Official speeches and statements - March 26, 2020
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities. The virus respects no borders. Combating this pandemic calls for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity. We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat.
We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life and the suffering faced by people around the world. Tackling the pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts is our absolute priority. We express our gratitude and support to all frontline health workers as we continue to fight the pandemic.
The G20 is committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group (WBG), United Nations (UN) and other international organizations, working within their existing mandates. We are determined to spare no effort, both individually and collectively, to:
- Protect lives.
- Safeguard people’s jobs and incomes.
- Restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger.
- Minimize disruptions to trade and global supply chains.
- Provide help to all countries in need of assistance.
- Coordinate on public health and financial measures.
Fighting the pandemic
We commit to take all necessary health measures and seek to ensure adequate financing to contain the pandemic and protect people, especially the most vulnerable. We will share timely and transparent information; exchange epidemiological and clinical data; share materials necessary for research and development; and strengthen health systems globally, including through supporting the full implementation of the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). We will expand manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing needs for medical supplies and ensure these are made widely available, at an affordable price, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible. We stress the importance of responsible communication to the public during this global health crisis. We task our health ministers to meet as needed to share national best practices and develop a set of G20 urgent actions on jointly combating the pandemic by their ministerial meeting in April.
We fully support and commit to further strengthen the WHO’s mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic, including the protection of front-line health workers, delivery of medical supplies, especially diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines and vaccines. We acknowledge the necessity of urgent short-term actions to step up the global efforts to fight the COVID-19 crisis. We will quickly work together and with stakeholders to close the financing gap in the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. We further commit to provide immediate resources to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on a voluntary basis. We call upon all countries, international organizations, the private sector, philanthropies and individuals to contribute to these efforts.
To safeguard the future, we commit to strengthen national, regional and global capacities to respond to potential infectious disease outbreaks by substantially increasing our epidemic preparedness spending. This will enhance the protection of everyone, especially vulnerable groups that are disproportionately affected by infectious diseases. We further commit to work together to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, leverage digital technologies, and strengthen scientific international cooperation. We will bolster our coordination, including with the private sector, towards rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, antiviral medicines, and vaccines, adhering to the objectives of efficacy, safety, equity, accessibility and affordability.
We ask the WHO, in cooperation with relevant organizations, to assess gaps in pandemic preparedness and report to a joint meeting of Finance and Health Ministers in the coming months, with a view to establish a global initiative on pandemic preparedness and response. This initiative will capitalize on existing programs to align priorities in global preparedness and act as a universal, efficient, sustained funding and coordination platform to accelerate the development and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments.
Safeguarding the global economy
We commit to do whatever it takes and to use all available policy tools to minimize the economic and social damage from the pandemic, restore global growth, maintain market stability and strengthen resilience.
We are currently undertaking immediate and vigorous measures to support our economies; protect workers, businesses—especially micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises—and the sectors most affected; and shield the vulnerable through adequate social protection. We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.
We will continue to conduct bold and large-scale fiscal support. Collective G20 action will amplify its impact, ensure coherence, and harness synergies. The magnitude and scope of this response will get the global economy back on its feet and set a strong basis for the protection of jobs and the recovery of growth. We ask our finance ministers and central bank governors to coordinate on a regular basis to develop a G20 action plan in response to COVID-19 and work closely with international organizations to swiftly deliver the appropriate international financial assistance.
We support the extraordinary measures taken by central banks consistent with their mandates. Central banks have acted to support the flow of credit to households and businesses, promote financial stability and enhance liquidity in global markets. We welcome the extension of swap lines that our central banks have undertaken. We also support regulatory and supervisory measures taken to ensure that the financial system continues to support the economy and welcome the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) announced coordination of such measures.
We also welcome the steps taken by the IMF and the WBG to support countries in need using all instruments to the fullest extent as part of a coordinated global response and ask them to regularly update the G20 on the impacts of the pandemic, their response, and policy recommendations. We will continue to address risks of debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries due to the pandemic. We also ask the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to monitor the pandemic’s impact on employment.
Addressing international trade disruptions
Consistent with the needs of our citizens, we will work to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products and other goods and services across borders, and work to resolve disruptions to the global supply chains, to support the health and well-being of all people.
We commit to continue working together to facilitate international trade and coordinate responses in ways that avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. Emergency measures aimed at protecting health will be targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary. We task our trade ministers to assess the impact of the pandemic on trade.
We reiterate our goal to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open.
