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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Europe – Good Neighborhood

The member states of the European Union should coordinate with each other how and when they will relax their corona measures.

Closed schools, closed borders, closed shops: At the beginning of the corona crisis, the EU member states imposed restrictive measures almost every hour, without asking any major questions. According to Ursula von der Leyen, the lifting of these measures should be a bit more orderly: “Good neighbors talk to each other,” said the President of the European Commission at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday. Together with the President of the Council, Charles Michel, she presented a “road map” on which the EU countries can orient themselves when easing the measures.

The plan provides for a gradual lifting of the restrictions if three conditions are met in the respective country: the spread of the virus must have decreased and been stable over a longer period; the further spread must be controlled closely, and the health system must be able to provide adequate care not only for corona patients but also for other sick people.

Von der Leyen made it clear that there was no generally applicable schedule for the lifting of the measures, but that each member state had to consider which restrictions could be withdrawn and when. “This plan is also not a signal that the restrictions can be lifted immediately,” said von der Leyen. The point is rather to show the Member States a framework for action. That is why the heads of state and government asked the Commission at the end of March for a video switch. In the past week, however, when the Commission wanted to present its initiative, some Member States had gone too quickly; the presentation had to be postponed for a week.

In the meantime, however, the first Member States such as Austria, Spain or Denmark have already begun to repeal the first measures in their countries, without the “well-coordinated approach” that von Leyen and Michel set in their roadmap for “the EU and all Member States “. Agreements are necessary, says von der Leyen, for example before a state opens its shops again. Otherwise, there is fear that people will drive back and forth across the border to shop on the other side. The EU Commission’s timetable could also be valuable for another reason: “There is not a Robert Koch Institute in every EU country,” says an EU diplomat.

The plan contains all sorts of concrete suggestions as to which measures should accompany the relaxation of the measures. Voluntary apps could, therefore, be a way of quickly noticing that the infection chains flare up again. However, these should meet the requirements of data protection, it says in the document. Here, too, national going it alone is not the best solution: using a “pan-European reference app or at least those apps that can communicate with each other” would, therefore, be more effective. The timetable also advises expanding the capacity to test for the virus. This is a prerequisite for lifting contact restrictions and ultimately for the profitable use of tracing apps.

However, the EU Commission cannot oblige the countries to do any of these measures, it simply lacks the competence to do so. MEPs, therefore, called on the Member States to coordinate better than at the beginning of the crisis: “The governments of the Member States should not compete with each other, but should coordinate with each other and with the EU Commission,” says Green Group leader Ska Keller. Markus Ferber, the member of the CDU, finds even clearer words: “If coordination fails, it’s not because Brussels has failed,” he says. “Without the genuine will of the Member States to work together, this paper is worthless.”

Synthia Rozario
Synthia Rozario
An editorial staff member at The Eastern Herald. Formerly, correspondent of The Eastern Express, Hong Kong.

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