In the face of the health crisis lashing Europe and the world, and costing the lives of thousands of citizens, Citizens Pro Europe, a non-governmental organisation present in 10 EU-Member countries, would like to present a number of considerations, for this crisis calls for determination and courage from political leaders and democratic institutions, the industry, and European civil society. In these times of great need, we are all called upon to contribute our bit.
Firstly, we must work to save lives. Member States are the first line of defence. We want to thank all workers who make it possible for our fellow European citizens to be taken care of. In order for all national health systems to be able to absorb the avalanche of those seriously affected by COVID-19, these workers must have at their disposal all the necessary financial and material means.
Secondly, we would like to highlight the importance of a joint action by all Member States and European Institutions in this grave moment. We make an appeal to their political leaders to act, at all times, with solidarity, Europe’s true hallmark. In this sense, we regret some Member States’ decisions to ban the sale and distribution of essential equipment to other Member States. We are pleased to see that, owing to the European Commission’s intervention, these bans will not be put in place and that mutual assistance mechanisms are being implemented. In these times of great need, it is critical to maintain channels for trade and the distribution of essential goods on the common market open. We congratulate the European Institutions for their proposal of green corridors ensuring the transit of these goods. We condemn the obstacles to the freedom of movement of these merchandises taking place at the borders of several Member States. This is a very serious error that jeopardizes citizens’ lives and will notably hinder the economic recovery once this health crisis abates. The common market is a source of prosperity for all and a relying factor on the speedy recovery of our economies after this crisis. Today, it is an instrument that can save many lives.
Thirdly, we congratulate the European Institutions for having rightly decided to take economic measures to support Member States, which are at the frontline of this crisis. Among them, we highlight the importance of the de facto temporary suspension of the Stability and Growth Pact, and of the direct state aid rules, as well as of the freeing of important sums of structural funds – up to €37bn – to confront the crisis. We are pleased, although we regret the lack of swiftness with which, with a few praiseworthy exceptions, Europeans Institutions and Member States have acted. We trust that no efforts will be spared to alleviate the consequences of this terrible crisis. The European Central Bank’s recent decision of a €750bn purchasing programme is excellent news.
Fourthly, we would like to express our concern over the evolution of the spread of the virus which continues to grow exponentially, and alert you all that the measures taken so far might not be sufficient. We are aware that the European Institutions are already working at full capacity “to do whatever it takes”. Therefore, we call on you to implement urgent measures on the following sense:
1. European Institutions must act together. This unity of action must be anchored on a joint declaration of the health emergency affecting Europe, and the establishment of a single institutional command – a crisis cabinet – for the management of this pandemic and its socioeconomic consequences.
2. Place the well-being of citizens first on the decision-making process. In this sense, ensuring access to the health equipment and means helping confront the crisis caused by this pandemic should be a priority. The EU must ensure equal access to the protection of health, and coordinate the production and distribution of health equipment, drugs and other related products suitable to deal with the situation. Furthermore, the EU must implement all necessary measures to complete the repatriation of European citizens and their families who have been trapped by the closure of borders, not only within the EU but in third states.
3. In this emergency situation and in order to tackle this crisis, the EU requires an urgent procedure allowing the swift adoption and entry into force of whatever legislative and budgetary measures might be necessary at European level. Likewise, we propose the adoption of a general flexibility rule allowing the European executive the temporary suspension of any provision of the EU acquis it deems necessary to accelerate and facilitate the respond to the crisis, as well as the use of whatever EU budgetary resources on alleviation actions on this health crisis as long as it lasts.
4. Establish an economic recovery strategic action plan. This plan should identify all sectors and all European resources available. The EU should focus on providing a joint response, placing citizens, companies and jobs at the centre of any future decision.
Also, we would like to appeal to Europe’s industry to contribute in the finding of solutions in all areas in which they consider that they might be of help, as well as to recognise the extraordinary value of the commendable examples of solidarity already shown by big European corporations (e.g. Inditex, Basf, L’Oreal, LVMH, the Absolut Company, H&M, Angel Baby, Prada, Chiara Ferragni, Armani, Bulgari, Airbus or Rolls-Royce, among others) and by the thousands of small and medium enterprises that have already gotten down to work (e.g. by printing respirator components, making masks, producing sanitary gel). We trust that, during this crisis, more and more companies and people will put their resources and capacities at the service of society. We hope that European Institutions will provide the support and recognition that they need.
Lastly, from Citizens Pro Europe, we commit ourselves to the dissemination of truthful information on the actions of European Institutions in the face of the of deluge of biased or, simply, false news, and to the mobilisation of the pro-European society in favour of a united and solidary action by all Europeans. Civil unity in the face of this threat is fundamental to ensure our success. Today, more than ever, we, citizens, are called to action.
Jean Monnet Chair ad personam