“Coronavirus has struck at the core of many countries”

16.07.2020 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in an interview with the Funke Mediengruppe.

Europe is locked in heated discussions about recovery in the wake of coronavirus. What happens if the summit fails?

Europe must get its economy back on track quickly after the shock of the COVID19 pandemic. No country in the EU has been spared from this crisis, which is why we’re on the same page as far as this objective is concerned. What matters now is whether we’re capable of acting in a spirit of solidarity in our dealings with one another. There has never been a package of such scale as the one we’re working on. The summit is a historic opportunity to show that, as a community of shared values and solidarity, we leave no one behind. It must be clear to everyone that no country will emerge well from the crisis alone if its neighbours get bogged down in a recession.a

The next few days will show whether it really is clear to everyone. Which countries do you want to help in particular?

Coronavirus has struck at the core of many countries. What it means to lose so many lives isn’t something that can be expressed with raw numbers. In addition, there are countless citizens who were simply unable to make a living due to the restrictions going as far as a complete lockdown of the economy. It goes without saying that we must lend our particular support to these countries as the repercussions are dramatic and have come about through no fault of their own. At the same time, with resources of such magnitude, it’s only reasonable that we should also pay attention to which countries are able to go some of the way under their own steam. At the end of the day, we will need a compromise, but the proposal on the table is a good starting point.

Where are all these billions of euros going to come from? Are you in favour of levying EU taxes – on disposable plastic, for example?

For me, both the recovery fund and the EU’s multiannual financial framework must be very clear on where the money comes from and what it’s spent on. We have pursued sound financial policies in recent years and decades, and that’s why we can also summon up the strength to work together for Europe’s recovery. The member states will also support this package financially, of course. The proposal for a separate EU levy, for example on plastics, makes sense, but it doesn’t alter the basic principle, namely the more we support each other in the EU, the quicker all citizens in Europe will be better off again.

Freedom of travel has also become a bone of contention during the coronavirus crisis. When will travel warnings for further countries – Turkey, for example – be lifted?

The pandemic is still far from over. A second wave is currently underway in many countries –for this reason alone, we cannot afford any experiments as far as the travel warning is concerned. Travellers’ safety is the only thing that really matters. In the EU, we are greatly helped by the fact that we have a common database and coordinated procedures. The situation is much more difficult to assess outside Europe. Nevertheless, we are constantly reviewing the data, especially from Turkey. We were therefore finally able to lift the travel warning for Sweden and Norway this week, but had to put Luxembourg back on the list.

Images of parties from Mallorca show how dangerous holidays can be this year. Are further restrictions for those returning from their travels necessary?

Such behaviour is not only dangerous, but also exhibits a lack of consideration towards all those who want to enjoy their holiday in safety. Many destinations have worked hard for months to ensure that tourists can now return. The regulations are there to protect the local population, the friends and families in Germany to whom we’re returning and, ultimately, the holidaymakers themselves.

We have only just managed to reopen borders in Europe. We mustn’t jeopardise this now with reckless behaviour. Otherwise, new restrictions will be unavoidable.

You’ve made it clear that there will be no more repatriation flights organised by the government. When will the holidaymakers flown back home in recent months be sent a bill – and how much will they have to pay?

We’ve already sent out the first bills. We have always said that the costs will be based on the price of an economy ticket, and that’s the approach we have taken. Depending on the country you’re travelling to, that’s between 200 euro from North Africa and 1000 euro from Australia. We’re now working through the flights systematically and informing those concerned about the costs in each individual case.


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