In times of the Corona crisis, we need solidarity!

03/26/2020

On 26.03., Ska held a speech in the European Parliament on the European answer towards COVID-19:

"In this crisis, we need to use everything at our disposal to support those who fight on the frontlines as well as the millions of people who lose their job or income. We need Coronabonds to help Italy and other countries and help for those hit most as well as a common effort of EU member states to work together to find and deliver the medical, social and economic means to overcome COVID-19. The Corona crisis is testing us as citizens, as countries and as Europe. But we see people all over the continent helping each other in these days and uniting in their hearts. Now governments have to unite in their actions as well!"

You can find the speech in full below or, if you have agreed to cookies, in the youtube-video on the left.


 

Ska Keller, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.:

Mr President, in these dire times, my sympathy and that of all my Group – and I’m sure all this House – goes to the victims of COVID-19 and to their families. Our thanks and gratitude go to all the workers on the front lines for tackling this crisis and for ensuring the basic functioning of our society, even in times of a lockdown.

Thanks and gratitude are, however, not enough. This crisis makes clear how much we all depend on the tremendous work of often underpaid and overworked people, be it in hospitals, shops or care facilities. We must reflect our gratitude by ensuring the improvement of their pay and of their working conditions. In times of crisis, we need solidarity among neighbours, among citizens and also among EU Member States and it took a long time before solidarity started to appear. First, there were acts that were the opposite – export bans for medical equipment, and border closures that left people desperately trying to get home, stranded at borders for hours and days in very unsafe sanitary conditions. Luckily, this has finally changed. Now countries are starting to learn from each other – sending medical supplies and treating patients from different countries. This is what European solidarity looks like, and we urge all Member States with available capacities to support such actions and relieve those hardest hit.

What is more, European solidarity must not stop at EU borders. In particular, support, including financial, technical and medical, should be extended to the countries that are working to join the EU in the future. In these dark times, the EU must stand in solidarity with the Western Balkans. 

While many of the measures necessary right now fall under national competence, there’s quite a lot of things that the EU can and should do at this moment, including coordinating the response actions of Member States, as well as pooling best practices in supporting those groups most impacted by the corona crisis. The single market must reinforce the efforts to tackle the crisis. Intense cooperation must exist between the EU institutions and Member States to ensure that medical supplies, food and other essential goods can move freely across borders to meet needs across the EU. 

The economic consequences will be very serious. The EU and the Member States have to think outside of their self-imposed limits and be courageous and be creative in finding and delivering the medical, social and economic means to overcome COVID-19. This includes using every financial instrument at our disposal to support the millions of people who lost their job or lost their income because of this crisis. To help the hardest-hit countries, we need common bonds like the corona bonds, so that Italy, but also other countries, can get back on their feet and further economic turmoil in the eurozone can be prevented. 

Extraordinary times need extraordinary measures and, to fight the spread of the virus, restrictions have been put into place. However, restrictions on fundamental rights to fight this outbreak must be as limited as possible. They must be effective, necessary and proportionate. We must not allow this crisis to be used as a pretext for undermining democratic checks and balances. Governments need to remain accountable to democratically elected parliaments and to the people that they serve, especially in times of crisis. Solidarity means that we have a responsibility not to forget the most vulnerable groups in our societies, such as women and children who are not safe at home, homeless people, people living in extreme poverty, but also refugees, who often live in overcrowded facilities. It is especially worrying to see the situation in many Greek islands, where refugees live in unbearable conditions without any or much access to sanitary facilities or to medical support. Those islands need to be evacuated immediately before a big humanitarian catastrophe happens as a result of COVID-19 spreading to camps, where sanitation and isolation is impossible. Many towns and many communities all over Europe are very ready to accommodate refugees. Member States should finally allow them to help. 

Together, with solidarity, we will overcome this crisis one day, but when the immediate threat is lowered, there will still be things to do. We will have to help the economy to recover from the severe shock with an investment plan that is also geared towards a social and ecological transition. We will have to draw the lessons from the crisis. 

While today is not the day for us to see all the consequences and all the lessons that we should draw from this, there are some lessons that are very obvious already, for example, that people who do work that is of absolute importance to all of us – like health workers, cleaners, supermarket workers, etc. – need to be valued according to their importance, not just by applauding them, but also by paying them fairly, i.e. much, much better. Our health system should not be subject to austerity and should not have to aim to gain profits. Hospitals, doctors and nurses are what we ultimately all depend on, and they need to be able to perform their tasks and have capacities and reserves. As I myself come from a medical family, both the daily struggles of the health system as well as the risks doctors and nurses are taking in these extraordinary times, strike close to home. The deep appreciation of medical care these days needs to continue post-crisis and to enable a better resourced medical system. 

This crisis is testing us all – as citizens, as Member States, as Europe – and while we have to physically stand apart, we can see a growing common spirit among people in Europe. All of Europe is mourning the victims of the virus. All of Europe is applauding the front—line workers. This crisis has brought Europeans together in their hearts. Now let’s also make sure we are uniting Europe in our answers to this crisis, and we will prevail.

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