Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Monday’s pledging event, which included a pledge of €1.4 billion by the Commission itself, saw the world showing “extraordinary unity for the common good.”
She added, “Governments and global health organisations joined forces against Coronavirus. With such commitment, we are on track for developing, producing and deploying a vaccine for all. However, this is only the beginning.”
“We need to sustain the effort and to stand ready to contribute more. The pledging marathon will continue. After governments, civil society and people worldwide need to join in, in a global mobilisation of hope and resolve.”
Speaking at the launch, Council President Charles Michel said, “It will take resources – €7.5 billion – just to kick-start our efforts. It may seem like a lot. But the cost of inaction would be far greater, both in lives and resources. The scope of our response must match the scope of the crisis.”
The event was organised by the EU along with Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Norway and Spain.
It coincides with a demand by senior MEPs for Member States to do more to tell the public about “EU action and solidarity” in combating COVID-19. This comes after two months of “concerted EU efforts” to tackle the pandemic.
In a joint statement issued on Monday, Parliament Vice-Presidents, Austrian EPP member Othmar Karas and German Socialist Katarina Barley also said, “Information and communication are crucial in tackling the current health and economic crisis brought about by the pandemic. It is vital that all national authorities communicate clearly to the public about the measures needed to contain the spread of the virus, especially when considering lifting the lockdown.” They added, “This must be done in a coordinated way across the EU.”
Meanwhile, a European team of medical practitioners and policy experts has called for an “ambitious plan” to relaunch the European project with an international conference on the “lessons learned” from the Coronavirus crisis.
"Governments and global health organisations joined forces against Coronavirus. With such commitment, we are on track for developing, producing and deploying a vaccine for all. However, this is only the beginning" Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
The conference would look at “six key areas” in which the EU should strengthen cooperation after the crisis, including health, the economy and citizenship. Health is identified as the priority area for closer European integration. The idea has been mooted to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration this Saturday.
In the draft proposal the authors, led by retired Italian diplomat Giovanni Brauzzi, say, “A consultation of the best minds of the health sector is needed to distil the lessons learned. No response to a health crisis can be really effective unless it is based on sound scientific grounds, clearly communicated to citizens to gain their full commitment and participation.”
“Problems need to be addressed at the right level. We need to rely on an institutional architecture that is both clear and flexible. Uniform procedures are not necessary but homogeneous objectives and compatible tools are required. Delivery of health services can remain largely decentralised but a wider coordination is needed at European level.”
The document, drafted by Dr Charlotte Gath, a public health expert, epidemiologist, Dr Francesco Albertoni, Povl Christian Henningsen, a communications expert, public policy expert Claudio Leone and Maria Laura Franciosi, founding chair of Brussels Press Club Europe, will be launched on 9 May at a conference organised by a coalition of 15 NGOs to mark Europe Day and the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration.
In a webinar, European citizens will be asked to discuss the plans and to vote on whether to support the authors’ call for an international conference.
Future challenges, including health reforms, were recently discussed at a webinar organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) at which its President Luca Jahier said a “real health union” as the main priority.
"The cost of inaction would be far greater, both in lives and resources. The scope of our response must match the scope of the crisis" Charles Michel, Council President
At the EESC webinar, former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said, “The time has come for this Commission to take a mature approach and, taking Jacques Delors as its model, act with great proactivity by making ambitious proposals to present to citizens, even if not all are already approved by the Member States.”
“Citizens play a fundamental role in the solution and if they support it, the agreement of the Member States will not fail to arrive.”
Portuguese Socialist MEP Margarida Marques agreed, saying, “This is a symmetric crisis with symmetrical consequences: we must recover at European level, not only at national level. We must be concrete and show solidarity.”
Former UK Labour MP Roger Casale, of the civil rights group New Europeans, supports a European Public Health Authority to be set up post-Coronavirus, saying, “What Europe needs now is a new Schuman Plan – one that puts the integration and coordination of health services across Europe at the heart of a new plan to bring Europeans closer together.”