French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday came out in defense of western democracies’ handling of the coronavirus crisis compared to China.
“Let’s not be so naive as to say [China has] been much better at handling this,” he told the Financial Times. “We don’t know. There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”
His remarks come amid a diplomatic spat between Paris and Beijing, the latter of which has been engaged in an intense effort to put a positive sheen on its handling of the epidemic, sometimes at the expense of western counterparts like France.
Macron warned against blows to fundamental freedoms made in the name of crisis management, including on EU soil.
“Some countries are making that choice in Europe,” he said, seemingly referring to Hungary’s new law allowing the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without a set time limit, the FT reported. “We can’t accept that. You can’t abandon your fundamental DNA on the grounds that there is a health crisis.”
Macron also made a renewed push for the EU to issue common debt from a fund for the economic recovery from the coronavirus, as championed by his finance minister, Bruno Le Maire.
The French president said the fund “could issue common debt with a common guarantee” to help EU countries finance their efforts to support economies hard hit by the virus.
“If we can’t do this today, I tell you the populists will win — today, tomorrow, the day after, in Italy, in Spain, perhaps in France and elsewhere,” he said, framing this as a matter of survival for the EU.
“I believe [the EU] is a political project. If it’s a political project, the human factor is the priority,” he said.
Germany and the Netherlands, among others, have opposed initiatives involving debt mutualization to combat the foreseen recession, including so-called corona bonds.