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Official speeches and statements - March 24, 2020

Published on March 24, 2020

1. COVID-19 - Communiqué issued by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister of State for Transport, attached to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition (Paris - March 23, 2020)

On March 17, in the context of the coronavirus crisis - a crisis unprecedented in its seriousness -, France took some very strong measures at the French President’s request, all with the same, single goal: to reduce contacts and journeys drastically and by every means, because this is the measure most effective in preventing as much as possible the spread of the virus. In an effort to be consistent and effective, we are implementing this measure nationwide but also in Europe and internationally.

We have asked all French people whose normal residence is outside Europe to avoid all international travel and stay at home. This advice is still valid and necessary today.

By contrast, we have asked those French people currently temporarily on visits abroad to return swiftly to France, as long as air links are operating. To this end, we have taken several supportive measures to help and facilitate our compatriots’ efforts. For example, thanks to an exceptional mechanism created on our initiative by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Unit in liaison with the relevant staff at the office of the Minister of State for Transport and the authorities in the countries concerned, we have embarked on operational cooperation with the Air France group and its airlines Air France and Transavia; we pay tribute to the commitment and cooperation shown by them and other French and foreign airlines. This cooperation has enabled us firstly to identify our compatriots’ needs country by country and then to implement a transport plan tailored to local priorities and emergencies.

This transport plan is now fully operational and bearing fruit. In recent days it has allowed more than 60,000 of our compatriots to return to France.

For example, more than 140 flights organized in Morocco in the past week have allowed over 20,000 French people to return to France. In Tunisia and Algeria, more than 10,000 of our compatriots have been able to return home to France. Special commercial flights have also been organized in Portugal and Spain in the past few days, enabling several hundred people to return home.

Similar measures, using normal and special commercial flights, have been put in place in several dozen countries - in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa - where our compatriots are staying temporarily. For instance, only yesterday evening we brought back nearly 300 compatriots from Peru. Tomorrow we should be able to return 400 French people from the Philippines. Solutions are also being implemented in India and the Dominican Republic, where we have many compatriots. And these measures also apply, of course, in all countries where there are French people.

The situations are often very complicated and require extremely active efforts, including on the political front. As such, we are speaking to our counterparts in the countries concerned and will continue to do so whenever necessary. We are also making sure that plane ticket prices are regulated by asking airline companies, in the exceptional circumstances we are experiencing, to make an effort, and many of them have agreed to this.

There is still a great deal to do. We are aware of the difficult, sometimes even harrowing situation in which thousands of French nationals still find themselves, waiting for a solution to be found for them to return to France. This is why we, the French embassies and consulates general throughout our diplomatic network, along with local Air France agencies, are and will remain fully mobilized to resolve these problems, working in conjunction with the local authorities, and propose solutions to all French travelers still abroad so they can return home.

2. COVID-19 - European Union - Jean-Yves Le Drian’s participation in the Foreign Affairs Council (by videoconference, March 23) - Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman (Paris - March 24, 2020)

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will take part in the Foreign Affairs Council by videoconference on March 23; the meeting will largely focus on the European and international response to the COVID-19 crisis.

As a follow-up to the statement issued by the G7 heads of state and government on March 16 and the European Council on March 17, France will argue for a closely coordinated European response with respect to public health measures, the return of European citizens, reduced contact and international movements and thus the closure of the external borders of the European area, the protection of jobs and the economy, as well as with respect to cooperation in the area of scientific research. Special attention will be given to the issue of consular assistance for EU nationals in third countries in order to jointly convince the governments of third countries to keep their air space open in order allow return flights for European citizens.

The ministers will also take stock together with Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, of international issues the EU is working on: consequences of the crisis in Idlib; Libya; situation in the Sahel.