Reet Teder: "It's good to be back"

When the crisis started in the middle of March, the whole situation was truly unique and unbelievable. Almost everything was closed everywhere in Europe and nobody knew at that time if the lockdown was actually helping or not. Saving lives was the most important thing and the economy had to be sacrificed.

We saw Europe's four freedoms disappear overnight. The Single Market was almost gone. We saw one Member State block deliveries to another and buyers literally waiting outside face-mask factories in China to outbid one another.

In my country, Estonia, the situation was not too bad. The health system was able to cope, and not too many lives were lost to COVID-19 (69 altogether). At first, there was a shortage of masks and other protective equipment, but this was ultimately resolved. It was good to see how quickly some companies changed their production and started to manufacture the necessary equipment, while others helped with deliveries.

My family and I managed quite well. Living in our own house with a garden in a green area, we did not suffer too much. Of course, almost everything - shopping centres, schools, cinemas, theatres and sports facilities - was closed, but walking outside (keeping a distance!) was possible and even recommended.

It was remarkable to see the real boost of e-everything -  from shopping to seminars to communication. Everything was suddenly done via the internet - including schooling. Overnight, teaching and learning went online. And the teachers and children did well. Everyone learned a lot during the crisis and it was so heartwarming to see how much my daughter missed real school.

At work, the legal team of my organisation, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, provided a record number of consultations during this time. Acknowledgement of force majeure reached an all-time high. The economic situation is slowly improving, but some sectors are still facing great difficulties. I am afraid that this could be only the beginning and that in autumn, things may get worse. For the moment, government measures are helping a lot of people, but what will happen if these come to an end?

Difficult times like this make one think about and appreciate the lives we live and our freedom, in Europe and also at the Committee. It is indeed a real luxury to be able to travel, come to Brussels and have our debates. It is very important that we continue our work, so as to maintain a real link between different people in different EU countries, with or without crises.