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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  May 21, 2020 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the world health organization has reported the biggest global rise in new coronavirus infections in a single day — 106,000. there are at least 5 million confirmed cases worldwide. the un agency is particularly concerned about the rising number of cases in lower and middle—income countries. at least 15 people have died as cyclone amphan, one of the most powerful south asian storms in decades, rips across parts of bangladesh and eastern india. high winds and heavy rain are lashing coastal areas and there's been widespread damage. nearly 3 million people have been evacuated. floodwaters have forced the evacuation of around 10,000 people in the us state of michigan, where record rainfall breached two dams on tuesday but officials have told us river levels in the city of midland have not reached the highs they feared. one of the dams was rated ‘unsatisfactory‘ by the state two years ago.
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now it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. the european union has struggled to find a collective response to the coronavirus pandemic. those countries hit first and worst by the virus, italy and spain, have complained of a lack of solidarity. well, is that about to change? because france and germany are now backing a 500 billion euros economic recovery fund that would be made up of grants, not loans. my guest is french finance minister bruno le maire. is the pandemic taking the eu in a new direction?
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minister bruno le maire, welcome to hardtalk. thank you, good morning. let me start getting your response to the dramatic video conference joint appearance by your president, mr macron, and angela merkel of germany yesterday. mrs merkel said that the eu is facing the gravest crisis in its history, and we must find appropriate answers. do you believe those answers have been found? i think they have been found. and i fully share the assessment of chancellor angela merkel. we are clearly facing the gravest crisis in the history of the european union. an economic crisis, a social crisis, but also a political one. we need new and strong
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responses, and i really think that chancellor merkel and president macron have been able, both together, to provide the necessary response to the crisis. this is a major step, and i would say a historical step that has been decided yesterday by president macron and chancellor merkel. for the first time in our history, we are ready to provide 500 billion of expenditures, public expenditures, to fight the economic consequences of the virus and to face the economic crisis. this is a historical step for france and germany and, i hope, for all european countries. but let us be clear, minister — you say mr macron and mrs merkel have decided, but frankly nothing at all has been decided. this is simply a proposal, and it is a proposal that is so historic —
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to use your word — that it seems very likely significant numbers of other member states of the eu will not accept this idea of debt sharing which, in essence, is what this is. i know what that it will be difficult to convince the other partners — some of the partners, for instance, austria, denmark, sweden, the netherlands — to go this way. but when you look at the steps that have been already decided, i think that we are on the right way. we have been able, with the 27 member states on 9 april, to adopt a global package for the economic recovery within the eu with a new loan from the eab, with the so—called mechanism sure, with their use of the esm, and with this recovery fund.
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now france and germany have been able to find an agreement on the funding of this recovery fund with the common debt... but minister... i just want to explain to the other member states... there is no agreement — let us be clear... ..and political interest to go this way. there is no agreement, though. after the... it will be difficult to find an agreement, i know that... it will be. but all the member states should be aware of the necessity to adopt new responses to fight such an important economic, social, and political crisis in europe. but the point is surely simple — there are significant numbers of countries, mostly in the north of europe — and you've pointed to austria, denmark, sweden, and many people inside germany, as well — who think one of the fundamental principles of the european union has
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to be that each member state remains fully responsible for its own debt. and your proposal completely eliminates that principal. my response is that nobody is responsible for the way it has been hit by the coronavirus. nobody is responsible for the health crisis and for the coronavirus. and i think that the eu — and the eu in the 21st century should not be based only on selfish behaviours, but also on solidarity. and what is at the core of the agreement between france and germany is the fact that the eu of the 21st century should be based on solidarity. when one of the member states is hit by a crisis, by the coronavirus crisis,
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and if the state needs the help of the other member states, he should take for granted that it will have the support of the other member states. so when the austrian chancellor, sebastian kurz, says, as he did after the macron—merkel meeting yesterday by video — when he says, "look, we are only ready to approve a rescue fund that gives loans, ie money that must be paid back, rather than grants," you say he's being selfish, do you? i just say that it is also in the interest of austria, but also the netherlands, also denmark, also sweden to have a stronger eu after the crisis. this is a profoundly important moment for the eu, isn't it? because if we take seriously what you are saying and indeed what mrs merkel appears to have signed up to in this plan, we're looking at a massively deeper
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integrated eu economic system in which fiscal, as well as monetary policy is being collectivized? i think that we are clearly at a decisive moment of the history of the european union. because we are facing the gravest crisis, which is an economic, but also — i want to insist on that — a social and political one. and now it is time to choose. it is time to choose what kind of eu we want for the 21st century. there are two choices. either you go the way of having some member states working together without any solidarity, without common funding of innovation, new technologies, disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence, 5g and so on — in that case, that is the end of the eu.
