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The EU and Covid: the lack of solidarity within

In 2020, the entire world is facing the worst health crisis in recent history, and the EU is neither prepared nor united to face it.

 

Glenda Arcia

 

Since the first cases of non-imported Covid-19 were detected in the EU (28th January, in Germany), members of the bloc acted alone, and some took measures such as closing borders and prohibiting the export of medical supplies needed to combat the disease.

Thus, Italy witnessed the exponential growth of new coronavirus fatalities and the collapse of its health system, without receiving on time the help requested from its partners. Once more, the Schengen area and European unity ceased to function, and their breakdown brought to light the deficiencies and falsehoods of an alliance that does not withstand truly difficult times.

Around mid-March, more than a dozen countries, including Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany and Belgium, had sealed their borders or placed considerable limitations on entering and leaving their territories.

Such action not only left several thousand European citizens stranded, but also worsened the situation of tens of thousands of undocumented migrants –mainly from Africa and the Middle East–, who were left abandoned, without the protection and care they needed.

For this reason, and faced with the spread of Covid-19, the EU directive of 17th March announced the closure of its external borders, for the first time in its history. Initially, this ruling would last for 30 days, but it was necessary to extend it until 15th May.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated that this measure would not affect the transport of essential goods, such as medicines and foods, and criticised nations like Germany, who decided to pause the export of medical supplies.

Moreover, von der Leyen urged for the wait time at checkpoints to be minimised, after many vehicles had to be detained for days in these areas.

Recently, the Commission requested that internal borders be opened as soon as possible, in a coordinated manner, to enable the gradual recovery of the tourism sector, while Austria stated that it will only accept German and Czech citizens.

At the end of March, the Italian ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari, criticised the lack of cooperation from the other 27 members, and stated that the bloc should have acted much sooner, with concrete and effective measures.

“We asked to activate the European mechanism of civil protection for the supply of medical equipment, but unfortunately not a single member state responded to the Commission’s call. Certainly, this is not a good sign of European solidarity”.

And whilst its neighbours approved restrictions on the export of medical supplies, China sent more than two million masks, protective equipment, ventilators and other necessary supplies.

Likewise, Cuba, a country blockaded for almost six decades, sent teams of doctors and nurses to Lombardy and Piedmont to help the populations of the regions most affected by the pandemic.

On 16th April, after Italy had passed its bleakest moments of the crisis, von der Leyen recognised that the bloc was not initially prepared to fight the pandemic, and that solidarity was lacking when most needed by Italy and Spain. What is certain is that in mid-May, it is clear that the oft highlighted European solidarity disappeared when faced with calls from Rome and Madrid. We will have to see how things are at the end of May. (PL)

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: rebeccadhlovu@hotmail.co.uk)Photos: Pixabay

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