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CONFRONTING CORONAVIRUS

Confronting coronavirus: The Local examines how Europe is tackling the crisis

In a new series of articles, The Local's journalists across Europe will take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the crisis, what's worked, what hasn't, and why.

Confronting coronavirus: The Local examines how Europe is tackling the crisis
If a programme has had positive results, we'll look at how it could be replicated; if it's failed, we'll investigate why. Photo: AFP

The coronavirus epidemic has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of each community it has affected, and given us an opportunity to learn from each other's successes and failures. Amid states of emergency and global travel restrictions, the world may feel smaller, but it's a time when collaboration and looking outwards has never been more important.

No country has stopped the pandemic or solved the accompanying crisis, but there are initiatives being implemented to deal with its devastating impact.

From the development of new treatments to government aid for businesses and from ways of dealing with loneliness to financial support for freelancers, there is now a worldwide focus on trying to mitigate the harmful impact of this virus.

Over the coming weeks The Local's journalists, based at the heart of affected communities, will take a detailed look at some of the solutions put forward to deal with the huge knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This will include large-scale responses by governments, for example how France and Germany have tried to support small businesses and how Switzerland has tried to help parents affected by the crisis. It will also include smaller-scale responses, such as efforts by a region, community group, or individual hospitals or business to mitigate the impact of the outbreak.

You can view the articles published so far in our new section on all homepages titled Confronting Coronavirus.

Looking at how countries are facing the pandemic, and evaluating how well different strategies are working, is essential not only to highlight the signs of progress, but also for holding decision-makers to account.

These articles will inform the rest of our coverage moving forward. If a programme has had positive results in one location, we'll look at what it would take to export that response elsewhere. If it's failed, we can look at what would be needed to improve it. Responses can't be copied entirely with an expectation of the same results in a different contexts, but we'll look for key takeaways that can inform policies elsewhere.

It doesn't mean we'll be switching our focus; we will continue to report on the problems that are still awaiting a response. And don't worry, we will also keep writing the essential practical guides and up-to-date news reports you need in order to navigate life here.

We also know that the crisis has a unique impact on the lives of those living outside their home country, who may lack a support network in their new home, and are often more likely to have insecure housing and employment. As always, our readers will be at the core of our coverage, and we will continue speaking to you about your experiences of the crisis.

This kind of in-depth, responsible reporting is essential, but it costs money. This project has been supported by a $5,000 grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.

Thanks to this grant, all articles in the section will be free for other media outlets to republish.

As well as the Solutions Journalism Network, we are grateful for the support of our community of paying members. The 25,000 of you who have joined us have not only helped us to survive the crisis up until now, but allowed us to focus this important reporting on issues that affect our readers' lives and not just stories to garner 'clicks'.

If you would like to support The Local in our goal to provide essential and responsible English-language reporting from across Europe during this crisis and beyond, you can find out more here.

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COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

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