European solidarity in the face of COVID-19
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.
A shared European response
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.
On 18 May, France and Germany proposed a joint initiative for European recovery so that Europe could overcome the crisis and emerge stronger from it. One of the 19 measures of the initiative aimed to create a European recovery fund for solidarity and growth.
This idea was taken up by the European Commission on 27 May 2020 and called Next Generation EU.
On 17 December 2020, the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework was adopted making it possible to adopt a historic €750 billion recovery plan, including €390 billion in grants. In this agreement, the principle of joint debt in the name of all Member States was enacted for the first time. This was an unprecedented move for European integration and a strong sign of solidarity on the continent.
For France, this translates into nearly €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.
Mitigating the socio-economic effects of the epidemic
The Heads of State and Government have also taken several measures to coordinate our public health efforts, to protect European citizens and to reduce the socioeconomic impact of the epidemic:
1. Pooling 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 involves a coordinated effort to increase production capacities. At the same time, an export permit for personal protective equipment has been imposed for exports outside of Europe.
2. Pooling efforts to allow European citizens stranded outside the EU while travelling to return home.
3. Facilitating 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.
4. Responding to the crisis by reallocating €37 billion of the EU budget to the cohesion policy;
5. Supporting companies by relaxing rules on state aid.
6. Suspending the Stability and Growth Pact to enable Member States to waive budgetary rules 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 nearly €40 billion for France, aiming to support the economies of Member States
- €40 billion from the European Investment Bank to support SMEs and mid-caps.
- €47.5 billion of the EU budget in structural funds for the hardest hit Member States and regions, including €2.9 billion for France.
- More than €660 million to promote research on treatments and vaccines
- + €1.9 billion for the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (co-financing of repatriation flights and equipment purchases) as part of the recovery plan
- + €3.6 million for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
- €672.5 billion as part of a set of measures to support reforms and investments by EU Member States.
Another measure is the European Central Bank’s temporary Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) which will purchase €1.85 trillion in 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 mechanisms for coordination, the sharing of information and best practices, and crisis management have been activated to support the ministries responsible for the sectors affected by the crisis. They involve committees of experts, particularly 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 tangible on a daily basis, as countries have agreed 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 mechanism to monitor emergency measures taken by Member States, in order to ensure respect for the EU’s fundamental values.
EU Member States have chosen to speak with one voice to the pharmaceutical firms in the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure supply to people in Europe and beyond. More than 200 million doses were pre-ordered for the vaccination of up to 100 million people in Europe. Security, effectiveness and protection of Europeans are the watchwords. Vaccines have been evaluated by the European Medicines Agency. On 21 December, the European Medicines Agency authorized the marketing of the first vaccine, BioNTech-Pfizer. EU Member States coordinated the joint start of their vaccine campaigns on 27, 28 and 29 December (#EUvaccinationdays).
On 8 April 2020, the European Commission and the High Representative adopted the Team Europe package of measures, which aims to support efforts of partner countries to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic. The aim of this approach is to combine resources of the European Union, its Member States and its financial institutions, particularly the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The overall amount of the Team Europe package now stands at €38.5 billion.
European support is focused on addressing the public health emergency and its ensuing humanitarian needs, strengthening health systems, providing water and sanitation, improving the capacities and preparation of partner countries to tackle the pandemic, as well as mitigating social and economic consequences of the public health crisis, particularly through support for the private sector, SMEs and poverty alleviation policy reforms.
Many measures have already been implemented, including the donation of modernized ambulances and decontamination vehicles, and the delivery of personal protective equipment and food kits. In particular, the European Commission established, with the support of France and other Member States, a humanitarian air bridge to help struggling countries, especially in Africa, transport medical supplies and workers to critical areas.
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, international solidarity and multilateralism have become essential for finding a coordinated and effective way out of the crisis. With this in mind, France and the European Union, which have directly been working on an international response since the start of the public health crisis, are successfully pursuing their action with determination.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, or ACT-A Initiative, launched in April 2020 at the instigation of President Macron, embodies our commitment. Implemented under the aegis of the World Health Organization, it aims to further the development and production of health products for dealing with COVID-19 (diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines) and ensure fair and universal access to them, as well as to support health systems of the most vulnerable countries.
In addition, President Macron has committed to channelling a portion of the pre-ordered vaccine doses within the European framework to the vaccination of healthcare workers in the greatest need in the most vulnerable countries.
Updated: December 2020