EU Foreign Ministers discussed better coordination in the fight against the coronavirus at the virtual meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council.
The situation is dramatic, particularly in Italy and Spain. However, the number of people infected and deaths from the coronavirus has also risen enormously in other EU countries in recent days. As a result, the EU must live up to its responsibilities and take rapid and effective action. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is thus suggesting today that the EU solidarity clause under Article 222 be activated: “This would mean that responses to the coronavirus could be enhanced by very concrete measures at EU level,” Maas said. Materials and staff could be provided within the EU where need is greatest. Maas asked Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to start talks on this matter without delay.
Organising repatriation at the European level
In an unprecedented repatriation process, Germany and other EU countries are currently organising the return of their citizens from countries where they are stranded due to global travel restrictions. European coordination is also crucial here. Germany is already taking other EU citizens on almost all of its return flights. It is also liaising bilaterally with France and other countries to ensure that every available space is filled and as many EU citizens as possible can return home soon. The Foreign Affairs Council thus also discussed today about how to set up a register in which each country enters its return flights in order to make better use of the available space.
Turkey – aid and clear expectations
The Foreign Ministers also discussed relations between the EU and Turkey in the refugee situation. Germany and the EU are willing to uphold their obligations under the agreement between the EU and Turkey, but equally expect Turkey to adhere to its part. “We cannot accept a situation where desperate people and refugees are used as political bargaining chips,” Maas said. The EU is willing to help Turkey, as it bears a great burden as a result of the large number of refugees. Further support has thus been promised.