Donegal MEP Mairead McGuinness calls for EU action in face of COVID-19 crisis

' I want a Europe that acts before a crisis hits' - Mairead McGuinness

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Mairead McGuinness MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament.

Donegal MEP Mairead McGuinness described the EU debate on the COVID-19 pandemic as "an important moment of international co-operation."

Ms McGuinness, who is First Vice-president of the European Parliament said: "International co-operation will be indispensible to combat the virus."

MEPs joined the debate and votes not only from Brussels but remotely from the 27 member states.

Speaking during the EU debate, Mairead McGuinness said: "Today, we are voting on three measures that mark the start of the EU's response to the pandemic. We will extend the EU Solidarity Fund to public health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. We will vote to make a further €37bn available in a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, for countries to spend on health systems, small businesses and the labour market. And there is a measure allowing for the temporary suspension of rules that oblige airlines to use their slots at EU airlines, reflecting the falling demand in flights.

"But we can do more. European solidarity will be essential to get all of us through the pandemic. We need concerted European cooperation to ensure supply chains are maintained to keep us all supplied with medical equipment and food. And the EU can play a vital role in these.

"Beyond this, we need to look at whether the EU in its current form is equipped to address such a crisis. We heard terrible stories from our colleagues from Italy and Spain, the European countries worst affected by the crisis. We need to stand with our partners – as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, for their interest but also for our own.

"Almost every member state has introduced border restrictions or border closures to prevent the further spread of the virus. While no country has banned freight, supply chains have been severely impacted by these restrictions. Recent waiting times at some internal borders have been over 24 hours, even for medical supplies," said Ms McGuinness.

According to Mairead McGuinness, the European Commission is working with EU member states to ensure that EU-wide supply chains are maintained.

These measures include, setting up 'green lane' border crossings open to all freight vehicles, with a maximum 15-minute border crossing, so that medical supplies and food shipments are not delayed.

Ms McGuinness added: "Research will be what allows us to emerge on the other side of this crisis. The EU will invest in vaccines and treatments.

"This is not just a public health crisis but also an economic one. The European Central Bank's announcement of a €750 billion stimulus is extremely welcome. I agree with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that European leaders should also issue 'coronabonds', an extraordinary measure recognising that we face an extraordinary crisis.

"Finally, we need to consider if the EU in its current form is best equipped to deal with cross-border, global crises like this. On animal health, the EU has stronger powers which means that there is more effective coordinated EU action on disease outbreaks like African Swine Fever. We've seen that this isn't the case for human health.”

EU strength on animal disease was only developed after the BSE crisis, noted the Fine Gael MEP.

She said: "This COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis which we cannot afford to waste. It will require us to acknowledge the need for more coordinated EU action on public health issues, more Europe, not less.

"The EU has been limited by eurosceptics who insist on curtailing EU power and constrain the areas for EU action. These same people then criticise the EU for not intervening in those same areas at a time of crisis. We should all think again about the EU and consider what we want the EU to look like.

"For my part, I want a Europe that acts before a crisis hits and a Europe that is well prepared to handle future crises, a Europe that leads globally and helps locally. We can do it. Perhaps it is this shock to the system which will make us act, better late than never," concluded Mairead McGuinness. 


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