Enhancing global cooperation
We will work swiftly and decisively with the frontline international organizations, notably the WHO, IMF, WBG and multilateral and regional development banks, to deploy a robust, coherent, coordinated, and rapid financial package and to address any gaps in their toolkit. We stand ready to strengthen the global financial safety nets. We call upon all these organizations to further step up coordination of their actions, including with the private sector, to support emerging and developing countries facing the health, economic, and social shocks of COVID-19.
We are gravely concerned with the serious risks posed to all countries, particularly developing and least developed countries, and notably in Africa and small island states, where health systems and economies may be less able to cope with the challenge, as well as the particular risk faced by refugees and displaced persons. We consider that consolidating Africa’s health defense is a key for the resilience of global health. We will strengthen capacity building and technical assistance, especially to at-risk communities. We stand ready to mobilize development and humanitarian financing.
We task our top relevant officials to coordinate closely in support of the global efforts to counter the pandemic’s impacts, including through proportionate border management measures in accordance with national regulations and to provide assistance where necessary to repatriate citizens. We value the efforts to safeguard our people’s health through the postponement of major public events, in particular the decision by the International Olympic Committee to reschedule the Olympic Games to a date no later than summer 2021. We commend Japan’s determination to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in their complete form as a symbol of human resilience.
We stand ready to react promptly and take any further action that may be required. We express our readiness to convene again as the situation requires. Global action, solidarity and international cooperation are more than ever necessary to address this pandemic. We are confident that, working closely together, we will overcome this. We will protect human life, restore global economic stability, and lay out solid foundations for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.
[Source of English text: UK Government website]
I took part in the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held by videoconference on March 25, under the presidency of the United States.
The discussion held by the G7 foreign ministers, together with the high representative of the European Union, focused mainly on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This exchange of views took place within the framework established by the heads of state and government during their meeting on March 16.
They took stock of the situation in their respective countries and elsewhere in the world with respect to the scale of the epidemic and the measures undertaken. They expressed their solidarity with all those affected by the disease. There was a broad convergence of views on the following points, identified in particular by the European participants:
- The need to strengthen international cooperation to combat COVID-19 and in particular vital support for the World Health Organization (WHO), both in terms of the direct response to the crisis as well as the strengthening of health and research systems.
- The need to provide assistance to vulnerable countries, especially in Africa. France proposed that the G7 countries should jointly make this a priority at the G20, without overlooking needs elsewhere in the world. Vulnerable countries need help in order to support their health systems and they will need economic assistance, notably given the impact of the crisis on the prices of raw materials. The common priority will be to help keep the health systems of vulnerable countries operational and to enable these countries to have equitable access to the testing, treatment and vaccines that will be developed. The same holds true for solidarity with vulnerable countries, as well as the need to prevent a resurgence of the epidemic after it has subsided in other countries around the world.
- The need to coordinate our efforts in order to allow our citizens who are temporarily overseas to return home. The huge efforts currently being undertaken, which have already enabled almost 100,000 nationals to return to France as of March 25, will continue, assuming that airports and major airport hubs, as well as air routes, remain open. As we have proposed, the G7 countries will coordinate their efforts with third countries to that end.
The minister underscored the need to combat any attempt to exploit the crisis for political purposes and expressed the view that the unity of all in order to effectively combat the pandemic must now take precedence over any other considerations. Together with his colleagues, he reaffirmed the need to ensure broad access to information based on scientific knowledge, a key element in the fight against the pandemic.
The ministers also underscored the importance of the economic and financial dimension, addressed by their colleagues responsible for finance, stressing the need to ensure supply chain continuity and security.
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.
Why isn’t Europe providing a joint response?
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 program 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.
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. (...)
4. COVID-19 - European response/return of French people stranded abroad/tourism - Excerpts from the interview given by Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Sud Radio (Paris - March 24, 2020)
COVID-19 / EU RESPONSE
Q. - You’re speaking to us remotely because we’re all in confinement; you’re on the telephone, we’ve got our external radio equipment. You’re in charge of tourism - we’re going to talk about that in a moment - but also Europe. There isn’t really any coordinated response from Europe in all this. Why?
THE MINISTER - On the contrary, I think we’ve reached a moment when the Europeans are clearly aware that if they aren’t united, they won’t manage to defeat this virus. And so, on the contrary, I’m seeing a burst of momentum from Europe.
Yes, let me explain. The President has kept to the right course, he called for a genuine European response. It was on his initiative that a European Council videoconference was held just over a week ago - it was the first time, in order to take coordinated health measures and economic measures, because we’ve got to protect our jobs and support businesses in these difficult times.
