Against COVID-19, we are stronger together. We will not overcome this crisis without a strong and unified European revival. The European Union has already taken measures and those efforts are continuing both at European level and between countries themselves.
France played a key role in encouraging the European Union to assess the scale of the crisis by requesting an extraordinary European Council meeting on 10 March 2020 and calling for coordinated border measures to prevent countries adopting an individualist approach.
From the Franco-German initiative to the European recovery plan
On 18 May, France and Germany proposed a shared initiative for European recovery through 19 measures so that Europe could overcome the crisis and emerge stronger from it. Among these measures, our two countries proposed creating a European recovery fund for solidarity and growth. This idea was taken up by the European Commission on 27 May under the name of Next Generation EU.
On 21 July 2020, the European Council agreed on a historic €750 billion recovery plan, including €390 billion in subsidies. In this agreement, the principle of joint debt on behalf of all Member States was enacted for the first time. This was an unprecedented move for European construction and a sign of strong solidarity on the continent. For France, it represents €40 billion which will help finance our national recovery plan. As a result of this coordination between Member States, the recovery will be stronger and quicker in Europe.
The Heads of State and Government have also taken several measures to coordinate our public health efforts, to protect Europeans and to reduce the socioeconomic impact of the epidemic:
- Pool medical equipment (protective equipment, respiratory ventilators and laboratory kits) by creating the first ever common reserve of medical equipment and joint procurement to purchase personal protective equipment. This also requires a concerted effort to increase production capacities. At the same time, an export permit for personal protective equipment has been imposed for exports outside of Europe.
- Support research on a COVID-19 vaccine. On 4 May, the European Commission held an online Coronavirus Global Reponse Pledging Conference which raised €7.4 billion to develop diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against the Coronavirus and distribute them around the world.
- Pool efforts to allow European citizens stranded outside the EU while travelling to return home.
- Facilitate movement within the EU, not just for goods, through priority corridors at internal borders for supplying hospitals, shops and factories for example, but also for people where necessary, particularly cross-border workers or European citizens returning home.
- Respond to the crisis by reallocating €37 billion of the EU budget to the cohesion policy.
- Support companies and workers by relaxing rules on state aid.
- Suspend the Stability and Growth Pact to enable Member States to waive budgetary regulations in light of the pandemic.
The European Commission is responsible for effectively implementing these measures. Further measures are currently being discussed at European level to tackle this unprecedented crisis.
The fight against COVID-19 in figures
- A €750 billion recovery plan, including €40 billion for France
- €40 billion from the European Investment Bank to support middle-market companies and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).
- €37 billion from the EU budget via the cohesion policy, including €650 million for France
- €140 million for research on a vaccine.
- €179 million could be mobilized to support laid-off and self-employed workers.
- €125 million+ for the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (co-financing of repatriation flights and equipment purchases)
- €3.6 million+ for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
- €540 billion as part of a set of measures to support the economies of EU Member States.
Another measure is the European Central Bank’s exceptional €1,350 billion “Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP)” which will purchase eurozone private and public sector debt on the markets.
No country can overcome this crisis alone and solidarity must remain our guiding principle, both now and after the epidemic. European coordination mechanisms, pooling of information, best practice and crisis management mechanisms have been activated to support the Ministers in charge of the sectors affected by the crisis. These have involved committees of experts, notably from the health sector (France is represented on the Health Security Committee by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health).
Solidarity between European countries has been clearly seen on a daily basis, as countries agree to patient transfers to relieve their hardest-hit partners, through donations of medical equipment (e.g. Italy received over three million masks from its neighbours), through shared efforts to enable over 78,000 Europeans (including 8,000 French people) stranded abroad to return home, and through the creation of joint research programmes.
The Commission has also set up a monitoring mechanism for emergency measures taken by Member States, in order to ensure respect for the EU’s fundamental values.
On 8 April the European Commission and the High Representative announced “Team Europe” measures to support the efforts made by partner countries against the COVID-19 pandemic, with €18.8 billion funded by the EU, Member States and EU financial institutions. The first “Team Europe” measures are already being deployed.
For example, with the support of France and other Member States, DG ECHO has set up a €10 million EU Humanitarian Air Bridge for countries facing difficulties, especially in Africa, which should enable 30 humanitarian flights to be organized, transporting medical equipment and personnel.
Updated: September 2020