Frances Fitzgerald MEP, speaking in the European Parliament today (Tuesday) called for real solidarity from Member States and the EU institutions to deal with the spread of the virus.
“The Coronavirus hits Europe in a way that it does not hit other continents. Because of our highly integrated single market and freedom of movement, we are interconnected in a way unlike other regions.
“This will be the biggest test of European solidarity in a generation. We have seen the power of the Coronavirus in Italy and the way it has taken hold. It is only with a coordinated European response that we can deal with the virus in the most orderly way possible.
“It calls for a level of solidarity that we have never seen before. That solidarity can be expressed in a number of ways:
“1. We need to deal with shortages of personal protective equipment. There should be no hoarding and equipment must be shared when necessary.
“2. We are already seeing travel restrictions in some countries but we need a coordinated European response on how we manage travel restrictions. Otherwise, we will only get chaos. Europe has long prided itself on open borders but clearly we are now in unchartered territory so we need to respond in a unified way.
“3. The EU’s solidarity clause, as set out in the EU Treaties, should be activated to allow Member States to call on solidarity from other countries where they are struggling to cope with the virus.
“4. We need to share best practice on holding events and gatherings. Currently, we have different guidelines in different countries. We need to be able to follow the right procedures in various different scenarios.
“5. Collaborative research has never been more important. Funding and research needs to be devoted towards stopping the spread of the virus and finding a vaccine.
“6. We need to address the issue of shortage of medicines in Europe. This is an ongoing issue which relates to the production, access and cost of medicines in Europe. Our supply chains for medicines have now been severely curbed as they depend on India and China. The EU needs to take up this challenge urgently to ensure that there is proper access to medicines, particularly for the most vulnerable.
“The economic response must be swift and decisive. We are facing the biggest financial crisis since 2008. Businesses cannot conduct normal day-to-day operations and international trade is massively disrupted. Our governments needs to support businesses, and particularly SMEs who do not have extensive back-up resources.
“We need support programmes that can offer tax rebates where necessary and that give direct support to sectors that are most impacted.
“Additionally, the EU needs to be as flexible as possible with fiscal and state aid rules while Member States deal with the spread of the virus.”