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we'll never play any role on the international stage because we will be overcome by china and the united states. or we can make another choice, which is, to me and the french president, the right choice for the 21st—century for the eu — which is to gather our fundings, even through common debtjust for the sake of financing the economic recovery, but also financing the new technologies for the sake of having more independence, more serenity, and being able to have our own 5g, our own artificial intelligence, our own renewable energies, our own technologies, not relying on the support of other world powers, butjust relying on our own forces. that is the right choice for the eu
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for the 21st century, and that is what is exactly behind the agreement between france and germany yesterday. well, you may be absolutely convinced of this, but i wonder if all the french people are — let alone the people of germany, the netherlands, austria, sweden, denmark, and a host of other countries. let me read to you an interesting thought from the financial times‘ chief foreign affairs commentator, gideon rachman, the other day. he wrote, "the mutualisation of debt within the eu was always been the reddest of red lines for the german people, the dutch, the austrians, the fins and others. if it is pushed through now in this atmosphere of crisis, it could set a time bomb under the eu." because there will be a backlash, won't there? i don't share that point of view. i think that a large majority of european citizens wants to go
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the way of more independence and more serenity. they don't want to be dependent any more on china or on the united states... or on brussels. they want to be independent, and if we want to be independent, if we want to have our own technologies once again, which is the key point for the 21st century, then we need to gather our efforts. now i want to be very clear that the idea is not to provide money without any conditions. the idea is just to support some of the member states for the sake of having a quicker and stronger economic recovery after the crisis. that is the idea behind that. but you are not really addressing my point, that what we may see it is a backlash in the north european countries where the populations think, "we don't want to pay for the debts of the italians, the spanish, and others." and hang on — you may see a much deeper division growing... because it is in the interest of these northern countries to have a single market working very well, and making profits
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and making benefits. that is also the point. let's think about the situation in france in particular, because you are the french finance minister, one of the most senior voices in the government. would you agree with me that the way france has handled its own coronavirus crisis has left a deep sense of unease amongst many in your population? the government has not come out of this looking very good, has it? i agree that there has been critics, doubts, because we have been hit very severely by the coronavirus. did you see the major new york times investigation of a couple of days ago that compared emmanuel macron‘s rhetoric about declaring war on coronavirus, promising that all of france's front line health
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workers would be given the means and protection they needed — "and the reality was," concludes the new york times, "that france was nearly defenseless"? and that even today, if there is a second wave, a new spike in the spread of the virus in france, your emergency services still do not have access to the kind of emergency ppe protective equipment that they would need? you are still dangerously reliant on getting supplies from countries like china? is all that true? i think that is not the case any more. i hope there won't be a second wave of the virus in france, and i think that we are taking, with the prime minister, all necessary measures to avoid such a second wave in france. and if we are taking some decisions that are really hard to take and difficult to take,
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it is for the sake of avoiding a second wave of the virus in france. i will not say that the emergency services do not have the necessary equipment. we have been hit severely by the crisis. we had to take some reactions with a sense of urgency, and we have taken the decisions. i think our emergency services now have the necessary equipment to face such a situation. but once again, i hope we will not be in a situation to face a second wave of the crisis. you're the finance minister, you know the french economy is facing a very deep recession, like most of the national economies across europe and, of course, that is your prime concern in your dayjob. but you're also watching as france reopens businesses, shops — you can even get a haircut in france today, which you can't do
