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Europe's week: Black Lives Matter, Europe rises

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A protester raises his fist during a demonstration Tuesday, June 2, 2020 in Paris.
A protester raises his fist during a demonstration Tuesday, June 2, 2020 in Paris.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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The shock and anger in the United States over the forcible death of an unarmed Black man in police custody have reached a boiling point this week, and that anger has spilled over to Europe.

In London, Berlin or Amsterdam thousands took to the street to condemn brutal police violence and to express support for African Americans who have been hit by similar tragedies over and over again.

In Brussels, the European Commission had diplomatic, but no uncertain comments on the crisis in America.

“We support the right to peaceful protest, and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind, and we call for a de-escalation of tensions. We trust in the ability of the Americans to come together, to heal as a nation. (...) and allow me to repeat that all lives matter, black lives also matter," Josep Borrell, the bloc's top diplomat told reporters on Tuesday.

USA moment of reckoning

It is not only the death of George Floyd, but also President Donald Trump's crisis response that keeps the flames of fury alive.

The country is mourning more than 100.000 COVID-19 deaths while millions of jobs have been lost, and African Americans are disproportionately affected.

The result of racial inequalities that have only grown over the years and that have been compounded by police violence.

How many marches do people have to go to? How many petitions do people have to sign? That's enough. That's why people are here. That's why the youth are here. They've lived their whole lives seeing this stuff, they see their parents protest too. And they are tired.
Leticia Arce
protester in San Francisco

Coronavirus recovery

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition government agreed on an additional €130 billion stimulus package to fight the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

These measures “have the objective to get out of the crisis with a wham,” Merkel's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

Member states' governments have so far doled out around €2 trillion in state aid to prevent mass bankruptcy and unemployment, on top of the EU's emergency response.

Keeping the economy afloat has been an expensive business so far. European decision-makers have put these plans together at breathtaking speed and some say this could be a positive political legacy of the pandemic.

The Interview

Luca Jahier, the president of the European Economic and Social Committee — an advisory assembly composed of employers, trade unions and other civil society groups — was our guest this week.

He said that 2020 will go down in history as a positive turning point for Europe because of the coronavirus crisis.

Europe always made changes in three steps, Jahier explained.

"The first is crisis, the second is chaos and the third is sub-optimal solution. And this usually takes a long time."

Since lockdowns began around March 13, he said, everything has changed in less than four weeks.

"Unprecedented decisions have been taken, unprecedented solidarity has been (unleashed), unprecedented suspension of fundamental taboos of Europe have been decided."

Certainly, a turning point was the huge historical shift operated by Merkel who a recovery package that would deliver grants funded through the issuance of common debt.

"I think that two bases for this," Jahier said. The German U-turn was seen in the speech by President Stenmeier, May 8, for the 75th anniversary of WWII ending.

"One is the definition of Germany as a 'broken heart', and the second is: 'we took an engagement, never again alone'. Europe is a broken heart in need of care and cure, recovery and reconstruction. And this decision of 'never again alone' is the real fundamental base of such an impressive decision. So there is a turning point in Germany."

Germany will take over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council starting on July 1st. For Jahier, that means Berlin will have to take the lead in ensuring other member states also back the proposed package, which he said, won't be easy.

And finally...

If the crisis has taught us something, it is that politicians had to be flexible enough to conduct regular business.

Technology made video conferencing a piece of cake and yet not everybody seems But not everybody seem to have the full skill set, yet.

Moral: politics is better with some trousers on – but less entertaining.