Coronavirus crisis offers chance to ‘transform’ society, says EU Commissioner

Mariya Gabriel told MEPs that public disaffection was one of the reasons the European Commission is launching a pan-European “hackathon.”

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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

24 Apr 2020


Speaking via a video link to deputies on Friday, Mariya Gabriel said, “We must seize the chance now to make society truly transformative.”

“There is currently widespread frustration among the public that the EU is not doing enough [on the crisis].”

She said that public disaffection was one of the reasons the Commission will launch on Friday a pan-European “hackathon” which, she said, aims to “connect civil society, innovators, partners and investors across Europe to develop innovative solutions” to fight the Coronavirus outbreak.


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The event will last until April 26 and, so far, 13,000 people have registered for it.

Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said, “I am encouraging people to register by the end of today.”

It will be structured around several categories of problems that, she says, need short-term solutions in relation to Coronavirus health and life, business continuity, remote working and education, social and political cohesion plus digital finance.

“There is currently widespread frustration among the public that the EU is not doing enough” Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner

All 27 EU countries are taking part as well as other nations and the winning solutions will be invited to join a European Innovation Council COVID Platform, which will be launched on April 27.

This, Gabriel says, will “facilitate connections with end users, such as hospitals, and provide access to investors, foundations and other funding opportunities from across the EU.”

She told the Industry, Research and Energy Committee, she was “proud” of the efforts of the scientific world to address the crisis but added, “We still need to step up these efforts and scientific expertise is more vital than ever.”

“We must prepare for the recovery and research and development must be the key to this. It should be prioritised with the focus on the Green Deal. This is the clear signal we must send.”

The meeting also discussed the proposal from the Commission to set up an EU data platform where researchers will be able to store, share and analyse findings on the Coronavirus. Gabriel said she supported such measures.

Addressing the same meeting, Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, told MEPs, “This pandemic knows no borders so we must work on it together and mobilise all efforts. It affects all the planet and is the most profound crisis we have faced in centuries so we need a strong response.”

“We will be unable to emerge from this if our companies don’t have the same level of support as those in the US and China” Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner

He welcomed the injection of liquidity by the ECB and the EU’s fiscal package agreed at Thursday’s online summit of EU leaders but added, “We also need a European industrial recovery plan, as was highlighted at the conference, to save our economies.”

“The crisis is our top priority now and it is accelerating changes in the way we live. We need to save all companies so a radical paradigm shift in our approach will be necessary. There is a real risk of bankruptcies, more furloughing and hostile takeovers so we must be vigilant in this period.”

“The economic forecasts are uncertain so the situation is extremely serious and we don’t know how long economic activity will be suspended.  This could remain for several months.”

He said the culture sector had been “devastatingly” affected, with cinemas closed and no movies being produced.

He told the committee, “We will be unable to emerge from this if our companies don’t have the same level of support as those in the US and China.”

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