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Fight pandemic with solidarity or risk EU’s future

World Health Day 2020 could not come at a more defining moment for the future of global health as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The current crisis has exposed weaknesses caused by years of austerity and the increasing privatisation of our public health systems, while conditions for healthcare workers were allowed to deteriorate and the market hold of big pharma drove costs up and reduced access for the most vulnerable. This pandemic must give impetus to a more vigorous defence of public health and robust global cooperation to address such common challenges. 

The inadequate  EU response to the pandemic has left much to be desired with citizens paying the ultimate costs, as GUE/NGL co-President Manon Aubry (France Insoumise, France) explains: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the dangerous absence of coordination between European countries in times of a health crisis. Since January, member states have minimized the issue and made contradictory political choices while the EU has totally failed to promote a common strategy. Member states have even stolen vital resources from one another instead of working together in cooperation.

“Now is the time to define and execute a coherent response to fight a virus that affects us all. Health planning is the only way: the EU needs urgently to better allocate existing resources and help the countries most in need, mobilise the private and public sector to produce and share masks, tests and medicines, and coordinate post-confinement approaches to prevent a return of mass contagion.”

With Eurozone finance ministers meeting today to discuss funding for measures to protect and restart an economy battered by COVID-19, co-President Martin Schirdewan (DIE LINKE, Germany) says a common funding mechanism is the only way to protect citizens against a threat that is common to all: 

“Reports that the Eurogroup is preparing to shut the door on coronabonds, and push for the use of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund instead, are deeply alarming. Suggestions that use of the bailout fund would have only limited conditions attached are simply not true – the leaked non-paper clearly states that obedience to the fiscal rules and European Semester would need to be ensured in a Memorandum of Understanding. We need coronabonds backed by the ECB to ensure member states can respond to this crisis in a sustainable way.

“We are facing an unprecedented test of solidarity. It seems as though our leaders are prepared to reject the notion of a solidarity-based debt mechanism, and commit once again to austerity. If the governments of Germany and the Netherlands insist on going down this road, they will put the future of the EU itself in danger. If they cannot act with solidarity in the midst of this pandemic, then they never will,” Schirdewan concluded. 

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