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Official speeches and statements - April 2, 2020

Published on April 2, 2020

1. COVID-19 - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Ms. Alba Ventura on RTL (excerpts) (Paris - March 31, 2020)


Q. - We’ve also got some three million expatriates worldwide. Now, depending on whether you’re in Sweden or Tunisia, the rules about containment aren’t the same. What do you say to our expats?

THE MINISTER - There are more than three million of our expats around the world - probably 3.5 million. There are two million registered, not to mention those who are not, and we’re saying to them: "stay at home, you have a home", even if it’s a "home" abroad. Stay at home, apply the health rules we’re proposing in France, self-isolate, avoid contact as far as possible. The rules abroad are the same rules as for France.

Even for those who live in Sweden, for example, where self-isolation isn’t on the agenda?

I’ve noticed that standard rules are beginning to be applied across Europe. As you know, those who at one point were considered reluctant to adopt containment rules - I’m thinking of the United Kingdom - are now applying them even more rigorously than others. And so the same cooperation and health standards are spreading everywhere. But I want to speak above all to those French expatriates who may be in more at-risk, more vulnerable countries. I think these rules must absolutely be complied with in those countries, and if there are health emergencies, if there are special cases, if there are specific weaknesses and vulnerabilities, people should inform the diplomatic posts and embassies so they can consider individual cases and possibly medical evacuations if possible. We’ve just done one recently in Kenya, where one of our compatriots was very severely afflicted. We managed, through various means, to transfer him to a hospital in Réunion, where he’s being treated. Cases like that may recur, obviously.

And what if they really want to come back?

We don’t think it’s in their interest to come back and it’s probably better if they self-isolate at home, where they are, in their own house, in their own flat, rather than coming to France; that’s what we’re advising them to do. (...)

There’s been good coordination between [EU] health ministers to apply the same containment rules, the same crisis-management principles. And there’s also been the decision-making period. First of all, fairly traditional decisions: I’m thinking of bulk purchases of protective equipment, I’m thinking of the creation of a strategic reserve of medical equipment, I’m thinking of financial investment in research, research into vaccines. I’m also thinking of the release of nearly $40 billion to help regions and businesses under the European Union budget. And above all, there’s been the ending of taboos! Because what people don’t really appreciate is that today the dogmas we’d been living by very strictly for several years, for decades - I’m thinking in particular of government deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product under the Stability and Growth Pact -, now the focus is on flexibility and pragmatism, and that was unthinkable... (...)

We’re managing to establish this method of combating the virus through democracy, because democracy’s strength is the strength of transparency, freedom of expression, and sharing. It’s the strength of information, and I also think one of the positive elements in this crisis - you have to identify a few - is that democracies are showing their resilience and that they’re capable of both protecting [people] and complying with the law. (...)

2. COVID-19 - Plan to support French exporting companies in response to the COVID-19 epidemic - Press release issued by Mr. Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy and Finance, and Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - March 31, 2020)

Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy and Finance, and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, have announced a plan to provide exceptional support for French exporting companies in response to the economic slowdown linked to the COVID-19 epidemic.

This emergency plan will both help exporting companies cope with the immediate consequences of the crisis, including by securing access to liquidity, and ensure they can bounce back on the international market after the crisis. It is particularly intended for SMEs and ETIs (1), which are an essential driving force for industrial sectors in French regions, and complements the emergency measures taken by the Government in support of French businesses.

It has four exceptional measures to support export companies:

  1. The provision of guarantees by the State on surety bonds and bridge financing through Bpifrance Assurance Export will be increased to ensure that exporting companies have access to liquidity. The guaranteed cover will be increased to 90% for all SMEs and ETIs. The validity period for bridge financing guarantee arrangements will be extended to six months.
  2. The period of cover for existing prospection insurance policies will be extended by a year.
  3. An additional 2 billion Euros will be provided for short-term export credit insurance thanks to the expansion of the public reinsurance scheme Cap Francexport. The scheme will cover every country worldwide.
  4. Support and information provided by Team France Export’s operators (Bpifrance, Business France and chambers of commerce and industry) will be stepped up, in conjunction with the regions and the network of [French] foreign trade advisers, along with private actors providing support [for exporting companies]. A specific mechanism has been put in place to monitor every geographical zone of interest to businesses. Business France is also tailoring its existing offer in order to provide solutions to businesses, given the impossibility of travelling abroad.

Financial support tools for export also remain fully available to help businesses retain or swiftly recapture their international markets, and they will be used actively to support businesses’ upturn once the pandemic is over, as will action by Team France Export:

  • prospection insurance, which supports SMEs and ETIs to explore opportunities in new markets;
  • FASEPs [French private sector aid and studies funding], subsidies for preliminary studies into infrastructure projects and innovative technology demonstrators;
  • credit insurance handled by Bpifrance Assurance Export;
  • loans from the Trésor for State-to-State projects in emerging and developing countries, particularly to address the health needs of the countries affected by the coronavirus, by mobilizing French industrial firms.

Bruno Le Maire said: "The export support plan we’re rolling out today will enable our businesses, particularly SMEs, to maintain their position internationally in the difficult context of the COVID-19 epidemic. Together with all those working with Team France Export, we’ll do everything we can to maintain our export businesses’ competitiveness, which has improved markedly since the beginning of the five-year term."

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said: "Export prospects allow our businesses to be more resilient in order to tackle the current difficulties. The sun already seems to be rising in the East, in Asia. By stepping up our financial and international support, we’d like to help businesses through this difficult period and prepare the recovery as soon as the health conditions exist. We can count on the strength of Team France Export and on the solidity of the partnership established with the regions."

(1) entreprises de taille intermédiaire are companies with between 250 and 4,999 employees and a turnover of less than 1.5 billion Euros