Solidarity is a necessity during crisis situations, especially when it comes to a crisis that affects the whole world like the current coronavirus pandemic. During the pandemic, the importance and significance of European solidarity came to light in a large number of situations in which countries, regions, cities and citizens of the European Union helped each other and those who needed it most. From the production of health equipment to the return of citizens to their home countries – every act was important.
Companies from different industries have shown solidarity by converting production facilities
Despite the fact that the pandemic caused great socio-economic difficulties, European companies showed significant amount of solidarity and joined the fight against the crisis. Companies from different industries, from distilleries to textile manufacturers, have shown solidarity by converting their own production facilities for the production of masks, protective equipment and clothing, hand sanitizers and respirators. The European Commission has made sure that the whole process of conversion and production goes faster and without interruptions.
The European Commission has asked the European organizations for standardization – to make European standards for face masks and other protective equipment available to all interested companies in order to potentiate companies to convert production facilities and deliver products that are safe to use. In France, these norms were downloaded over 30,000 times in one day. To speed up the approval of basic products, the Commission has published guidelines by which companies can increase or convert production in line with the EU rules. A Recommendation on conformity assessment and market surveillance procedures was also adopted, which enabled a better supply of the necessary types of protective equipment to civil protection bodies (for example, disposable face masks). A “Medical Equipment Exchange Mechanism” has also been established to identify available stocks of products and enable countries to get them more quickly.
More than 1,000 companies in the EU textile and fashion sector have converted their facilities and produced personal protective equipment, primarily masks. Except masks, they were producing disinfectants and medical products. Anyone interested in more details about these acts of European solidarity can find more details here.
Solidarity of the European health system in the treatment of patients
During the pandemic, we witnessed the solidarity of the European health system. Member States have helped and co-operated with each other in a various of ways when it comes to treating patients, from exchanging medical staff to providing intensive care to the most critical patients.
Some hospitals, such as those in Italy and France, did not have the capacity to place all sick people in the intensive care. Those patients who needed intensive care and did not have the capacity in certain hospitals were transferred to Austria. German cities and states have also provided their own intensive care facilities for critically ill patients coming from Italy, France and the Netherlands.
Solidarity does not know for borders. As example of that there are doctors and medical technicians who were temporarily dispatched to other countries that needed of help in their health system. Poland sent an expert team of 15 health professionals to one of the most affected areas – the Italian region of Lombardy. Besides that, doctors and nurses from Romania and Norway helped colleagues in Bergamo and Milan.
Medical planes and two helicopters of the Luxembourg Air Rescue Service were assigned to the French ambulance service and French patients in need of intensive care were transferred to Germany. The European Union has co-financed 500 mobile medical units that have enabled citizens to be tested at home in Greece.
Quick reaction and cooperation in the protection of health professionals and citizens
Taken into consideration that all countries found themselves in a situation where they have deficiency of protective equipment for medical employees and citizens, a fast reaction of the entire European system and cooperation was necessary.
On the May 7, the European Commission began delivering 1.5 million masks to 17 member states and the UK. It was the first series of 10 million masks purchased through the Emergency Support Instrument and continued to ship over the next six weeks. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism from the rescEU system was also used for the delivery of the masks and they were delivered to Italy, Spain, Croatia, Northern Macedonia and Montenegro.
Except direct assistance from the European Commission, member states helped each other using the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, through which they donated masks, gloves, respirators, disinfectants and other medical and protective equipment.
Importance and strength of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism
The pandemic has changed the lives of many people, especially individuals who were outside their home countries and decided or had to return home due to circumstances. However, this was not so simple because the European transport found itself in an emergency situation in which air transport was suspended, borders closed and carriers suspended their operations.
In this situation, the importance and strength of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been demonstrated, through which more than 305 repatriation flights have been enabled and co-financed, returning more than 68.000 European citizens to their home countries.
Citizens were transported and returned to their homes on a daily basis. Many Member States also organized flights on their own, which were organized for all citizens of the Member States, not just those who organized return. One of those countries was also and Croatia who helped citizens of five member states to return to their homes.
Solidarity doesn’t know for borders
Solidarity really doesn’t know for borders. Europeans have shown together what solidarity looks like in action during crisis situations. Thanks to the cooperation, courage and proactivity of many countries, many are slowly going through the crisis – patients are taken care of, healthcare workers are protected and citizens have successfully returned to their homes.