Europe is facing one of the greatest challenges in its history as a result of the corona pandemic, with thousands of new cases and hundreds of deaths still being recorded every day. Solidarity and the ability to act are more urgently needed than ever before. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spelt out: “At the start of every crisis, people say Europe is finished. In some cases, this results from uncertainty. In others, it is a political ploy. But ultimately, it has always been the case so far that everything would have turned out far worse without Europe. All of the initial emergency measures were at the local and national level. On a plane, they say: ‘Please put on your own mask before assisting others.’ But for a long time now, we have been in this second phase where we are helping each other.”
What is Germany doing to help tackle the crisis all over Europe?
A response based on solidarity
In an article published in five European daily newspapers on 6 April, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz set out how they envisage a Europe-wide response based on solidarity. “European solidarity is not a one-way street, but a life insurance policy for our continent.” In concrete terms, the two ministers called for the ESM to be further developed and used in the fight against corona in the form of faster and more targeted assistance. Furthermore, they want liquidity for small and medium-sized enterprises to be ensured via a pan-European guarantee fund. In addition, the European Commission’s SURE programme will provide EU member states with financial support for short-time work measures. EU-wide economic growth after the crisis should be a key topic in the negotiations on the new EU budget.
Treating intensive care patients from Italy, France and the Netherlands
The treatment of intensive care patients suffering from Covid‑19 is placing an enormous burden on the healthcare systems in parts of Italy and France. In response, a number of German Länder have offered to provide hospital beds to treat critically ill patients. To date, almost 220 patients from France, Italy and the Netherlands have been transported to Germany, and a further 60 hospital beds have been promised. Since 1 April, a team of doctors and nurses from Jena University Hospital has been working in a hospital near Naples. The rapid distribution of medical supplies is vital. Germany delivered 7.5 tonnes of aid supplies, which included ventilators and anaesthetic face masks, to Italy on 19 March.
Helping stranded EU citizens return home
In an unprecedented repatriation process, the German Government is bringing stranded travellers back home from all over the world. Here, too, the German Government is thinking of Europe. Stranded citizens from other EU countries are now being taken on almost all German repatriation flights, and cooperation with EU Member States and other third countries is being intensified further in order to fill all available seats. So far, at least 5000 people from other countries have been flown to Germany. The EU embassies abroad often liaise closely and coordinate their citizens’ return home with the local EU delegation. In recent days, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has been in particularly close contact with his EU counterparts with the aim of improving coordination at European level and making even better use of available aircraft space.