EU Commission president urges united coronavirus response

EU Commission president urges united coronavirus response
© Greg Nash

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday urged European nations to engage in a united response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying the time presents an opportunity for the EU’s member states to move forward together. 

“People want to move out of this corona world, out of this fragility, out of this uncertainty. They are ready for change, and they are ready to move on. And this is a moment for Europe, a moment for Europe to lead the way from this fragility towards a new vitality,” she said in a State of the Union address.

Von der Leyen touted the work member nations have done thus far but said more work is needed to pull the continent through the remainder of the pandemic, which has killed close to 150,000 people in Europe. 

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“We showed that it is possible and what is possible when we trust each other, and we trust the European Institutions. And with all of that, we choose to not only repair and recover for the here and now, but to shape a better world and a better way of living for the world of tomorrow,” she said. “We have the vision, we have a plan, we have the investment. It is now time to get to work.” 

“The people of Europe are still suffering. It is a period of profound anxiety for millions who are concerned about the health of their families, the future of their jobs or simply getting through until the end of the month. The pandemic and the uncertainty that goes with it is not over. And the recovery is still in its early stage. So our first priority is to pull each other through this and to be there for those that need it.” 

Van der Leyen cited specific examples of cooperation thus far, including creating lanes for the transport of goods when borders were closed and efforts to retrieve European citizens stranded abroad.

“So for me, it is crystal clear we need to build a stronger European health union. It is time to do that,” she said.

To combat a rising death toll, von der Leyen suggested investing more money into research and development and announced that she intends to convene a global health summit in Italy next year, though no exact date was given.

EU member states agreed over the summer to launch a $2.1 trillion recover fund, though the body faced criticism that not enough money was being dedicated to health issues. 

“As the virus lingers, so does the uncertainty here and around the world. So this is definitely not the time to withdraw [economic] support,” von der Leyen said.