EC President extends apologies to Italy for EU’s late response to COVID-19 pandemic, mentioning Romanian doctors’ help

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The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has extended a ‘heartfelt apology’ to Italy on behalf of Europe, admitting that it had not been by its side since the beginning of the crisis.

The Commission President has addressed MEPs in a debate in the European Parliament on Thursday saying that “too many were not there on time when Italy needed a helping hand at the very beginning.”

“It is true that no one was really ready for this. It is also true that too many were not there on time when Italy a needed a helping hand at the very beginning,” she said. “And yes, for that, it is right that Europe as a whole offers a heartfelt apology”.

However, she underlined that “Europe has now become the world’s beating heart of solidarity”, pointing to joint efforts made by EU institutions and member states to distribute medical equipment, offer hospital beds as well as getting agreements on financing the recovery. Von der Leyen has also mentioned the Romanian doctors who had gone to Italy to help their Italian counterparts overwhelmed by the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

“The real Europe is standing up, the one that is there for each other when it is needed the most. The one where paramedics from Poland and doctors from Romania save lives in Italy. Where ventilators from Germany provide a lifeline in Spain. Where hospitals in Czechia treat the sick from France. And where patients from Bergamo are flown to clinics in Bonn”, von der Leyen pointed out.

MEPs are expected to vote on a EUR 3 billion support package for the health sector and other financial measures to maintain food aid to vulnerable citizens and to mitigate losses in fisheries/aquaculture. The last set of votes using an online system will be on Friday.

Besides the economic struggle; some group leaders also warned about the crescent wave of authoritarianism due to the emergency laws.

“The fear, the dissimulation and the withdrawal are not antidotes but poisons. Under no excuse, the democratic values and our individual freedoms must not be questioned. Everyone should understand this; including Viktor Orban,” said the head of the liberal grouping RENEW, Dacian Ciolos (MEP, Romania).

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