Health commissioner defends EUs coronavirus response

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides doesnt want to focus on the past.

Rather, three months into coordinating the EUs response to the coronavirus crisis, she wants to focus on what needs doing now and in the weeks ahead.

“This is the way I work and this is the way I focus,” Kyriakides told POLITICO. “When youre in the middle of managing possibly one of the biggest public health crises the globe has had to face, and Europe has definitely had to face, this is about being hands on.”

As health commissioner, Kyriakides task has been to coordinate the EUs health response to the pandemic. This is a challenge given that health is a member country competence, and there are only limited EU tools at her disposal.

But the past three months are filled with examples when countries went beyond poor coordination. Some showed blatant disregard for EU solidarity.

Its important to remember that “each member state has different realities on the ground.”

There were early disputes over banning flights to and from China; radio silence when Italy asked for face masks; bans on exporting protective gear between EU countries; and the closure of borders (in some cases, even to other EU citizens).

Kyriakides insists, though, that the Commission has done everything it can since early January, when it sent the first alert with the Early Response and Warning System about the coronavirus. It has since followed the scientific advice that has been available.

“This was not something that suddenly the Commission woke up to,” she said, adding that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been involved “from the beginning.”

“One has to keep in mind that the EU is not one country,” Kyriakides said. “Its 27 and it takes a huge effort to have this level of coordination … in health as it does in other areas.”

Its important to remember that “each member state has different realities on the ground,” she noted. “So we put down recommendations that were based on the scientific evidence that we had and we have, and shared it with member states so they could adjust it to their realities.”

Kyriakides said her first approach is to find consensus, but when “more decisive action” is needed, “we will do it.”

So, when countries brought in border checks that “created a huge problem in terms of the movement of pharmaceuticals and food,” the Commission proposed so-called green lanes to help supplies get through, she said.

Kyriakides acknowledged that countries, facing an “unprecedented crisis,” focused on their own needs by banning some exports. But she stressed that the Commission has solved many of the issues, such as by pushing Germany to lift its ban on exports of protective gear. (The Commission threatened to launch infringement prRead More – Source

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