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in london — the metro in paris is crowded again. are you entirely happy that france has got the balance right between normalisation, reopening the economy, and maintaining the strictest of discipline in the fight against the virus? that is a balance which is obviously very difficult to find. but we are trying to find this right balance between the protection of the population and the necessity to go back to work. because there is a necessity to go back to work if we want to avoid an economic collapse. so our first reaction was a very strong support to the french economy with a partial unemployment scheme, for instance, with loans to the private companies, with temporary cash flow needs that have been provided by the state. then we are entering a second phase which sees the support to some specific economic sectors —
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tourism, the automotive industry, and the aeronautic industry. and before the ist ofjuly, we will have decided three sets of plans to support those economic sectors. and then will come the time of a huge economic recovery plan that should be announced by the french president in some weeks, i think by the end of august or the beginning of september, to really define the perspective for the french economy. and i think we should get through this crisis, to rebuild the strongest french economy which will be a competitive economy and a sustainable economy. you're looking, it seems, according to all of your national and imf and other estimates, at a recession which could see a contraction of gdp
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between 6—8% this year. you and your government have put aside hundreds of billions of euros in a national economic recovery plan. many french people are wondering, where on earth is this money coming from? will it be tax rises across the board, or are you going to have to slash public spending in the next few years? first of all, that is a choice that has been made by all the major member states of the eu because we did not have any other choice but to support our economy — and i really think it was the right choice. then it will be funded by debt — let us be very clear about that — and there will be the necessity at some stage to reimburse the french debt. but it will be later. and i really want the french debt to be reimbursed by growth. and that is the meaning of this economic recovery plan,
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that is the meaning of these hundreds of billions of euros to support our economy, to have a quick and strong economic recovery for the sake of having more prosperity, and being in a situation to reimburse our debts. not through new taxations, but through growth. right, so just very simply, what is france's debt—to—gdp ratio going to be in, let's say, a year's time? our assessment now is that, in 2020, it should be 100—115% of the gdp. it could be more because there are some new spendings that might be necessary to support some economic sectors. but once again, the key question is not debt — the key question is the economic recovery and growth. so what you have is an economy
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that is looking extremely fragile in the medium and, frankly, even the long—term, and you have a president who came to power promising a whole slate of reforms. and we've seen his attempts to change the welfare system and the pension system, and we've seen his popularity plummet, and we've seen the rise of the gilet jaunes movement of protesters. isn't the truth that the macron plan for changing, radically reforming france, is now off the table? there's no way he can continue with that plan given the situation you've just described to me. on the contrary. because we have been successful in the decisions we have taken during the three first years of the mandate of emmanuel macron. well, not according to the french people... there are many policies that we've put in place that gave some very strong reserves at the beginning of 2020 — we were one of the strongest economies within the uso. which means that after the crisis,
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our economy will not be fragile because the basis of the french economy is solid. so we will stick to the way of reforms, of improvements of the french economy and of french competitiveness, for the sake of having more growth and more prosperity. we had had some very good reserves, we have been hit by the crisis but, after the crisis, there will be a french rebound. and what kind of france and what kind of europe? will there be a rise in protectionism? we see donald trump with his language which suggests that he believes china is responsible for this virus, also talking about long—term implications for us—china relationships. you in france have talked about bringing your supply chains home, a much more nationalist approach to economic policymaking in the future — is this what france wants to see, a new era of economic nationalism?
