Collective op-ed of the Renaissance Delegation in the European Parliament, published on 14 March 2020 in Le JDD
On 10 March, we were informed that China was going to allow the export of 1 000 artificial respirators and tens of thousands of protective suits and masks to our Italian neighbours. Thus, there is nothing abnormal in the shared feeling that Europe is not doing enough and not quickly enough even though the Commission has released significant emergency aid.
On the same day, the President of the Republic had arranged for an extraordinary European Council on the COVID-19 crisis. At the end of the meeting, the Heads of State and Government took back control and agreed on a method for better coordinating containment strategies, accelerating work on vaccine research, providing European funds for the most affected countries, establishing budgetary flexibility and launching the possibility of grouped purchases of medical equipment.
We say it clearly: the Schengen area did not fuel the epidemic, but the European cooperation will provide the vaccine. The Single Market will not create the fall in activity, but a European recovery front will safeguard and create jobs. We often hear that Europe moves forward under crises. That is true. This one is a matter of life and death. It is understandable, then, that citizens are asking Europe to do more, to act stronger and go further, so that we can take our destiny back into our own hands.
In the immediate term, the European Council’s response isup to the challenge, but we still need to speed up the operational implementation of solidarity. Our Italian friends must be the first to benefit from any solidarity measure. Health Minister Olivier Véran has already undertaken an inventory of equipment in order to better share the efforts with his European partners. Our delegation has also asked the Commission to release the reserves in the European budget immediately. This means more than 4 billion additional euros to help the companies affected and to strengthen the health system.
So much for the short term.
But we all know that the core of the battle will be the medium-term response.
The coronavirus crisis and its human, economic, social and even democratic consequences is an indication of how far we still have to go to build a Europe able to control its own destiny. We, the members of the Renaissance delegation, call on all the European institutions and pro-European political forces to adopt an unprecedented action plan against the coronavirus. This exhaustive action plan must respond to the urgency but, above all, it must put in place the instruments of European sovereignty. In the coming months, only a sovereign Europe will be able to overcome this crisis and, above all, those that will follow.
A Europe that is sovereign in terms of health protection, and must imperatively secure the production and supply of critical raw materials, including the active ingredients of medicines. If we have to go through regulation, let us have no qualms about this common-sense self-sufficiency.
A sovereign Europeat the economic level, in which the key is above all political will. We are not calling for a new treaty or a Juncker B-plan. We want Europe to be the driving force behind the revival of growth by investing in strategic sectors that create jobs (renewable, 5G or artificial intelligence), by strengthening the resilience of our economy and by training Europeans. Europe’s industrial autonomy is a guarantee of the necessary economic transformation and is part of the Green Pact’s objective of carbon neutrality by 2050. It should not be one crisis driving out the other one.
A possible European recovery plan must be an accelerator of the ecological transition and the creation of green jobs throughout Europe. Moreover, our leadership in cutting-edge sectors is a necessity in the management of health crisis. But our European ambition can only go hand in hand with an ambitious budget. The failure of the previous exceptional European Council is a dramatic reminder: the price of inaction is high! Without substantial and predictable own resources, the Union is dependent on the goodwill of the Member States and will never be able to respond quickly to the expectations of the people in the face of a crisis. With a budget on the cheap, Europe will bring disappointment on its key competences: cooperation in research, support for investment and employment, ecological transition. This will not serve some national governments, who may in the short term claim they are the champions of cost saving, but will find it difficult to respond to citizens who will ask “why have you not done more?”
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