The Brief, powered by IndustriALL – Emergency Solidarity

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

There is a lot of talk about solidarity these days.

Of course, we are talking about the solidarity of financially strong member states with those particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the summit held last Thursday did not really demonstrate the capacity for action that Europe needs in order to overcome the coronavirus crisis.

The German government, in particular, has left the public in the dark about what it really wants. At the same time, it did not really close the door to further negotiations either. “We are in the discussion,” Emmanuel Macron said at the end of the summit.

No doubt he had Chancellor Angela Merkel in mind, and no doubt there will be more than one video conference between Paris and Berlin in the coming weeks.

This week already offers an opportunity to do so: Germany is the initiator and host country of the 11th session of the Pertersberg Climate Dialogue which opened today. What the coronavirus crisis and the climate crisis have in common is that they cannot be dealt with without a coordinated and united response between countries.

It is the whole spirit of the Paris agreement which, with its Article 7 on adaptation and 8 on loss and damages, in particular, has worded a signal of solidarity from developed countries towards developing countries, which are the most affected by the impact of climate change.

In other words, the two crises are impossible to manage at the national level alone. What is needed is precisely that, solidarity. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not mean anything else in his message to the international community on International Mother Earth Day last Wednesday:

“We must work together to save lives, ease suffering and lessen the shattering economic and social consequences. The impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful. But there is another deep emergency – the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis. Biodiversity is in steep decline. Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return. We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption.”

As the first major step in the climate diplomacy calendar since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pertersberg Climate Dialogue meeting is seen by many experts as a chance to reinvigorate global climate efforts, and to ensure that major emitters take climate objectives into account in preparing their economic recovery plans.

And as with the coronavirus crisis, we have high expectations from Berlin. On top of the country’s well established political and economic weight now comes Angela Merkel’s authoritative new aura that emerged from her handling of the health crisis, silencing commentators who had already seen her in decline.

This happens two months before Berlin is due to take over the rotating presidency of the European Council.

However, just like the coronavirus crisis, we do not really know what Berlin wants. The German presidency’s programme for fighting the climate crisis remains vague. The ambition of Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) is often hampered by her counterpart in the Economy Ministry, Peter Altmaier (CDU).

Yet the drought that has begun in Germany and elsewhere in Europe shows that urgent action is needed. And this is another point the two crises have in common.

A message from IndustriALL: Over the past seven months, industriAll European Trade Union – representing 7 million workers in manufacturing, mining and energy sectors across Europe – ran the Together at Work’ campaign showing the benefits of collective bargaining. During the COVID-19 crisis, collective bargaining is proving to be essential in reaching win-win solutions for workers and employers with tailor-made agreements.

The Roundup

Make sure you stay up-to-date with everything to do with coronavirus across Europe’s capitals with EURACTIV’s comprehensive overview, regularly updated with the help of our pan-European network of reporters and media partners.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) has denied media reports that it toned down allegations made against China as part of a report into state-led disinformation campaigns, following pressure from Beijing.

Global military expenditure saw its biggest uptick in a decade in 2019, according to the latest survey by the Swedish Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), marking the first year two Asian countries were among the top three spenders, while Europe’s expenditure rose more rapidly than in any other region.

The UK minister in charge of post-Brexit trade with the EU insisted that it is “entirely possible” to have a deal by end of December 2020 and that the tight timeline should ‘concentrate’ minds, brushing aside a recent critical assessment from Brussels.

Weekly screening of healthcare workers and other at-risk groups could reduce their contribution to transmission by between 25-33%, a study by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling, concluded.

EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F), which was intended to favour short distribution routes, has been postponed to a later date. However, the current COVID-19 crisis is speeding up the agricultural sector’s shift towards food self-sufficiency.

The Petersberg Climate Dialogue opened with an appeal to place climate protection at the centre of economic recovery. Yet, it remains to be seen how much ambition Germany will show in this respect.

Air France-KLM will get a state-backed bailout of around €10 billion in loans and guarantees, while Germany’s government granted low-cost airline Condor more than half a billion euros to help it ride out a virus-induced slump in air travel.

The Netherlands has floated proposals to ensure a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, suggesting an “exclusion list” of economic activities like nuclear power, which the Dutch believe should be banned from receiving EU funds.

Look out for…

EU interior and energy ministers meet via videoconference.

Views are the author’s

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