The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and its study group on the inclusion of the Roma join the call of Members from EU institutions as well as civil society organisations to raise concern over the worsening situation of marginalized communities, amongst them the Roma, during this difficult and uncertain period. We praise the volunteers and employees of Roma organisations for the invaluable work they are carrying out to continue assisting the Roma community in this challenging time, during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of today’s vote in the European Parliament on a strong resolution to set the tone for the meeting of Heads of state and government next week and in light of the solid package of measures proposed on 9 April by the Eurogroup to support the European economy last week, I am confident the EU has now more than ever the chance and the obligation to rise from its ashes like the Phoenix.
The response to the COVID-19 crisis has had a negative impact on a number of fundamental rights. The unavoidable lockdowns have restricted our freedom of movement and cross-border travel. Freedom of association and assembly have been cut, so have privacy rights through data tracking systems. What has been put in place as a temporary measure cannot be instrumentalised to revert decades-long fights for freedoms and equality. We must get out of this crisis with our democracies – and our European Union – intact.
The CODIV-19 is forcing us apart with lockdowns, but at the same showing us that we must stick together if we want to defeat the pandemic. We must react jointly and swiftly to address this unexpected crisis both in Europe and in other regions of the world, because the virus knows no borders, skin colors or social status.
Make or break: Europe’s struggle with Coronavirus
For a continent with nearly 1.3 billion inhabitants, Africa has so far been relatively spared by the COVID-19 pandemic, with roughly 6000 cases – mostly in South Africa and Algeria – and 200 deaths at the time of writing. The worst is, alas, still to come.
I have always considered myself a proud European, today more than ever. Nevertheless, the current mood between the heads of State and Government, coupled with the persistent viral divisions, presents a lethal risk – not only to the European Union, but also to our ability to bounce back from this unprecedented systemic and symmetric crisis.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has strongly supported the enlargement of the European Union to the six Western Balkans countries provided they fulfil all the necessary criteria for membership. In the aftermath of the Council's non-decision to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in October 2019, we have reacted swiftly by adopting, on 31 October, a Resolution expressing our profound disappointment by the lack of unanimity from the Member States. The EESC has since been committed to working closely and intensively with the civil society in the Western Balkans to support and reassure them that their place is in the European Union.
In less than 15 days, the EU has taken ground-breaking decisions to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and after some initial hesitation it has proven that Member States can simply not do without a coherent, coordinated approach in front of a global pandemic.