Stop the Blame! – Commission Stresses Solidarity, Presents Roadmap to COVID-19 Exit Strategy

Written by | Saturday, April 18th, 2020

As Austria, Germany and some other EU member states ease movement control restrictions over the COVID-19 pandemic, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged them to work together to ensure a coordinated response. The exit from coronavirus containment measures should be evidence-based, gradual and coordinated between member states while “a lack of coordination in lifting restrictive measures risks having negative effects for all member states and is likely to give rise to political friction,” the Commission warned. In a roadmap to guide governments’ exit strategy, the EU executive requires the bloc’s members to notify each other and the Commission itself “in due time” of any relaxation of the lockdown measures.
Travel restrictions and border controls within Schengen zone should be lifted “once the border regions’ epidemiological situation converges sufficiently and social distancing rules are widely and responsibly applied,” while the external borders should be reopened later, taking into account the spread of the virus abroad. Speaking at a debate in the European Parliament on Thursday (16 April), Ursula von der Leyen also extended a ‘heartfelt apology’ to Italy on behalf of Europe, admitting that it had not been by its side since the beginning of the crisis. “It is … true that some were not there on time when others needed their help… For this, Europe offers a heartfelt apology,” she said referring to the criticism that the EU was slow to react to the outbreak of the virus in Italy and then in Spain. But “the true Europe is now standing up and we see great solidarity.” Even so, as Von der Leyen stressed, “there are still some, however, who want to point the finger and apportion blame. I say to them: Stop it.”
Meanwhile, while pondering the reduction of restrictions on public life in place in Germany to slow the spread of coronavirus, the pandemic has prompted a wave of unprecedented event cancellations around the world and Oktoberfest will probably not escape this fate. Although Oktoberfest is due to start after 31 August, when the current lockdown measures on major public events should officially end, Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder said the festival will probably not take place this year. “I am very very skeptical. And based on the current situation, I can hardly imagine that such a large event would even be possible at that time.” Apart from social and cultural events, the coronavirus pandemic has also slammed the brakes firmly on the Brexit negotiations, with many MEPs warning this deadline is unlikely to be met. When presenting his report on Brexit negotiations to a European Parliament committee, MEP Kris Peeters said that “companies are already in a very difficult situation with coronavirus, but it will be even worse if there is no Brexit deal. We may, therefore, have to ask for another date to finalise the settlement.”

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