And the President of the European Commission, for example, asked States to ensure that all freight lorries helping fight this war against the virus aren’t held for too long at borders. There’s the job of coordination between health ministers and foreign ministers. At every level, we’re talking to our counterparts because that’s how problems are resolved.
Yes, but there’s nonetheless the impression that people are finding it hard to speak with one voice. It’s far more a case of sovereign countries taking decisions, whether as regards closing borders, the duration of confinement or treatment. We’ve got to recognize that this isn’t a single European response and maybe, moreover, it’s the best solution.
You know, Europe is both, I’d say, united - because we’re these people with many things in common - and diverse, and we’ve also got to adapt to specific local factors and the dynamics of the epidemic, which vary from one country to another, and even within the same country - we’re seeing this in France, from one region to another.
FRENCH PEOPLE STRANDED ABROAD
The confinement is global, with more than a billion people involved. There are the French people stranded abroad. Out of the 130,000 these past few days, I think 60,000 or so have returned home. What are you doing for the 90,000 others still stranded?
The 70,000 others, if I may - 130,000 less 60,000. We’re mobilized, we’re coordinating very closely, the Quai d’Orsay, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Transport Ministry, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari and the airline company Air France.
So dozens of flights are being planned every day to bring our compatriots home; the day before yesterday they came back from the Canaries and Peru, and just today a plane has returned from the Philippines, where we had 412 compatriots stranded on Cebu Island. So it’s really a daily job with all the consulates and embassies, and I can tell you that it’s a huge logistical task to ensure that - how can I put it - airlines plan these flights, in countries where sometimes landing is prohibited. And here, it’s my and Jean-Yves Le Drian’s job to negotiate with our counterparts where these planes can land to collect our compatriots, and then also ensure that the airlines charge reasonable prices, because many people have had to buy tickets for flights which have been cancelled. They sometimes find themselves with little money, and so this call is mostly heeded.
I was able to check this, for example, regarding the Dominican Republic, because thanks to social media we can see people’s concerns, we can see the problems that are building up, and this enables us to approach the airlines to ensure they make an effort in this regard.
You’ve approached them, and are they slightly easing up on those prices, which they’d been tending to drastically increase for the return flights?
What I’m noticing in every case is that the national airlines work very well with us, and once again, in the case of the Dominican Republic, I was told: look out, prices have doubled, tripled; I checked and we now have prices that are reasonable, moderate for such transatlantic journeys. So I can tell you that, in any case, we’re doing everything to ensure that, firstly, flights are planned, and secondly, the fares are moderate.
And can you crack down if the fares are still much too high? Can you refer the matter to a commission or not?
In fact, what we’re asking in a very practical way is for companies to unplug their artificial intelligence systems, which ensure that when supply and demand clash and demand is much greater than supply, prices soar. So we’re asking them to switch off those mechanisms and apply prices created by humans, as it were, ensuring once again that in these exceptional circumstances, airlines aren’t there to make a profit but quite simply to fly at cost price.
Well, I’ve done a recount and it’s true, you’re right: it was 70,000 and not 90,000. You’re very hopeful that those people, those French people stranded abroad, will come back roughly when? By the end of the week?
I think it’ll be another six or seven days, because as time goes by we must also deal increasingly with communities of French tourists who are in sometimes very remote countries with logistical problems, and so we must give ourselves another six or seven days. I know sometimes this may seem a long time. I urge our compatriots to be patient and understanding. We’re doing everything, but you see, there are more or less 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 French people coming back every day. We’re continuing, we will continue, as long as they’re abroad.
Yes, why are some people still going abroad? Should we be banning those journeys?
We’re being very clear: we must ban - at any rate people are strongly advised not to go abroad. It’s quite simple: there are about 170 countries in the world that have taken measures against French people, i.e. either entry bans or quarantine, because we’re regarded as one of the European hotspots. So people are absolutely advised to stay home and not leave, because subsequently we find ourselves in very complicated situations, and I appeal to everyone to be responsible.
Several terminals at Orly and Roissy have closed. How many are you going to keep open?
ADP [Paris airports operator] will be able to tell you. We need to have airports that are operating to continue receiving those flights, to ensure everyone can return home. It’s as simple as that.
So in the coming days there will be new decisions on those terminals. One final word about the airports: why are there still no temperature checks on people arriving at our airports in France?
