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Watch: European leaders discuss post-COVID-19 measures at economic forum

European leaders speak on a panel at an economic forum in Slovenia
European leaders speak on a panel at an economic forum in Slovenia   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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European leaders gathered at an economic forum in Slovenia on Monday spoke about how Europe has managed the economic crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Many called for solidarity amid European countries and some eastern and central European leaders pushed back on criticism over rule of law in some of their countries.

Leaders from Croatia, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic discussed the future of the European Union and the economic recovery after the COVID-19 in Europe.

“We have to maintain our unity, our solidarity within central Europe," said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, meanwhile, commended European leaders for coming together to agree on a recovery package and for taking "significant" measures to address the economic crisis.

International Monetary Fund director Kristalina Georgieva said there had been an encouraging revival of trade that was much needed to help economies in Europe.

Double standards?

But many central and eastern European leaders were critical of European solidarity and what they called double standards on the rule of law.

There is a need to "strike the right balance" on national measures and European activity, said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. He said it was clear that there needed to be a common response.

He said the enlargement of Europe was a "process" and that the newcomers would have "rising self-confidence". He said the crisis showed that there needed to be a common response which the bloc had "managed".

Plenković said the situation in Belarus, the US elections and Brexit showed that Europe needed to provide solutions and be a "leader". He said the council meeting in July was essential to discuss the economic recovery.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said that his country wanted to "join the club" but at the same time he was concerned about what was happening. He said they should work to increase the EU's popularity but that it needed change as well.

Czech President Andrej Babiš, meanwhile, complained about the moderator's questions about the rule of law.

"Solidarity means common success," said Hungarian President Viktor Orban. "You cannot be successful together if you are not successful one by one."

Leaders also warned that COVID-19 could become more difficult this winter as people spend more time indoors, speaking about the need to control a potential second wave of the epidemic in Europe.