European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen excoriated EU member countries for failing to coordinate their initial response to the coronavirus outbreak, especially with regard to sharing medical supplies.
“When Europe really needed to be there for each other, too many initially looked out for themselves. When Europe really needed an all-for-one-spirit, too many initially gave an only-for-me response,” von der Leyen told the Parliament’s plenary session Thursday. “When Europe really needed to prove that this is not only a fair weather union, too many refused to share their umbrella.”
She added, “It was not long before some felt the consequences of their own uncoordinated action.”
Although she didn’t name specific countries, von der Leyen’s comments were a clear reference to Germany, France and other countries that took steps to limit exports of masks and other personal protective equipment to other EU countries.
The Commission threatened slapping Germany with an infringement proceeding — an official reprimand for defying EU law — before Berlin ultimately dropped its ban.
She cast countries holding up supply shipments as letting down health professionals on the front lines.
The Commission “took extraordinary measures,” von der Leyen said. “Since then things are improving.”
Von der Leyen pointed to hospitals in border areas taking patients from neighboring countries and the EU’s new stockpile of medical supplies as steps forward.
“Numbers in the last few days show that we can bend the trend, but only if we all do our share,” she said, expressing particular sympathy to those for “whom home is not a happy or a safe place to be.”