Procedure : 2020/2780(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0267/2020

Texts tabled :

B9-0267/2020

Debates :

PV 15/09/2020 - 11
CRE 15/09/2020 - 11

Votes :

PV 17/09/2020 - 16

Texts adopted :


<Date>{14/09/2020}14.9.2020</Date>
<NoDocSe>B9‑0267/2020</NoDocSe>
PDF 147kWORD 54k

<TitreType>MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION</TitreType>

<TitreSuite>to wind up the debate on the statements by the Council and the Commission</TitreSuite>

<TitreRecueil>pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure</TitreRecueil>


<Titre>on COVID-19: EU coordination of health assessments and risk classification</Titre>

<DocRef>(2020/2780(RSP))</DocRef>


<RepeatBlock-By><Depute>Alexandr Vondra</Depute>

<Commission>{ECR}on behalf of the ECR Group</Commission>

</RepeatBlock-By>


B9‑0267/2020

European Parliament resolution on COVID-19: EU coordination of health assessments and risk classification

(2020/2780(RSP))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

 having regard to Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), as well as to Articles 4, 6, 9, 114, 153, 169 and 191 thereof,

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 35 thereof,

 having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences[1],

 having regard to its resolution of 10 July 2020 on the EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19[2],

 having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has moved from an acute to a chronic risk management phase;

B. whereas the prevalence, viral circulation intensity and circulation duration of COVID-19 differs very significantly from one Member State to another;

C. whereas the COVID-19 outbreak has illustrated the need to further strengthen the coordination of research with proportionate budgetary support for, among other things, the development of vaccines and therapeutic treatments, and the need to proportionately streamline the approval system for medicine and/or vaccines without compromising on public health safeguards; whereas several vaccines are in advanced stages of testing, but as yet no vaccine has completed the EU marketing authorisation procedure;

D. whereas differing approaches to the collection of data relating to COVID-19 across the EU have made it difficult to compare data;

E. whereas the EU response to the COVID-19 pandemic has so far been marked by a lack of coordination between Member States in terms of the coordination of public health measures, including the restriction of movement of people within and across borders;

F. whereas Member States have organised themselves without consultation, each acting at national level (introducing barrier measures, isolation instructions, screening, etc.), leading to major disparities within the European Union;

G. whereas many Europeans have been made subject to different rules depending not only on their place of residence, but also on where they have travelled to; whereas this lack of coordination during the summer period led to a multitude of differing controls and measures at borders, and within airports and railway stations;

H. whereas coordinated action by the Member States is necessary to avoid undermining the credibility of these measures;

I. whereas the limitations on free movement put in place by Member States have not always been in line with actual risk levels, as in some cases strict limitations, such as the closure of borders, were imposed on travellers from countries with low rates of infection;

J. whereas the COVID-19 crisis has not only had major health impacts, but also very significant negative consequences on economic, scientific, tourist and cultural exchanges;

K. whereas the free movement of people, goods and services are part of the four freedoms, and essential pillars on which the proper functioning of the internal market is based;

L. whereas the provision of healthcare is above all a national competence, but public health is a competence shared between the Member States and the Union;

M. whereas the EU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be in full compliance with Article 168 of the TFEU, respecting the competences of each Member State to define their own health policy, to organise, deliver and manage health services and medical care, and to allocate resources to their health systems;

N. whereas the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled on numerous occasions on how the European Union can pursue public health objectives through the integration of the internal market, with Article 114 as the legal basis;

O. whereas there is still significant scope for the European Union to deliver more on public health policy, and within the existing parameters of the Treaties; whereas public health provisions under the Treaties are still largely underutilised in terms of the commitments they could be used to fulfil;

P. whereas families are playing a fundamental role in the response to the pandemic, providing essential care to their members, including the elderly, children and the sick;

Q. whereas it is widely recognised that access to cross-border healthcare, and better coordination and promotion of best practices between Member States, can bring considerable benefits, thus making cooperation and solidarity within the Union essential;

R. whereas the existing infrastructure for emergency response, including the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Decision No 1082/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 on serious cross-border threats to health and the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and its reserve of capacities under rescEU, have been tested to their limits during the current health crisis, unduly delaying response measures;

S. whereas the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of evidence-based health policies; whereas this includes initiatives for both treatment and prevention; whereas preventative measures should be proportionate and ensure the best health outcome;

T. whereas pharmaceutical supply chains are reliant on active pharmaceutical ingredients or generics manufactured in third countries for manufacturing capacity, the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and as starting materials; whereas the export bans imposed during the COVID-19 health crisis have highlighted the danger of relying on such supply chains;

U. whereas the measures taken by Member States should always respect the fundamental rights of each and every European; whereas these measures should be necessary, proportional and temporary; whereas solidarity between Member States is not an option but a Treaty obligation and part of our European values;

