Joint letter from the French and German Ambassadors to the Dutch people (16 april 2020, The Hague)
Joint letter published in the Dutch daily newspaper AD on 16 April 2020 from French Ambassador Luis Vassy and German Ambassador Dirk Brengelmann to the Dutch people.
Dear Dutchmen, dear friends,
As the worst crisis that Europe had to face since WW2 hit us hard, we have seen debate emerging here, as in most European countries, about the shortcomings of Europe, and its inability to overcome an existential crisis.
We would like to bring a more positive note to the debate. As it has done before, our Europe has been able to act with Unity, Solidarity, and Ambition.
First, unity should be our state of mind.
As usual Europe has been put on trial from the inside and from the outside. In some member States, you find euroskeptics that strangely claim that Europe is not doing enough.Elsewhere, other euroskeptics advocate for a strategy of each man for himself, in a crisis entailing cross border cooperation, complex supply chains even within the EU, or the necessity of sharing experience and resources.
We argue that we have been able collectively to live up to with the challenge. The circulation of goods, including food or medical supplies, has been maintained. Border controls help safeguard public health but do not stop people working on the other side of our borders. It is essential for countries where a vast majority of health workers come from outside.
Our unity should also be based on our common values. We have found strength in our principles of transparency, accountability and debate. Rather than silencing the whistle-blowers, we have listened to our doctors and scientists, we have let our parliaments function and determine the proper strategy. Now propaganda is trying to portray that response as weak or disorganised; the intent is to sow discord and reduce confidence in our democratic system. In the past, attempts were made to temper with our democratic processes. They were unsuccessful as will be this new round of manipulations of information.
Second, solidarity should be our guiding principle.
For decades now richer regions have helped poorer ones, and our countries have been able to come together in times of crisis. Confronted with the vicious attacks of November 2015 in Paris, our countries came together on the basis of the solidarity clause article 42.7 of the Treaty on the European Union.
Again this time, Europe is working on how to best set in motion this spirit of solidarity. The European Commission has made 37 Billion Euro available for the Corona Virus Response Investment Initiative.
At the same time, concrete support was granted to those that were more badly affected. German hospitals have taken patients from Italy, France and the Netherlands. The region Grand Est in France works closely with Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz and the Saarland. So do Belgium and the Netherlands with Nordrhein-Westfalen and Niedersachsen, including through sharing of information. France and Germany, among others, also sent medical equipment to Italy and others.
On the issue of the return to Europe of our citizens stranded abroad, cooperation has been the rule. Dutch airplanes flew back French and German citizens and vice versa. From Dijbouti, Argentina, or Egypt, from cruise ships, this sense of solidarity was key once again.
Our Finance Ministers, after two rounds of discussions, agreed a major support programme. The stakes were high and the debate complex, but consensus prevailed and France and Germany joined forces to find a way forward, so that we can mobilize all the necessary resources to ensure the recovery of our economies : in addition to the action of the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European budget, and the European Stability Mechanism will be mobilized to ensure the protection of workers, companies and States.
Third, ambition will be key to meeting the challenges ahead.
Huge challenges will need to be confronted in the near future. One key mission for Europe will be more sovereign, more able to decide how to handle crisis like this one. This means making sure that the production of strategic goods, including in the health sector, is located in Europe. This means also imposing a level playing field to our competitors. Our ambitions with regard to climate, to digital economy, in the management of big data and platforms prove right. All these challenges will be met collectively: none of our countries has the resources to become a dominant player in these fields by itself.
Another key ambition should be to act jointly towards developing countries and specifically Africa. This will necessitate resources and the willingness to act. The Netherlands will also have a major role to play in that regard.
And finally, at a time where both our countries are trying to protect and promote multilateralism, we think that Europeans should more than ever be the voice that advocates for a rules based international system. Within our European framework, trust derives also from our confidence that each member will respect the rule of law within its own country. There too, Germany, France and the Netherlands can work together to promote these foundations of shared values.
Let’s be proud of Europe and keep faith in it !
Luis Vassy, Ambassador of France to The Netherlands
Dirk Brengelmann, Ambasador of Germany to The Netherlands