Socialist leader calls for special committee to learn lessons from pandemic

Iratxe García Pérez said the parliamentary committee would be open to all experts and last up to one year with the possibility of extension.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

08 Jun 2021

Speaking at a news conference in Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, García Pérez said she will outline details of the plan to MEPs on Wednesday.

She explained, “EU policy has been conditioned by the virus but we support the creation of a special committee to learn lessons from this pandemic and to try and prevent it from happening in the future. This would give us a more holistic vision.”

She said representatives of all relevant fields, including the medical sector, along with researchers and others affected by the pandemic would be invited to speak before the committee.

“We need to assess how the EU has acted and how it can learn for the future. At the start of the crisis there was a very national, nationalistic response but then we became aware of the need for EU coordination. This has taught us an important lesson; that together we are better prepared to act against such things.”

“But we still need to look at how we acted, what we did well and did not do so well. This not about pointing criticism but knowing how to do things better in the future, for example, regarding travel and free movement, the health response, our vaccine strategy and the recovery plans. We need a comprehensive vision so now is the time to put this initiative on the table.”

The Spanish member told reporters, “I have spoken informally with the other groups about this and I will speak about it in plenary tomorrow.”

García Pérez also welcomed the decision to hold the plenary in the French city this week, despite concern about continuing high levels of Coronavirus.

She said, “I am very happy to be in Strasbourg which shows that the situation regarding the pandemic has improved. I would have liked to be here in better circumstances without these restrictions being still in force because they do condition our work and our presence.”

“But being here is a good signal that we can continue with our work and hope for a better situation in July and a return to normality.”

“We need to look at how we acted, what we did well and did not do so well. This not about pointing criticism but knowing how to do things better in the future, for example, regarding travel and free movement, the health response, our vaccine strategy and the recovery plans” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D leader

Turning to the week ahead, the first time members have met in Strasbourg for months, she said there was a “huge absence on the agenda.”

This is a debate, proposed by her group, on the current situation in Columbia which, she said, had seen over 50 deaths occurring during recent “citizen revolts” against the Columbian regime.

She said, “This deserved a debate in Parliament this week but this demand was opposed by the EPP and others. I object to this type of selective opposition by the Right to support human rights in some places and not support it in other places.”

However, she welcomed the upcoming first plenary session of the Conference on the Future of Europ, saying, “I hope this will help us to open up a wide debate about the changes that the European Project needs.”

Separately, The Left leader Martin Schirdewan, a German member, spoke of his support for a waiver of vaccine patents, a move tabled by President Biden.

He said, “I hope we can garner a majority this week in favour of this but the Right here are gathering their forces to oppose it.”

“This is vital - Oxfam has said this week that if we vaccinate at the present speed it will take 57 years before the whole world is vaccinated. To say, as some do, that a waiver of patents will not help is absurd. We need to boost capacity so hope there is a majority.”

He added, “I am also happy to be in Strasbourg and hope the local people will come out of this okay because the city was hit hard by the pandemic at first.”

“EU policy has been conditioned by the virus but we support the creation of a special committee to learn lessons from this pandemic and to try and prevent it from happening in the future. This would give us a more holistic vision”

Iratxe García Pérez, S&D leader

Speaking at a separate press conference in Strasbourg, Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said he backed García Pérez’s idea for a committee, saying, “In principle we support a special committee so we can learn lessons and improve things. We are open to this idea.”

Elsewhere, he again called on the Commission to activate the rule of law mechanism against certain, unnamed Member States, “because this [rule of law] is a problem in a number of Member States.”

He said, “The legislation is sufficiently clear on implementation and is not an excuse for not acting. We will say this in our resolution this week.  This will be the final signal we will send to the Commission.”

On vaccine waivers, he said, “Our group says that the problems facing some poor countries will not be resolved by a waiver. The fastest way to provide access to these countries is to eliminate export blocks.”

Turning to Belarus, another item on this week’s agenda, he said, “We welcome the Council’s speedy reaction for once but now we must ensure that all the decisions that have been taken are now implemented.”

He also said his group will organise a public debate in Strasbourg on Wednesday evening on the Conference on the EU’s future.

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