What are our Mayors, Councillors, Regional Presidents or Regional representatives doing to fight the Coronavirus / COVID19? We take a look on the ground with our member Vincent Chauvet, Mayor of the city of Autun, France.
Our members at the local and regional level are at the forefront of the fight against COVID19 / the Coronavirus. In their towns, cities and regions they take additional and extraordinary measures, on top of the national measures. Our map gives an overview of who is doing what. As an example of what day-to-day management entails during this period of crisis, we recently interviewed our member Vincent Chauvet, Mayor of Autun, France, via Skype, as we’re respecting #StayAtHome. From the start of the crisis Chauvet responded immediately, taking concrete measures:
How did your citizens respond?
We had a lot of positive feedback, people felt supported by our measures, and we even had a large solidarity response as we put in place a “Citizen Reserve” where people can volunteer to for instance bring meals to needy people, and different types of help. In a few hours, we’ve had more than 150 people who subscribed to help our citizens. Besides that, just like many cities in France and Europe, we did sometimes have some trouble to have the confinement/Stay at home respected; to explain that delivery services are indispensable, that one should do grocery shopping just once per week and that one shouldn’t just go out for a walk. We have a beautiful historic town, so the temptation to have a walk is definitely there; so we need to repeat the rules and that’s something I do in my weekly Thursday evening Facebook live sessions.
What could the EU do more to support local and regional authorities?
In France, Mayors who have a hospital in their city are by tradition member of the hospital surveillance board. Together with other Mayors and Presidents of these boards we have been sounding the alarm since a few years as public hospitals in France are underfunded. We lack 800 million euro. The health care system and social security is a national competence, but in the light of the European Central Bank’ support to the national budgets of member states I believe it is indispensable to budget at its right level the hospital expenses.
We also have common challenges such as the recruitment of medical practitioners. In France there are many Romanian, Dutch,… doctors: the member states compete against each other first for the study of medicine and then for medical staff. So we need a common strategy, with common standards not just for the degree but also for the curriculum, to have more doctors, nurses, specialists,…who are lacking in most European countries.
I also don’t forget the economic side: luckily in Europe we have been able to keep some textile industries such as in my town. We should have a global reflection on manufacturing in Europe as citizens do not understand that airplanes are being re-routed by the Americans to send Chinese mouth mask flying over Europe to the United States or that we can’t help each other out more as European member states for the delivery of mouth masks, gloves,… We’ve seen very nice solidarity between Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany that helped France; Spain and Italy,… But we need a reflection on our economic production capacities – it is indispensable when we are faced with a crisis such as now and it keeps jobs locally in small rural towns like mine which we need to support given global and in particular Chinese competition.