MEP Daniel Freund welcomes the European Commission’s pledge to ‘learn lessons’ from COVID crisis

Commission says ‘ten lessons’ should be drawn from the pandemic.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Jun 2021

Freund told this site that learning lessons from the pandemic should be one of main aims of the conference on the EU’s future which launched on Saturday.

The German Greens/EFA member said, “This conference is the right place to draw lessons - not just from the pandemic - but also from the series of crises we have seen of late, including Brexit and the Eurozone crisis. The pandemic is not over yet but, yes, this is a good moment to draw lessons from it.”

He added “This is a chance for the EU to show it can respond to such events because the next crisis might look different to this current one. That is why we need to be better prepared to respond to that crisis, whatever it may.”

Freund was responding to the European Commission’s statement on the “early lessons” learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months.

The Commission says that if the lessons are heeded, “this will help to better anticipate public health risks and enhance contingency planning, leading to swifter and more effective joint responses at all levels.”

The ‘ten lessons’ focus on what has to be improved and what can be done better in the future and are said to provide a “first snapshot of what needs to be acted upon now for the benefit of all Europeans.”

"This is a chance for the EU to show it can respond to such events because the next crisis might look different to this current one. That is why we need to be better prepared to respond to that crisis, whatever it may” Daniel Freund MEP

They include an improved European pandemic information gathering system and a “new robust global surveillance system based on comparable data”.

The EU should also appoint a European Chief Epidemiologist by the end of 2021 and the Commission should prepare an annual “State of Preparedness Report.”

Another lesson is that “emergency tools need to be ready faster and easier to activate.”

The European Health Union should come in before the end of the year and “coordination should be strengthened between institutions.”

A sixth lesson is that a “Health Important Project of Common European Interest” should be set up “as soon as possible” to enable breakthrough innovation in pharmaceuticals.

The EU, says the Commission, should also make sure it has enough “ever-warm” capacity to produce 500–700 million vaccine doses per year, with half of these doses to be ready in the first six months of a pandemic.

"Together, we have achieved what no EU Member State could have done alone. But we have also learned what worked well and where we could do better in future pandemics. We must now turn these lessons into changes” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

A large-scale EU platform for multi-centre clinical trials should also be established, while EU Member States “should be supported to strengthen the overall resilience of health care systems as part of their recovery and resilience investments.”

The EU should take a lead on strengthening the World Health Organization and pandemic preparedness partnerships with key partners should be developed.

The tenth and final lesson is that “a more coordinated and sophisticated approach to tackling misinformation and disinformation should be developed.”

The Commission’s report will be considered at the next EU summit and will then presented to the European Parliament.

The Executive’s President Ursula von der Leyen said, “The EU's comprehensive response to the pandemic has been unprecedented in scale and delivered in record time, proving the importance of working jointly in Europe.”

She continued “Together, we have achieved what no EU Member State could have done alone. But we have also learned what worked well and where we could do better in future pandemics. We must now turn these lessons into changes.”

Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said, “Despite the fact that health policy at European level is still in its nascent years, the EU's response to the pandemic was ample, and has included a wide range of unprecedented initiatives that were designed and delivered in record time.”

He added, “We acted with speed, ambition and coherence. This was achieved also thanks to the unprecedented solidarity demonstrated among EU institutions that ensured a united EU response. “

“This is one great lesson we must continue to build on. But there is no time, nor room for complacency. We are identifying specific areas where we already know more can and should be done to secure a more effective health response in the future.”

“This crisis can be a catalyst for furthering European integration in the areas where it is most needed.”

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