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Talking Europe

EU's Thierry Breton says 'solidarity' is only way out of Covid-19 crisis

Thierry Breton.
Thierry Breton. © FRANCE 24

In an interview with FRANCE 24, Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market and former French finance minister, reacted to the rescue deal reached on April 9 between EU finance ministers in response to the coronavirus pandemic. He was speaking after a week which has turned into a psychodrama for the European Union, with an interminable Eurogroup meeting, worrying growth figures and a clear need for recovery.

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Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, hailed the deal clinched on April 9 between EU finance ministers on a joint response to the economic crisis sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic. "It's good news for the eurozone, it means it's going to be stronger and the 27 member states of the EU will be all the stronger for it as well," he told FRANCE 24's Talking Europe show.

Despite unsuccessful negotiations earlier this week, finance ministers from the 27 EU member states have now agreed to implement a vast stimulus plan to help the hardest-hit European countries cope with the economic crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some €500 billion is on the table. "This is probably the longest Eurogroup meeting we've ever had... but this is probably the worst crisis since 1929," Breton said.

>> EU finance ministers reach agreement on coronavirus rescue deal

The former French finance minister denied that the EU was too slow to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, adding that the health sector remains, for now, the "sole jurisdiction of each member state". Explaining that the European Commission has been tasked with coordinating stock levels, especially of face masks, Breton said: "The second that we were given that task of supervision, of oversight, I called and the Commission called on all industrial players, all manufacturers to start thinking about how they can turn their production lines to producing masks."

Finally, asked about French President Emmanuel Macron's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commissioner insisted that "no one" was prepared for the current crisis, concluding: "There's only one word to get out of this mess: it's solidarity, solidarity, solidarity."

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