V. whereas the Commission has already taken initial action by adopting several packages of measures, communications and strategies, including the recent proposal for a Council recommendation of 4 September 2020 on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (COM(2020)0499);

W. whereas the Council should agree on and implement the terms of this recommendation and establish the necessary measures to ensure that the Member States coordinate their decisions and actions in an effort to stop or limit the spread of the virus;

1. Expresses its deep concern about the increase of COVID-19 cases in several Member States since June, and calls for a much more coordinated response by the Member States to increase the efficacy and credibility of these measures in order to limit the transmission of coronavirus;

2. Strongly emphasises the need for shared and coordinated health management to fight this pandemic effectively;

3. Points to the importance of reassuring citizens on the consistency of measures taken from one Member State to another;

4. Recalls that freedom of movement for Union citizens is a fundamental right enshrined in the EU Treaties and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;

5. Underlines that this right can be restricted only for specific and limited reasons of public interest, namely the protection of public health, public policy and public security;

6. Insists on the fact that those restrictions should be applied in compliance with the general principles of EU law, in particular proportionality and non-discrimination;

7. Underlines that with the recent increase of new cases of COVID-19 across the EU, Member States have taken new, different and uncoordinated measures on free movement for people travelling from other EU countries; points out that each Member State has deployed its own national list of measures, including compulsory or recommended quarantine (with differing periods of quarantine being required), negative polymerise chain reaction (PCR) tests on arrival, completion of national traveller locator forms, application of different criteria for defining risk areas and different measures on the use of masks; notes that these measures have been introduced without any kind of coordination at EU level, which is fully within Member States’ rights, but does have a negative impact on the internal market, which is a shared asset for all;

8. Urges the Member States to adopt only necessary and proportionate measures when restricting travel or introducing internal border controls, after careful evaluation of their effectiveness to address the public health issue and in coordination with other Member States, so as to avoid unnecessary confusion or complications for those crossing borders within the EU;

9. Points out that the ECDC is still underlining disparities in the data collection and data reporting by Member States; underlines the fact that this lack of coordination prevents us from having a clear and complete picture of the spread of the virus in Europe at any one time;

10. Calls on the Commission to promote a common methodology for collecting health data and for counting and reporting the number of deaths;

11. Urges the Member States to adopt the same definition for a positive case of COVID-19 and for a death by COVID-19;

12. Acknowledges the importance of incidence rates as the main criterion to evaluate the spread of the virus, together with the reported trends in incidence; further notes other health criteria, such as the rates of positive tests, hospitalisation and intensive care unit occupancy, that may be taken into account, but only considers these as complementary to the main criterion for assessment;

13. Underlines that a common health assessment approach along these lines will allow the Member States and the Commission to proceed to conducting a common analysis of the epidemiological risk at EU level;

14. Considers that the ECDC should be able to assess adequately and effectively the risk of spreading of the virus and to publish a weekly updated map of the risk based on a common colour code, established according to the information collected and provided by the Member States;

15. Supports the colour code proposed by the Commission in its last proposal for a Council recommendation; considers that the categorisation suggested (green, orange, red and grey) will facilitate movement within the EU and will give citizens more transparent information;

16. Considers that the thresholds adopted for use should be such as to avoid repeated changes and fluctuations between categories, permitting a level of stability that allows citizens to plan their movements ahead of travel with greater confidence; further considers that the threshold used for the ‘green’ zone should equate to a figure which incorporates at least 50 % of Member States, while still permitting appropriate and sufficiently graduated ‘orange’ and ‘red’ thresholds for areas of higher contagion risk;

17. Expresses doubts about the practicalities of implementing a regional approach as proposed by the Commission, in view of the difficulties involved in verifying the place of residence or place of last sojourn of travellers at the border; considers that the ease of application and comprehension of the measures in place should be a key consideration in order to ensure that the measures are applied consistently and effectively;

18. Recalls that the ECDC has recommended that the Member States follow minimum baseline measures to avoid the spread of the virus, such as hygiene measures, physical distancing and limiting gatherings, using face masks in specific settings, teleworking arrangements, extensive testing, isolation of cases, quarantine of close contacts and protection of vulnerable populations;

19. Calls on the Member States to follow the ECDC’s abovementioned recommendations and to define a common framework of health measures that public authorities in affected areas may adopt in order to halt the spread of the pandemic, while recognising the responsibility that Member States have to protect the health of their citizens;

20. Acknowledges that additional measures should be considered and shared by public authorities if the rate of transmission increases, including interventions limiting population movement, reducing the number of contacts per person, avoiding mass gatherings, paying particular attention to high-risk areas, closing of schools or recommending that people ‘stay at home’;

21. Considers that such a framework would strengthen mutual trust between the Member States and between the affected areas, and avoid restrictive measures in response; calls on the Member States to pay particular attention to the specificities of cross-border regions and to insist on the need to cooperate at local and regional level;

