Today, 2. April 2020, the first online interview with MEPs Irena Joveva and Franc Bogovič was held on the joint initiative of the online media Sobotainfo.com, Mariborinfo.com, Ptujinfo.com, TV Idea and the Europe Direct Pomurje Information Point. A key theme was the European Union’s response to the current events and crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks, in society the general opinion that has developed about the lack of solidarity between the European Union Member States. We see countries facing an outbreak that knows no borders. Some citizens share the opinion that the European Union (again) did not respond quickly and effectively enough. Is that the case?
According to Joveva, the answer is undoubtedly multifaceted: “The fact is it was unexpected, and no one was prepared for our world to be turned upside down so quickly. On the one hand, the first response had to come from individual countries. At that point, they were each looking after themselves, their ability to stop the spread of coronavirus, ensuring themselves sufficient amounts of protective means; which is quite understandable. In the first phase, the selfishness outweighed solidarity as a result of fear and insecurity. That doesn’t mean I support it, but I can understand it.” However, the MEP added “that it is still necessary to begin to realise that this virus knows no borders, origins, nationalities, race or any other beliefs. Meaning that it would not or will not help if one country is looking narrowly and egoistically.”
After the initial shock, humanity came through. Unlike in the past, the actions of facing this challenge at the EU level came sooner than usual; late, but not too late. However, bear in mind that, that genuine solidarity will only emerge in the coming months when facing economic and social challenges. The Member States will have to help one another and rely on each other in this European community more than they do at the moment.
At the extraordinary session of the European Parliament held in March, the MEPs adopted three urgent legislative proposals from the European Commission as part of the EU’s joint response to the COVID-19 crisis, by a vast majority. Notably, in the light of available resources, Member States will use EU funds to tackle the crisis in the healthcare system, the labour market and other vulnerable parts of the economy. Joveva emphasised that these measures will not be enough and that they will be followed by other, more demanding and financially more extensive ones.
Unfortunately, the crisis is highlighting certain shortcomings in the much-desired unity of the European Union. According to Joveva, those are mainly manifested in fake news and misinformation propaganda as a particular the irresponsibility of individual leaders of the Member States; while some are blocking the adoption of necessary measures at Council level, others are taking advantage of the situation to unduly extend their powers.
We must use the crisis as an opportunity to change our perspective – to be able to look beyond the national level and see the wider community. While doing so, we must also emphasise solidarity as a core value of the Union. The self-sufficiency perspective, whether it be food, energy or production materials, will undoubtedly change, the EU’s multiannual financial framework will need to be adjusted. We need to transfer our attention to digitisation, and hopefully start to appreciate more the pure and certain mundane things that we used to take for granted.
We must be aware that after health, not only the economic but also the social crisis is threatening us. In times of emergency and crisis, the subject of democratic principles, human rights and freedoms must not be forgotten, Joveva said: “Of course, specific measures, such as restriction of movement, had to be taken, but in no sense, no state or their leaders should use this power to instil particular views or beliefs.“
You can watch the full conversation in Slovenian language here.