sectors and their employees, whenever needed, without forgetting the citizens. We have to stand together against the virus.

The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has summed up well the stakes that are out: „It is the wish for a strong and resilient Europe that unites us all, be it from North or South, East or West. And let’s be clear: We will remember for a long time the decisions we take today. They set the foundations that the European Union of tomorrow will rest upon.“

On this road – jointly and in solidarity – we will overcome the crisis and will win the fight against this pandemic.

A pandemic is a sort of crises, which crystallizes characters. It shows the best as well as the worst of them. Both could be productive if properly reflected and utilized: the worst could reveal the weaknesses, thwart unrealistic expectations and support carefulness; the best can inspire and strengthen viable optimism. These lessons are applicable to single communities like families or cities as well to united communities like the EU. Let's hope we all will learn the best mixture from it: political determination and careful optimism.

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