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Talking Europe

'Harsh, but indispensable': EU Jobs Commissioner defends lockdowns as unemployment climbs

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

Despite unemployment of above 7 percent in the eurozone and predictions of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Europe's stringent lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic were "harsh, but indispensable", according to the EU's Jobs Commissioner Nicolas Schmit. Speaking to FRANCE 24's Catherine Nicholson, he rejected criticism of containment measures: "If there had been no lockdown we would have faced a much worse situation in terms of […] people dying from this disease."

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The Commissioner also cautioned that care must be taken to avoid a new spike in Covid-19 infection rates which could provoke new economic shutdowns: "The situation is improving in most of our member states – and we have to build on that."

On the proposed €750 billion EU Recovery Plan, Schmit rejected suggestions that fiscally prudent EU member states are facing "paying for" the recovery of other states.

"It's not a question of paying for somebody else. It's paying to safeguard first of all the internal market, paying for economic stability, maybe also for political stability in Europe, for the stability of the eurozone […] If we threaten the internal market, everybody will be a loser."

And in a week where anti-racism demonstrations have spread around Europe after a US police officer was charged with murdering George Floyd, Schmit said he hoped an EU anti-discrimination directive will be finalised during the current Commission's mandate: "Anti-discrimination, fighting racism, fighting anti-Semitism are more important than ever. Our values are based on this. And people expect that we stand up for these values everywhere."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet, Isabelle Romero, Luke Brown and Perrine Desplats

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