“The health crisis we are all living through is one of major severity and scope,” M Bayrou, president of the Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem) party and mayor of the south-western city of Pau, told newspaper Le Figaro. He said: “The risk of social explosion is real. No crisis comes without major shake-ups or violence. But this tragedy will change our view of the world.
“We have learned that we are all ultimately one humanity threatened by a single epidemic, and that our method of organisation has made us weaker.”
The post-coronavirus period will be “very long,” M Bayrou continued, adding the pandemic would trigger an “unprecedented economic, social, and maybe even democratic crisis.”
“A new world must emerge from this enormous upheaval,” he said, as he stressed the importance of solidarity between European states in times of crisis.
The Brussels bloc “will not survive this crisis without solidarity,” the French centrist noted.
His comments echoed those made by France’s European Affairs Minister Amélie de Montchalin later on Sunday, who said that the EU’s response to the outbreak would determine its credibility and utility.
“If Europe is just a single market when times are good, then it has no sense,” Mme de Montchalin told France Inter radio.
“Our Europe is one of action, one of solidarity, and if certain countries see otherwise, well then the question of their place will raise itself, as will what the union should be doing as a group of 27,” she continued. “The crisis raises existential questions for Europe.”
The EU has so far failed to agree on measures to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic.
The bloc’s divisions were exposed after leaders hit an impasse on Thursday over how to minimise the economic damage and prepare for an eventual recovery, with the poorer south angered by the reluctance of the richer north to offer more support.
Germany and the Netherlands strongly opposed a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint ‘corona’ bonds to help finance an economic stimulus. They also locked horns over the sharing of medical equipment and border controls.
Mme de Montchalin, for her part, warned there would be no economic rebound in Germany and the Netherlands if the rest of Europe remained sick.
However, she cited a decision by Germany and others to take in seriously ill French coronavirus patients and relieve pressure on France’s healthcare system as proof that solidarity between EU states still exists.
Europe is the continent worst hit by the epidemic that arrived from China earlier this year, with more than 20,000 deaths.
Over 738,500 people have been infected across more than 170 countries and regions and about 35,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally published on Monday.
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