COVID-19 – Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs to Le Figaro (24 Mar. 2020)


Interview conducted by Isabelle Lasserre (extracts)


Q. – Why is Europe not showing more solidarity with Italy?

THE MINISTER – What Italy is going through today is a tragedy for it and for the whole of Europe, and we’re mobilizing to help it. Italy will benefit not only from Europe’s joint purchases of protective equipment, which are going to be completed in the next few days, but also from the strategic medical stockpile the European Union will soon create. France has played its role in this effort of European solidarity. We’ve never closed the door to Italy, and we’ll never let our transalpine friends down.

Q . – Why isn’t Europe providing a joint response?

THE MINISTER – Not everything has been perfect. Europe may not have sufficiently predicted the scale of the crisis. It may have been a bit slow to start. Unilateral and national decisions were taken without coordination. That’s true. But I think it’s inaccurate to say that Europe isn’t currently providing a joint and united response. Together we’ve taken the decision to close the external borders of the EU and the Schengen Area. Together we’ve ensured that the checks put in place at internal borders between countries don’t hinder the movement of goods vital to our supplies. Together we’ve committed significant resources to make joint purchases of protection equipment and medical supplies. Together with the institutions, we’ve made €187 million available for research into COVID-19. Action at European level is equally crucial in order to limit the economic impact of this crisis. The European Central Bank has shown this by launching a €750-billion programme to guarantee the financing of the economy. Together the European partners are taking decisions that have never been taken in the history of our Union. The message is clear: we won’t hesitate to innovate together to protect the worst-hit sectors and their employees, whenever it’s necessary. So I think everyone in Europe is well aware today of the need to rally together against the virus.

Q. – Why so little foresight by the international community?

– In my view, the most urgent question today is instead how we can improve our ability to react to this unprecedented crisis, in terms of its health aspect but also its economic, social and security implications in the short and medium term. The crisis is sorely testing health systems all over the world; tomorrow it could affect States, in Africa in particular, whose health capabilities risk being overwhelmed very quickly. That’s why the French President has called for an extraordinary G20 summit to be held very soon, to strengthen international coordination in the face of the epidemic, support global growth together and organize solidarity with the most vulnerable States.


Translation courtesy of the French Embassy in London