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i don't think that economic protectionism would be the right response to the crisis. that won't be the end of globalisation. what we need is a new globalisation based on more fairness and the fight against climate change. that's the key point. but i don't believe in this economic protectionism. i really strongly believe that there is a need for a new globalisation, being able to have a more level playing field and a better fight against climate change. that's what we are proposing to the other member states of the eu. and is this crisis going to change france's relationship with china, as it appears to be changing the us‘s relationship with china? i think it will change all the relationships among the superpowers. and the key question is whether the eu is one of these superpowers in the 21st
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century or not. everything that we are supporting with president macron is for the sake of having europe being one of the three superpowers among china and the united states. and if we want europe to be one of these superpowers, we need more solidarity, more investment, more innovation, and providing the right funding for the states that are in difficulty because we want all the member states to go out of this crisis stronger than ever. and a final thought — you've talked a lot about the power of europe going forward. of course, europe is minus the uk, we're in the current transition phase and, by the end of the year, the idea is that transition phase ends and a new economic
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relationship is negotiated. and the negotiations right now are stuck at an impasse, michel barnier on the eu side says he's not optimistic about reaching a deal because the uk continues to want to have the best of both worlds. the uk negotiator says, "we need a change of eu approach," and the brits appear to believe that if they just let this slide for long enough, the eu will make major concessions. to quote michael gove, a british minister, "i think the covid crisis, in some respects, will concentrate the minds of eu negotiators." do you think the british, if they believe that your economic problems will lead to concessions, have got it right or wrong? i'm afraid they are wrong. you know, i miss the uk. i miss the uk because i think that we would be stronger with the uk within the eu. but that's not the case any more, and the british people has made its choice about its future.
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but now, do not make any mistake about that — there won't be any further concessions from the eu. and on the contrary, i really think that this economic crisis will lead to the reinforcements of the eu, will lead to more solidarity among member states. and we are not ready to make concessions that mightjeopardise the eu construction, and that might fragilise what we once built together. so i hope that everybody will be amenable and we can find an agreement as soon as possible between the eu and the uk. it is up to michel barnier to pave the way for this compromise, but do not believe that being opposed to any kind of compromise would lead to more concessions from the eu member states, because i think it will not be the case.
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bruno le maire, we have to end it there. i thank you very much indeed forjoining me from paris. thank you. hello there. although we've seen a little sea mist around and some fog for shetland, for the vast majority, wednesday was a sunny day, and it was the warmest day of the year so far in scotland, england, and in wales. the high temperature was in england, 28 degrees celsius. but for all, it will feel a little fresher today, notably in the north and west. and that's because of a weather
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front that's been meandering its way eastwards. and then, behind that for friday, an unseasonally deep area of low pressure, which means rain but also very windy weather. with the trees in full leaf, that's a concern. so look let's look at the progress of this weather front, which will give some rain, as you can see, as it crosses northern ireland and scotland. not as much for england and wales, and it mayjust be a few sharp but potentially torrential downpours across southern and eastern parts through the morning before it clears to brighter skies in all but the far north, where we've got some fog, actually, through shetland and coastal mists elsewhere. and it could stay dank and grey here for most of the day. and looking at temperatures, they're several degrees down from yesterday — still 26 possibly in london with that residual warmth. and then, as we go through the evening and overnight, that low pressure starts to escalate, it makes its presence felt. so some rain for many, perhaps a few sharp showers again to start the day in eastern areas, and a very warm night. but clearly, the concern is the amount of rain. and for the north—west of scotland, we could have 100mm of rain in the coming few days as that low pressure stays close by.
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so for all, a much windier period of weather on friday as that rain clears, lots of showers rushing through. but those winds do escalate through the day — well, morning, really — into the early afternoon, up to gale—force in the north and the west. you can see those gusts of wind, but even 30s and 40s further south, which is very unusual in may. so clearly a concern for that. we'll be keeping you updated on that. and as a result, even though temperatures in the high teens or low 20s, it will feel cooler because of that strong wind and rain which willjust continue for, as i say, the north—west highlands. but gradually through the weekend, the showers will reduce in number. the winds ease in the south as a ridge of high pressure tries to return at least to southern parts of england and wales. but a very different—feeling weekend for most of us, and still with that low pressure to the north into the beginning of the new week, as well, we still have the potential — at least for the weekend — for some unsettled weather.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. i'm david eades. as european countries puzzle over re—opening tourism — we meet the hoteliers hoping to salvage the season. the balance between welcoming visitors back here and the risk of a second wave is what italy and every other country is now trying to strike. rising casualties in afghanistan — fighting gets worse, along with the danger from coronavirus. what is facebook doing about misinformation during the pandemic and the coming presidential vote? we ask the boss.


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