Tribune des ambassadeurs de France et d’Allemagne dans le journal Klassekampen [no]
Pierre-Mathieu Duhamel, Ambassadeur de France, et son homologue allemand, Alfred Grannas, ont publié une tribune sur l’Europe dans le journal Klassekampen (texte en anglais).
- Retrouvez la version norvégienne sur klassekampen.no ou dans l’édition papier du 29 juin 2020, pages 18-19.
Europe : Emerging stronger from the crisis
The corona pandemic is the worst crisis that the European Union has faced in its history. Authorities everywhere have taken drastic – and in Norway so far very effective - measures to protect health care systems and support the economy.
A crisis that knows no boundaries cannot be solved by national measures alone. The coronavirus crisis calls for an appropriate response. France and Germany want to act to ensure that Europe emerges from this crisis stronger, more independent but united and in a spirit of solidarity. Norway will continue to be an important partner in this battle.
As Europe is hit by this global pandemic, we see a well-known discussion here in Norway as well as in many European countries about the shortcomings of Europe. Too often that discussion starts with the opening phrase : „Europe failed in responding to the crisis…” That is not true, and we want to jointly point out our view why this is not the case : yes, this pandemic has demonstrated common vulnerabilities, but also how interconnected and interdependent we are in Europe, and how Europe, quickly, has found together to fight the pandemic. The franco-german initiative, proposed by President Macron and Chancellor Merkel to bring Europe out of the crisis and prepare the EU for future challenges is the best response to all EU critics.
Firstly, unity must determine our way of thinking :
As usual, Europe is being tested from the inside and the outside. In some Member States as well as in Norway, there are Euro-sceptics who claim that Europe is not doing enough. Oddly, they also claim that Europe has been given too much power. It is true that in the early stages of the outbreak, national authorities on their own initiative introduced some restrictions and export controls for medical equipment. However, it quickly became clear that these unilateral measures actually ended up exacerbating the situation rather than helping. We had to realize : No European country can provide for all its needs alone. The European Commission therefore introduced a system to guarantee the free movement of goods and equipment within the European Union. This was then extended to include Norway and the other EFTA countries by exempting them from the Union’s export controls as they could also participate in agreement for joint procurement of medicines, medical devices and protective equipment. Our unity must also be based on our common values shared by our two countries and Norway. We have found strength in our principles of transparency, accountability and debate. We listened to our doctors and scientists. We made our parliaments work and set the right strategy. It is necessary to pay particular attention to attempts to stir up distrust. Disinformation and fake news related to the pandemic and European countries’ handling of it abound online.
Secondly, solidarity must be our guiding principle.
Images from particularly hard-hit regions have moved us deeply throughout Europe. We owe a debt of gratitude especially to everyone caring for the sick and the elderly, battling to save each and every life. As president Macron put it, European solidarity has saved lives. Hospitals in Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria have included a number of patients from Italy and France. France and Germany, among others, have sent medical equipment to Italy and other countries. And we were glad to see health teams from Norway and Romania go to Italy to contribute.
The European Union has also partnered with Norway to bring home residents stranded abroad. German planes have flown back French and Norwegian citizens and vice versa : whether from Ghana, Peru, Nigeria, New Zeeland, Argentina and Egypt or from cruise ships - this sense of solidarity has once again been crucial.
Equally important are the measures the European Union has put in place to curb the economic and social effects of this crisis. As a start, we have mobilized more than half a trillion euros to tackle the crisis, or roughly half of the Norwegian oil fond. Then, President Macron and Chancellor Merkel have joined forces to propose a massive recovery program. The package unveiled by the Commission thereafter for a green recovery from the crisis is worth another 750 billion Euros - 7500 billion NOK ! -and is designed to help each of the 27 member states deal with covid-19’s economic fallout. The heart of the proposal is the ambitious “recovery fund” which would allow the European Commission to borrow huge sums from the financial market, then channel that money in the form of grants to sectors and regions most in need of money for rebuilding.
Thirdly, ambition will be crucial :
This means that we must ensure that the production of strategic goods, takes place also in Europe. Hence, the proposal to develop a European strategic health sovereignty. Our ambitions regarding climate, the digital economy and the management of big data and platforms prove to be correct. All these challenges will have to be tackled together : none of our countries has the means to become a dominant player in these areas alone. This also means that we must impose a level playing field on our competitors.
Another important ambition should be to act jointly with regard to developing countries and in particular Africa. This will require resources and a willingness to act. Norway has already shown important leadership in promoting and furthering the development of vaccines, an area where now also a joint European effort is underway.
And finally, we believe that Europeans must be more than ever the voice in favor of a rules-based international system. There too, Germany, France and Norway can and should continue to work together in the “Alliance for Multilateralism” and other fora to promote these foundations of shared values.
Rest assured : France and Germany are fully committed to live up to their responsibilities and our goal is clear : Europe will weather this crisis together and come out of it stronger than before.
Pierre-Mathieu Duhamel, Ambassadeur de France en Norvège
Alfred Grannas, Ambassadeur d’Allemagne en Norvège
29 juin 2020