Coronavirus - Statement by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs to all French citizens abroad (17 March 2020)


Full text

My dear fellow citizens, this is a very serious time.

The President of the Republic said it [last night] with great force, we must now consider that our country is at war.

At war with a virus, Covid-19: we must slow the spread in France, Europe and worldwide.

That is why drastic measures have been taken. For a period of time, we will have to accept changing our habits, accept turning our lives upside down: it’s the only way for us to, together, slow down the epidemic, to protect our healthcare system that is already under pressure, and to overcome this unprecedented crisis.

Everyone must take part in this mobilization and all the services of the State are already at work to help our fellow citizens address this.

This is of course the case for the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, which has special responsibility. I want to pay tribute to the teams within our embassies, our consulates, and the Crisis and Support Center of the Quai d’Orsay, who are working day and night with admirable determination and calm, both to strengthen international coordination but also to provide assistance to those of our fellow citizens who are far from our country and are reaching out to us.

This message is addressed to you, my dear fellow citizens. To those of you who are currently abroad, whether because you live there or because you are traveling there, because I know, and it is perfectly valid, that you are awaiting clarification on the situation.

[Last night], the President of the Republic announced the closing, starting now and for 30 days, of the external borders of the European space, meaning the European Union, the Schengen area and the United Kingdom.

What does this decision mean for you concretely? Obviously, if you are French, you and your spouse and children can of course, continue to enter France to come home, just like other European citizens. But we have to restrict international movements any time we can, and therefore nationals of all other countries can no longer enter France for the next 30 days, save for some exceptions.

For French citizens who are abroad, two cases can be distinguished.

For French people who usually live abroad:

We recommend, for those 30 days, to avoid international travel as much as possible and in particular to avoid seeking return to France unless they absolutely have to. Limiting our social interactions as much as possible, as prescribed by the scientific community, also means limiting our international travel. It seems obvious but needs to be said. If some people living outside of Europe feel it necessary to return to France, in particular with regard to their health condition, they should make themselves known to our consulates and embassies. I have asked that special attention be paid to them, as well as to students.

Regarding the French citizens who are currently temporarily abroad outside of Europe:
We recommend that you take the necessary measures to return to France. You should do so with calm, patience and with a spirit of responsibility that this special time needs. To help you, I have asked all airlines and tour operators to join this exceptional joint effort by maintaining their links open with France and moderating their prices. I am also in regular contact with my foreign counterparts to obtain authorization to maintain air links and to ensure that these connections can be operated by commercial flights. These steps have already borne fruit in several places and I will continue my efforts in this direction.

My dear fellow citizens, I know that some of you are in difficult, and sometimes even distressing situations. Our embassies and consulates are there by your side 24 hours a day to give you all the help you can get. My dear fellow citizens, in these difficult times, you can always count on me and on the women and men that make up the French diplomacy. Together, responsible and united as we know how to be, we will overcome this ordeal.