What our compatriots returning from abroad are being asked is the same thing as French people on French soil are being asked, namely to confine themselves as soon as they arrive and, if they show symptoms, to follow the health protocols. That’s what is effective. As you know, taking people’s temperature can fail to detect cases where people are incubating the virus and haven’t visibly developed it yet. So I think what’s important is to follow the health protocols when you return home; that’s what will save [lives].
FRANCE / TOURISM
You’re also the Minister of State responsible for tourism, the main sector bearing the brunt, or basically one of the major sectors affected by this global crisis. You’re hosting a meeting with the professionals again today. What’s your calculation of the current losses?
France is the leading country when it comes to welcoming tourists; we really are at the top of the podium. It generates around €170 billion a year in tourism revenue for all our regions, with international tourists and French people travelling on holiday. This means that if the situation were to last three months, a quarter, well, around €40 billion would evaporate for our regions, for the tourism industries, which I remind you provide a living for two million people throughout the country. That’s why Jean-Yves Le Drian, Bruno Le Maire and I are working extremely hard with professionals in the sector. I convene a meeting of the tourism sector committee every week. It’s enabled us to prepare emergency decisions; that’s the way it is. As the Prime Minister confirmed in his speech yesterday evening, we’re going to allow travel agencies to offer people who have booked trips to postpone them until after the health crisis is over and thus enjoy a credit enabling them to travel later. And we’ve also taken measures for every economic sector in France, with €45 billion in aid and either the deferment or the writing-off of tax and social security debts, as well as the very broad introduction of short-time working, and above all 100% compensation. And finally, €300 billion to guarantee access to corporate credit, whether businesses are small or large.
That’s overall, it’s an overall figure of 300 billion euros.
Yes, it’s overall, but it also reflects the needs of tourism businesses, which are businesses like others, furthermore.
Yes. Now, on holiday bookings, what you’ve just said is still interesting. So regarding those bookings, you’re confirming: no reimbursements but a deferment of valid tickets or bookings over time, for a year and a half. And so will that become the rule?
It’s about establishing a credit. I’ve booked a journey, I have a credit that allows me to reschedule until after the health crisis the journey I’d planned with the agency, and that credit will be valid for 18 months. After 18 months, if I haven’t used that credit, then reimbursement will be possible, but given that I’d planned the journey, well, the possibility of that journey is maintained once the health crisis is over.
What are you envisaging for this summer? Should French people be planning their summer holidays after all?
It’s very difficult to answer that question because we don’t know what the situation will be at that point. Look, for the local elections, which are scheduled for 21 June, we’ll do a health update on 23 May. And so it’s true that in the spring people normally book for the summer, but it’s currently very difficult to make predictions. I think the prudent thing is quite simply to adapt when the time comes and take decisions a little later. I think today is the time to fight.
So is your advice to French people to wait a little bit, not necessarily book, especially abroad, wait a little, and do you also think a lot of people will withdraw to their country and stay in France?
Personally I do think tourism is also going to change and that, from now on, French people who go on holiday will really want to have guarantees about their ability to access treatment and check that the places they’re going are well protected. And I think there will be a resurgence of national tourism, of the discovery of all that heritage and local produce that makes the planet rich and makes us the leading country in welcoming foreign tourists. Maybe we’ll rediscover our country even more ourselves.
I’m going to be a little bit forthright. Ultimately, don’t you regret not closing the borders earlier?
As you know, there isn’t necessarily much point in closing the border, national borders within the European Union, insofar as, once again, the virus doesn’t stop at the border. Subsequently it was important to close our European borders in a coordinated fashion.
No, but that prevented the flow of people who were possibly already infected.
Yes, but you can see, within France itself, at that point you can see we ourselves have outbreaks, and those outbreaks are spread across France. So I think what was important was to take the maximum number of coordinated measures: the Europeans decided to close their external borders - that’s been done, it’s in force - and now we’re all combating the virus. (...)
Q. - Did Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, agree on concrete measures during their telephone conversation on Tuesday with respect to the flow of goods and customs checks on freight at borders?
THE SPOKESPERSON - The Minister and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, discussed, among other concerns, issues relating to border controls and the flow of goods and people in the context of the containment measures adopted in France and the United Kingdom.
They agreed that while the primary objective is to drastically limit contact and movements - because this is what will make it possible to effectively stem the spread of the virus -, the measures introduced at the borders must:
- not prevent any European citizen from returning home;
- allow the movement of goods, especially essential goods, to continue in order to avoid supply disruptions;
- also allow cross-border workers, medical personnel and researchers to continue to circulate and work.