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 Full text 
Thursday, 16 April 2020 - Brussels Revised edition

EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences (continuation of debate)

  Esther de Lange (PPE). – Mr President, the last time I spoke in this room, I talked about the real heroes of this crisis, like my sister, who is an orthopaedic operation assistant and she would normally fix your knee or your hip, but she volunteered to assist in a corona ward in a hospital in Maastricht. And she has seen with her own eyes what this horrible virus does – people who die alone, relatives who don’t have access to their loved ones, and nurses and doctors trained to heal, losing their patients – sometimes all of them – on their watch.

With all due respect to the Council – who has actually left this debate now – what she needs now is no theoretical, bureaucratic debate about the Single Market. Don’t get me wrong: the Single Market needs to be at the core of our economic relaunch after this crisis, as do huge investments, the SURE initiative of the European Commission, the use of our budget as a true instrument of solidarity. Don’t get me wrong.

But what she needs right now are face masks, what she needs is protective equipment, and she needs a Europe with a heart that shows her that they can deliver and that we will never, ever, become as dependent as we are now on other parts of the world when it comes to the production of our core medicines and our protective equipment.

What she needs is solidarity in action, and I’m thinking about the ICU patients who have been taken from the Netherlands to Germany, for example. She doesn’t need to see the images of the Russia huggers of this continent pretending that Italy gets more support from Russia than they get from the EU. That is not true and we need to speak out about that.

And, lastly, what she needs is a Europe that learns from its mistakes. There were mistakes made in the introduction of the measures against the coronavirus. One Member State doing one thing, a neighbouring country doing another thing. And the Council is going to repeat the same mistake. The Commission wanted to propose unity in an exit strategy and Member States tried to stop her.

I say to the Commission: good for you that these guidelines are there. Stay strong and show my sister and all these others that Europe can learn from its mistakes. Be better and deliver.

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