- Dec 11, 2018
The coronavirus epidemic is severely testing fundamental principles of European integration, including the notion of solidarity and the free movement of goods within the single market.
Some European diplomats in Paris are sceptical about French motives. For example, while France portrays its advocacy for so-called coronabonds as moral support for Italy and Spain, the countries hardest hit by the epidemic, France’s exploding expenditure makes mutalised debt an attractive prospect, one diplomat notes.
Anothor diplomat, from a food-exporting country, found finance minister Bruno Le Maire’s exhortation to supermarket suppliers to Buy French “very much against the spirit of the EU”.
But perhaps no French move has alarmed other Europeans more than Paris’s ban on the export of surgical masks and other medical supplies to its European partners.
On March 3rd, President Emmanuel Macron announced that he was requisitioning “all stocks and the production of protective masks” for distribution to medical personnel and French people infected with Covid-19.
One fifth of all surgical procedures in the EU use personal protective equipment imported from Asia by the Swedish company Mölnlycke. The company’s main distribution warehouse for southern Europe, Belgium and the Netherlands is in Lyon.
Mölnlycke’s entire stock of an estimated six million masks was seized by the French. All had been contracted for, including a million masks each for France, Italy and Spain. The rest were destined for Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, which has special trading status with the EU.