As Covid-19 death rates continue to rise across the continent, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has said that Coronavirus pandemic has the EU battling for its very survival and that the 27-member bloc was now entering a crucial phase in the fight against the outbreak.
Her comments came in an address to the European Parliament on Thursday. She warned that the EU needed to do everything in its power to counter a threat of ‘unimaginable magnitude’ as the virus continues to wreak havoc on the EU’s economy and the lives of its citizens.
She called upon the peoples of Europe to show solidarity and work together to get through the crisis. “We can only succeed in our task if we are united. Recent days have shown that we can reverse the upward trend of the disease if we do all that is demanded of us. When this crisis began, many of us thought only about what was happening in our own countries. That was totally stupid. The EU has to be there for all the people of Europe,” commented the German, making reference to the policies of some member states, including France and Germany, to initially ban the export of medical equipment needed to battle the effects of Covid-19.
She noted that cross-border cooperation had begun to happen, with German hospitals taking in some patients from Lombardy and those in Luxembourg opening their doors to the sick of neighboring Alsace and Lorraine. The president reiterated the importance of the free circulation of medical equipment within the EU, despite the ongoing closure of national borders, and called once again for rapid access points to be established at border checkpoints to help facilitate this.
She noted that progress had been made to compensate for the shortfall in masks, ventilators and other essential equipment, with the EU-wide call to up production of these products being met.
“Since Tuesday, we know that we are now in a position to meet the continent’s demand for masks, gloves and other protective material.”
The heads of state of the EU were set to meet in videoconference, Thursday, and high on the agenda is the need to shore up the economies of the continent. Among the topics up for debate are the European Stability Mechanism, the release of Eurobonds and an initiative to make 37 billion euros in investment available through the re-allocation of structural funds.
Von der Leyen remarked that the crisis is putting the validity of the entire European project under the microscope and called upon Europeans to seize the opportunity to become more united than ever.
“History is watching us and we need to act with one giant heart, not 27 small ones,” she added.