European answers to questions concerning the future
Germany supports even closer European collaboration with regard to global future issues such as research, digitisation, and climate protection. To this end Germany is a partner in major European research projects. These include the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) with its telescopes in the Atacama Desert in Chile. In 2017, the European XFEL, one of the most powerful x-ray lasers in the world, opened in Hamburg. Alongside Germany, where the facility is located, a further 11 countries are involved. Germany is also the single largest financial contributor to the European Space Agency (ESA) The ESA Space Operations Centre is located in Darmstadt in Hessen.
The European partners intend to shape the digital transformation together and make Europe competitive in this field. The EU Commission that has been in office since 2019 has made digitisation one of its key issues and in February 2020 presented a strategy on how best to manage data and artificial intelligence. Amongst other things, the strategy addresses cybersecurity, critical infrastructures, digital education and the significance of digitisation for democracy and media.
A “Green Deal” for Europe
The EU Commission sees digitisation as an important factor in the fight against climate change as well. Ecological and digital transformation need to go hand in hand, it says. By 2030, for example, the plain is for computer centres to be climate-neutral. Where possible, resource-intensive analogue processes will be digitized.
As regards climate protection, in 2019 the EU Commission launched the European “Green Deal”. Amongst other things, this envisages a move to a circular economy, measures to restore biodiversity, and cutting pollution in Europe. The Green Deal extends to all economic sectors and involves considerable levels of investment. The aim is for the EU not to create more CO2 than it binds elsewhere by the year 2050.
Solidarity in the struggle against the pandemic
European cooperation and solidarity are also called for in the struggle against the spread of the Coronavirus and in dealing with the consequences of the pandemic. German hospitals, for example, admitted dozens of intensive-care patients from particularly hard-hit European countries such as Italy and France. Germany also provided Italy with ventilators and other aid. In order to be able to better coordinate supplies such as these, the German Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas proposed activating the solidarity clause in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This way, every member state could make available precisely the human resources and material that was not currently needed there.
The European partners have also worked together organising the evacuation of their nationals from other countries. Germany took citizens of other EU countries on almost all evacuation flights. Germany and France coordinated their efforts to exploit flight capacities wherever possible.
The EU Commission is making 230 million euros available to fight the spread of the virus. The funds will support the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and thus countries with particularly weak health systems. The European Central Bank (ECB) announced an emergency programme intended to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic. Through the end of 2020 the ECB will buy bonds worth 750 billion euros. The EU member states were not in agreement on the question of border closures as a way of containing the pandemic. Some countries closed their borders at various times or introduced strict controls. The President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen criticised this move, saying that important supply chains in Europe had been interrupted and the principle of free travel enshrined in the Schengen Agreement violated.