The world is facing an unprecedented challenge, forcing country leaders as well as each and every person around the world to change their habits, to act collectively and with social responsibility and to think out of the box. After hitting the Chinese province of Wuhan at the end of 2019, the virus has spread from there to almost every country in the world, sparing no continent. It has by now reached the scale of an unparalleled global pandemic.
This global pandemic severely impacts our economies leading to massive job destructions and exerts an extreme pressure on our health and social protection systems.
Being located at the heart of Europe, France and Germany are hit hard by COVID-19. Naturally, the first response for both countries has consisted in national measures to reduce the number of infections and to mitigate the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. Together with our European partners and the European Union we have also put in place a concrete solidarity on the different levels of this crisis from the very beginning. Germany, for instance, did not hesitate to bring intensive care patients from France, Italy and the Netherlands to German hospitals for medical treatment. France, although witnessing an acceleration of the epidemic on its soil, sent millions of protective equipment to other European countries. We also organised joint European repatriation flights to ensure that stranded European citizens all around the world could go back home. Besides, we are pooling our European research capacities to produce a vaccine which could immune citizens against the virus.
These examples show that the spirit of solidarity, which is a core principle of the European Union, grows even stronger when sailing stormy waters and that we can find European answers to the urgent questions coming up with such a crisis, reaching from coordinating medical supplies to joint vaccine research and economic strategies and support. Thinking of the post-corona time, our aim as Europeans is to emerge from this stress-test stronger and even more committed to tackle future challenges together.
But just as the virus does not stop at borders, European solidarity also goes far beyond Europe. Because no nation alone can overcome this challenge, it is absolutely crucial for Germany and France, as well as for the EU, to join forces with neighbouring regions and partner countries around the world, particularly in Africa. To this end, the EU has dedicated a package of measures called “Team Europe” which aims to support the efforts made by partner countries to face the COVID-19 pandemic by reallocating more than 20 billion euros, combined between resources from the EU institutions and its member States. France and Germany have also taken the lead in demanding G7 and G20 partners for a debt relief for African countries because Africa can’t be struggling to repay its debt and, at the same time, fight the COVID-19 pandemic and curb its economic and social impact.
Egypt is facing the challenge of tackling coronavirus, too. The Egyptian authorities have taken decisive measures to curb the spread of the virus and protect lives while addressing the issue of economic stability. The sense of responsibility demonstrated by the Egyptian people in following the new social rules to protect themselves and others, which is so important, has been remarkable and deserves our respect. Many countries in the region are now looking at the Egyptian model of fighting the pandemic as an inspiration for their own actions and strategies and expectations are high.
To overcome this hardship and defeat the virus, France and Germany are standing today, more than ever, side by side with Egypt. Through our traditional bilateral cooperation, we are supporting the sustainable and economic growth of Egypt and its population through activities in job-related private sector development, water, energy, education, urban development and digitisation. Moreover, we are working, together with the European Union, on immediate support actions, especially in the health sector to provide to Egypt all the necessary assistance it has required from its friends. We are fully committed, also as founding and active members of the International Monetary Fund, to support the Egyptian government’s determination to consolidate the benefits of the economic reforms it has implemented during the last four years.
We are also preparing a mid-term action plan, mobilising resources from our French and German cooperation agencies to help Egypt to reboost its economy once the crisis is behind us.
We know that we will have to live with this virus for months, maybe even years to come, but together and united we will eventually defeat it. At times like these, when we are forced to socially keep our distance, countries and peoples all over the world must get even closer in the common fight of the pandemic and its long-term impact. Only through unity, solidarity and cooperation, with great commitment and flexibility, will we overcome the current and future challenges. This may, at times, also require choosing new creative ways offside the well-known paths. Both, Germany and France, are ready to tackle this challenge together with our partners in Egypt.
Stéphane Romatet, French ambassador to Egypt
Dr Cyrill Jean Nunn, German ambassador to Egypt
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 May, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly