European Commission accepts that ‘lessons must be learned’ from Coronavirus crisis

In response to a question from this website, the executive said it was too early to assess where its approach might differ in the event of a second, or even third, wave of the outbreak.

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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Apr 2020

The comments came at a Commission briefing where journalists were invited to submit online questions about the pandemic.

The EU has been criticised by some for what many see as a slow and uncoordinated initial response to the outbreak, particularly in Italy and Spain, the two EU countries worst hit by the virus.

A Commission spokesman said, “There will be a time for learning the lessons from this and discussing what went wrong but, for now, the focus very much has to be on tackling the pandemic itself.”


The spokesman accepted, however, the need to reflect on “what improvements can be made as regards our preparations to avoid a repetition of this and to plan and prepare for other types of events.”

According to the latest data from the ECDC, there have been 947,693 cases in Europe with the five countries reporting the most cases being Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the UK.

In Europe there have been 99,232 deaths. The five countries reporting most deaths are Italy, Spain, France, the UK and Belgium.

Meanwhile, MEPs say that the 165,000 current Erasmus+ exchange students and 5,000 EU volunteers “need reassurance that they will be reimbursed and retain their status.”

In a letter addressed to EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, culture and education committee members say the Commission’s “current way of communicating” and “lack of information” from national agencies “do not provide certainty that extra costs will be reimbursed.”

“There will be a time for learning the lessons from this and discussing what went wrong but, for now, the focus very much has to be on tackling the pandemic itself” Commission spokesman

MEPs also want to ensure students do not lose the academic year and can still obtain the necessary academic credits via virtual learning.

The Commission should also ensure that “Solidarity Corps” programme participants can retain their status as volunteers.

German EPP member and committee chair Sabine Verheyen said, “We call on the Commission to directly support all those participating in education, culture and youth programmes.”

She added, “That means working with national agencies, universities, technical colleges, schools, youth organisations and voluntary organisations to make sure our participants are safe and are given help to get home where necessary.”

“It also means reassuring them that extra costs will be reimbursed, that project rules will be applied flexibly and that they will retain their status as Solidarity Corps volunteers or Erasmus+ learners.”

“We have a duty to make sure that those who signed up to our programmes get the help and the support they need. The class of 2020 needs us.”

Elsewhere, NATO defence ministers have met by video conference to decide the alliance’s next steps in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking after Wednesday’s meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “The crisis has shown that our nations are resilient and united. Our militaries are already playing a key role in support of national civilian effort. And using NATO mechanisms, allies have been helping each other to save lives.”

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod Wolters, is coordinating military support to deal with the virus, which includes delivering hundreds of tons of urgently needed equipment “to where it is needed quickly and efficiently.”

Ministers also discussed the “importance” of countering increasing levels of disinformation and propaganda and a NATO spokesman said allies “are working closely together to identify, monitor and expose these lies.”

Ministers also considered the long-term implications of the crisis for NATO, its operations and its core mission to protect its one billion citizens.

The spokesman added, “NATO is committed to ensuring this health crisis does not develop into a security crisis by maintaining a strong deterrence and defence.”

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