Europe battens down hatches as new Coronavirus epicentre

Written by Martin Banks on 18 March 2020 in News
News

With most of Europe now in lockdown, MEPs and national politicians are under enormous pressure to deliver a response that can save lives and safeguard the economy.

Brussels Central train station | Photo credit: Press Association


EU citizens are also being urged to do their bit amid the crisis. This ranges from opera singers giving an impromptu recital from their balcony, to spontaneous public applause for health workers.

In a video address, Italian deputy David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament said, “Today the watchword for Europe is solidarity. No one will be left alone.”

The President added, “Basta with austerity. Member states are authorised to spend whatever is necessary.”


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Writing for the German online news site NTV, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the CDU said, “Each of us can improve our lives and those around us through our behaviour. We need discipline and stamina to beat the virus  – in Germany we are well known for these traits.”

Citizen campaign groups across Europe, meanwhile, say there is also a central role for civil society in combating Coronavirus, adding that successful strategies only come about with the involvement of citizens.

To facilitate the exchange of best practice, people across Europe are being urged to pool suggestions to mitigate the virus and the economic and social impact of the crisis.

One idea has come from Niels Togerson, from Denmark, who suggested supermarket trolleys should be banned to limit panic stock-piling and shortages.

"Today the watchword for Europe is solidarity. No one will be left alone. Basta with austerity. Member States are authorised to spend whatever is necessary” David Sassoli, European Parliament President

Becky Wass, a lecturer in creative advertising, had the idea of pushing a postcard through the door of an elderly neighbour offering to help with shopping or to talk on the phone.

“If just one person feels less lonely or isolated when faced with this pandemic, then I’ll feel better about it. Coronavirus is scary. Let’s make kindness go viral,” she said.

Terry Reintke, a Greens MEP from Germany who is in self-isolation, said, “We should try to stay in contact with others. Write to old friends, tell stories and share how you feel.”

In a letter to PES leaders, PES president and former Bulgarian MEP Sergei Stanishev said, “The PES underlines the need to protect the most vulnerable and those on the frontline of the healthcare system.”

Ondrej Knotek, a Renew MEP from the Czech Republic, commented, “It is important to mobilise all the tools at our disposal. Cohesion funds will help us beat COVID-19.”

Roger Casale, Vice-Chair of Europe’s People’s Forum, said, “As well as massive state intervention, there is a central role for civil society in combating Coronavirus. Successful strategies only come about with the involvement of citizens.”

Meanwhile, German Greens MEP Sven Giegold said EU ministers “must provide with fast and effective emergency assistance” to businesses and euro countries to help them survive the crisis.

“All companies need unbureaucratic access to emergency loans from the European Investment Bank or national development banks. When the acute Corona health crisis is over we need an EU-wide green stimulus package of at least 3 percent of GDP" Sven Giegold MEP

He said on Tuesday, “The finance ministers must activate the ESM's precautionary credit lines without new austerity conditionality for Member States that become victims of a speculative attack."

“All companies need unbureaucratic access to emergency loans from the European Investment Bank or national development banks. When the acute Corona health crisis is over we need an EU-wide green stimulus package of at least 3 percent of GDP."

He added, “We finally need a genuine completion of banking and fiscal union, including common bonds, to make the euro truly crisis-proof. The lack of will to reform since the financial crisis is now threatening to backfire.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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