PARIS: France moved Friday to bolster cross-border coordination of the coronavirus response, marshalling G7 leaders for an extraordinary summit via videoconference, and launching an EU discussion on stricter border control.
Next Monday’s talks by the Group of Seven nations – the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Japan – will seek to harmonise action against the virus in the spheres of health, economy, finance and research, the French presidency announced.
The G7 summit, initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron who discussed it with US counterpart Donald Trump by telephone Friday, would be the first-ever held by videoconference.
The United States, current chair of the G7, and others in the group “all gave their agreement” for the meeting, the Elysee Palace said.
“Following my call with @realDonaldTrump and all G7 leaders, we agreed to organise an extraordinary Leaders Summit by videoconference on Monday on Covid-19,” tweeted Macron.
“We will coordinate research efforts on a vaccine and treatments, and work on an economic and financial response.”
International cooperation was “essential to face this crisis and its consequences, particularly economic ones”, said the presidency.
Macron also spoke Friday to EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
He proposed that the bloc reinforce or even close the borders of the visa-free Schengen area to other heavily affected or high-risk areas of the world.
But Macron wants to “avoid non-coordinated” measures such as Schengen countries unilaterally closing their borders to other members of the group in violation of common rules, the Elysee said.
Slovakia and the Czech Republic, both members of the free-travel Schengen area, said Thursday they were closing their borders to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Other member states including Austria, Slovenia and Hungary have suspended passport-free Schengen travel rules and reimposed border checks, particularly with Italy, as the EU came in for criticism for its lack of a collective coronavirus response.
EU-wide recommendations on the subject will be discussed at a home affairs ministers meeting of the EU27 nations in Brussels later Friday.
Von der Leyen on Thursday warned against unilateral travel restrictions such as those imposed by Trump on people travelling from Europe.
“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” she said.