We are experiencing an unprecedented challenge for all of us in Europe with the Corona Virus epidemic. It restricts our freedom of movement, puts tremendous strain on our health systems and causes enormous economic damage. Many citizens in Europe are worried about their health, their loved ones as well as their economic future. Italy was the first European country to be hit hard and has paid a very high price in terms of human lives. Doctors and nurses are working under unprecedented conditions in modern health systems, saving lives but risking their own. All Italians are enduring a long quarantine with huge personal sacrifices and facing the worst economic crisis since World War II. At the same time, Italy is helping other countries prevent similar suffering by raising awareness about the gravity of the threat.
Especially in the beginning of the crisis, national export restrictions on desperately needed medical equipment and unilateral border closures have fragmented the European response to the Corona crisis. These national reflexes harm the reputation of the European project at just the time when European cooperation is most needed. But there are also important, inspiring examples of European solidarity when Italian lives are saved in hospitals in Saxony, Cologne or Berlin. Europe means getting fresh food from neighbouring countries despite closed borders. Europe means international research teams searching for a vaccine across national borders. We welcome that the European Commission has decided to create a strategic “rescEU” stockpile of medical equipment. We are aware that Member States have in the past refused to share more competences in the area of health, thereby limiting available options for the Commission.
But we need more European solidarity now. This is a crucial moment for cooperation in Europe. We have to prove that we are a community of values with a common destiny, working for each other in a turbulent, global world. It is time to make courageous joint steps to overcome fear. It is time for European unity, not national division. We therefore call on our governments to overcome the old patterns of division in Europe and in the Eurozone.
We must provide emergency medical aid by treating patients from countries that are particularly affected and overburdened. If we pool our medical capacity on a European scale, we can save more lives.
We must coordinate at European level the production and distribution of protective items such as masks, clothing and disinfectants, as well as respirators, pharmaceuticals and tests, so that they can be used where they are most urgently needed. Many companies in Europe are converting their production. We need to go beyond this and ensure that Europe is reasonably self-sufficient when it comes to critical medical equipment and medicines.
We need strong European decisions for public health and for economic and financial stability for all EU member states. All EU institutions, each acting within their respective mandates, as well as the Member States, need to join in an urgent and convergent effort, consisting of four key actions:
This is not the time to let ourselves be divided. This is the time to stand united and fight for a common, better future.
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