22. Considers that in the event of an active cross-border spreading zone, public authorities should jointly establish health mechanisms for real-time coordination and exchange of information;

23. Stresses that coordinated application of health measures on both sides of borders appears essential to ensure that they are consistent, effective and supported by the population;

24. Calls for the adoption and the implementation of a common testing strategy in all Member States, especially in cross-border regions; considers that testing for travel purposes should be undertaken, as a rule, in the country of origin at least 48 to 72 hours prior to travel; further considers that the Member States and the Commission should draw up a list of the authorities permitted to provide a test certificate for these purposes, in order to safeguard this process from abuse;

25. Underlines that the comparability of test results will allow reciprocal recognition from one country to another;

26. Calls on the Member States to mutually recognise the results of COVID-19 infection tests carried out by the certified health bodies in other Member States included on the list drawn up by the Member States and the Commission;

27. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to agree on a common quarantine period while considering the opinion of the ECDC; considers that non-essential travel into the EU by non-EU citizens from non-EU Member States should be subject to a 10-day quarantine period, while those arriving for ‘essential purposes’ should not be required to go into quarantine for this period;

28. Calls on the Member States to adopt a common protocol for monitoring asymptomatic patients and measures regarding the isolation of patients who tested positive for COVID-19;

29. Welcomes the use by citizens of passenger locator forms; considers that a digital version of passenger locator information should be used in order to simplify processing, while ensuring equal access to all Europeans;

30. Calls for the Commission and the Member States to rely on the opinion of a European Scientific Advisory Board;

31. Calls for the establishment of a COVID-19 task force led by the Commission; considers that each Member State should be represented in this task force and should designate a point of contact from their national executives; proposes that the main objective of this task force should be to regularly disseminate recommendations relayed at European and national level;

32. Recalls that giving the public clear, timely and comprehensive information is crucial to limiting the impacts of any restrictions to free movement put in place, and to ensure predictability, legal certainty and compliance by citizens;

33. Notes the initial failure of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) and the restrictions on exports of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and ventilators imposed by some Member States in the most difficult days for the countries most affected by the spread of COVID-19; recalls that not all of the restrictions introduced are unjustified; calls on the Commission to ensure the correct functioning of the UCPM and the Health Safety Committee to enable an increase in centralised purchases of equipment and materials, to ensure rapid acquisition and joint distribution starting with areas in greatest need, to provide effective coordination and clear actionable rules for the allocation of these resources, and to guarantee a more effective and timely exchange of information;

34. Emphasises the importance of Member States being able to pool resources, including manufacturing capacities, to ensure that the increased demand for PPE, ventilators and other medical equipment, laboratory supplies and sanitising products, can be met within the EU, which would also help bolster the reserves of the strategic rescEU stockpile;

35. Encourages the ECDC, the European Medicines Agency, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) and, where relevant, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), to improve communication and cooperation channels on data monitoring while responsibly utilising the potential of artificial intelligence; believes that services provided by GALILEO could also be effective in the development of early warning programmes for pandemics, to track, locate and conceptualise the spread of infections, similar to that provided by the proprietary software-as-a-service BlueDot;

36. Underlines that complete repatriation of all supply chains is neither possible nor desirable in a global economy; emphasises that a broad network of fair and well-implemented free trade agreements (FTAs) together with a fully functioning multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization and an operational Appellate Body at its core, constitute the best way of guaranteeing that multiple manufacturing sources for essential products are available, and that regulatory standards converge globally, ensuring a strong global innovation framework complementing European production;

37. Recalls the negative impacts on the internal market resulting from national measures and leading to the non-circulation of essential goods such as food, medical devices or PPE, and to restrictions on the free movement of persons; firmly believes that the EU should develop coordination tools in order to effectively manage similar situations, so as to prevent the internal market from being disrupted again in the event of similar crises;

38. Calls for the Commission to undertake, together with Member States, a comprehensive and cross-sectoral analysis of the economies within the EU in order to understand the depth of the impacts felt during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to assess the extent of the disruptions to cross-border value chains; considers this to constitute an essential evidence base in order for the Commission to issue updated recommendations and determine the key policies that will act to strengthen the collective long-term recovery within the single market that leaves no one behind;

39. Underlines that any restrictive measures imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic by national authorities should be, by definition, limited in duration, as their sole justification is to tackle the pandemic; expects the Commission to carefully guard against temporary measures becoming lasting barriers to the free movement of goods, services and persons within the internal market;

40. Recalls the importance of consumer protection during the pandemic, owing to the risk of malicious actions linked to COVID-19, for instance unsafe products claiming to be beneficial to health; underlines the important role online platforms could play in supporting the removal of unsafe products from sale, in coordination with the relevant national authorities and the Commission;

41. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

 

[1] Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0054.

[2] Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0205.

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